Railroad History in Photographs

edited by A.W. Thompson, R.J. Church and J.J. Pryor

Full Text of Some Reviews:

Review from Railroad Model Craftsman magazine, January, 1998

"There was a time when most authors of railroad books belonged to the "romance of the rails" school of railroad history, and the books they produced consisted largely of three-quarter wedge shots of trains accompanied by text and captions in lyrical prose. More recently, books on railroad history have grown both more scholarly and more specialized. Today we have many large and densely factual books devoted to single railroads, or even to single classes of locomotives or types of cars on those railroads. As an avid reader and, sometimes, writer of such books I generally support this trend, for it has made available in print far more information and historical insight than ever before.

"Once in awhile, though, it's good to back away from the historical minutiae and get some perspective on the broad sweep of railroad history, the "big picture." Railroad History in Photographsaffords a fine opportunity to do just that. Published to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, it provides a panoramic view of American railroading from the earliest days to the present by reproducing many photos from the R&LHS archives.

"The book's title is a bit misleading; this isn't just a picture book. The photos are accompanied by extensive captions explaining their significance, some of which amount to brief essays on various aspects of railroad history. Topics covered include locomotives of every kind, passenger and freight cars, passenger and freight trains, and structures.

"Photo quality is, of course, especially important in a book of this kind, and the photo reproduction in Railroad History in Photographs is consistently very good, especially considering the antiquity of some of the images that are reproduced. Some of the subjects shown in the photos and described in the captions are representative examples, while others are more whimsical than typical. But precisely because this collection of photos is eclectic rather than exhaustive, almost anyone who is even casually interested in railroad history will find much here that is both interesting and enlightening. I spent a rewarding evening paging through it and since then I've made several enjoyable return visits."

-- Richard H. Hendrickson,.


Review from Railroad History,No. 177, Fall 1997

"When one turns seventy-five, a little celebrating is usually in order, and that is no less fitting for an organization than for an individual. Motivated partly by that fact and partly by an attempt to convey to the public something of the breadth and comprehensive nature of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society's holdings, three members of the society have produced an enjoyable and rewarding volume.

"The ninety-two pictures included herein were chosen in an attempt to balance coverage by region (of the United States--only one photograph of Canada and one of Mexico is included) and by historical era. The fact that the society was for many years a New England organization and that early coverage is greater in the collection than later coverage is not evident in the finished product. The oldest photo included was taken in 1864 and the newest three in 1988; the oldest locomotive pictured was built in 1846. While the book is divided into six chapters (steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, electric and other locomotives, freight rolling stock and trains, passenger rolling stock and trains, and structures), locomotives are the focus of most of the pictures included; thirty-eight are effectively roster shots.

"The strength of the volume, besides its variety, lies in the research that went into the captions, many of which take up more space than the photographs themselves--sometimes far more--both illuminating what is present in the picture and frequently addressing the development or history of the object pictured. Through this book, R&LHS members and nonmembers alike will enjoy an armchair adventure in railroading."

-- Richard G. Prince.


Review from Model Railroader magazine, October 1997

"Published by the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society as part of its 75th anniversary celebration, and subtitled "150 years of North American railroading," this publication showcases the society's extensive archive of photographs, showing images that most people wouldn't see.

"This 80-page softcover book has six sections: steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, electric and other motive power, passenger cars and trains, freight cars and trains, and structures.

"There are 92 black-and-white photos, one or two to a page. Each photo is accompanied by several paragraphs of text which describe the history of the locomotive, car or structure pictured, what became of it, plus how that type of locomotive, car or structure fits into railroad history. Many descriptions also have a history of the road name.

"We learn the origin of terms like "Consolidation," read about Alco's first diesels, and see Central Pacific's Jupiter4-4-0 after it returned to regular service following the Gold Spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah.

"According to the introduction, the goal of this book is to illustrate the wide range of the society's archives in era, geography, railroad and subject matter, and they have succeeded.

"Obviously the history of railroading can't be covered in 80 pages, but this book does an excellent job of showing rarely seen photos which give a good glimpse at many different facets of that history."

-- Melanie Gohde


Review from Trains magazine, June 1997

"For its 75th anniversary, the R&LHS has published this album of 92 black-and-white photos from its collection of some 350,000 images. The photos included here span 150 years, but don't pretend to cover every nook and cranny of railroad history; rather, they were chosen to represent the extent of the R&LHS archives in era, geography, railroad, and subject matter. The material is divided into six groups: steam locomotives, diesels, electric and other motive power, passenger cars and trains, freight cars and trains, and structures.

"The photos run the gamut from roster shots to action views to station scenes, with subjects including 19th Century 4-4-0's, D&H's high-pressure 4-8-0, an SP E2A in its later years, a Katy SD40-2, a depot in Grinnell, Iowa, a covered bridge collapse in 1870, Wabash varnish at 47th Street station (Chicago), and an Idaho & Washington Northern drop-bottom gondola. This is far more than a picture book, however, as the photos are accompanied by extended captions, some quite substantial. A bibliography and index are also provided in this excellent, if somewhat idiosyncratic, work."

-- Robert S. McGonigal