Niche subject: freight cars seen in Los Angeles, Calif. in the late 1930s
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You can see the Focus on Freight Cars books in my collection here: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/charley2030&deepsearch=Focus
Do you follow any tiny niche railroad interests that have been published?
Railways in Central and Eastern Europe are very much my thing, though UK railways still attract me somewhat, and the recent acquisition of a great book on the subject is making me think about the town of Burton upon Trent, famous for the many breweries and the maze of railways that connected them. My father worked in signalling back in the 1960s and one of his major resignalling projects was the rationalisation of the Burton railways, so this book has piqued my interest rather.
1. Railroad Advertising for the National Parks by the RR's prior to 1940.
2. Colorado Mountain RR's both standard and narrow gauge.
3. Electric RR's in the US since I live in the heart of PRR country.
4. A subset of 3 is trolleys and interurbans. William D. Middleton has to be my favorite writer in this area.
I somewhat pay attention to the UK a bit but the way things are structured these days leaves me scratching my head a LOT.
Same here, and we have to try and use the network on a daily basis.
PS: Let me declare my affiliation with those scratching their heads over UK railways...
Looking for choice items to add to my library on some of the odder European railways has led to my acquiring some more general works which include reference to Africa, such as a history of articulated locomotives Engines that bend (I was surprised to find out that there was once a Shay working in Austria!) and some of the works of the late A.E. Durrant ('Dusty' to his friends). I also delighted in the late John Snell's autobiography, Mixed gauges. A friend passed on to me a copy of C.S.Small's Far wheels; and my recent trip to Hay-on-Wye (and the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway) yielded H.R.Stones' British Railways in Argentina and an Australian volume, Peter Clark's Locomotives in China, which is a useful guide to (some) Chinese locomotive classes, past and present (it dates from 1983 and so is not up to speed on the latest motive power), which expands my Chinese railways shelf by 50%!
I suppose the least niche of my interests is the railways of my native Derbyshire; my father was based at Derby, so that makes me some sort of "Midland man" (Derby being the HQ of the Midland Railway from 1845-1923), so pursuing an interest in a railway company and its locomotives, rolling stock and operations that ceased to exists 95 years ago is about as mainstream as I get (and the Midland was pretty idiosyncratic amongst the other British railway companies).
Derbyshire also had some more unusual railways in terms of narrow gauge (the lines at Ashover, Crich and the - only just over the border in Staffordshire - Leek & Manifold line, which was designed by E.R. Calthorpe, who had previously designed locomotives and stock for railways in India; hence the huge headlamps on the L&M engines, so essential for spotting elephants on the line at night, always a problem in deepest Staffordshire (!)); and perhaps my first fascination, the Cromford & High Peak Railway.
This was a very early railway scheme to link Derby with Manchester over the top of the High Peak District; it was originally projected in 1826 as a canal, but it soon became clear that the geological nature of the Peak - limestone - would cause major problems in retaining water. So William Jessop, the line's engineer, decided to adopt the new-fangled 'railway' instead; but he retained the route already surveyed, so the line was laid out as a canal, with long flat sections and inclined planes worked by stationery engines standing in for flights of locks. This remarkable line only closed in 1967, and I missed seeing it working by months. Perhaps the most spectacular section was the steepest adhesion-worked incline in the country, Hopton, with a gradient of 1 in 14; engines had to take a good run at it and could only take two or three wagons up it at a time, resulting in some truly remarkable scenes.
And I have a fascination for (almost) anything narrow gauge generally, though the quainter the better. I suppose that the range of my railway interests could be considered a collection of niches!
Thanks, Robert. I get the NBLPG newsletter every month. Like you, I have a number of books which are international rather than Africa-specific but which cover various aspects of African railways. At a certain point I stopped buying any more as my collection just seemed to be growing too much! I'm still always on the lookout for specifically African books, though.
On a trip to South Africa towards the end of last year acquisitions included The Splendid Book of Empire Railways by W.H. Boulton, Steam from Kenya to the Cape: An Enthusiast's Guide to the Steam Locomotives of East, Central and South Africa by E Talbot and a Locomotive Engineers' Pocket Book which I think is the 1939 edition.