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Books about Amtrak and Rail Travel


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#1 Woodcut60

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 02:13 AM

I like to read about American and Canadian railroad history and about train travel in general. Over the years I've bought quite a few books and I've enjoyed reading them. Here is a list and I wonder if Forum Members could provide any suggestions for other interesting books:

 

Bradley, Simon: The Railways - Nation, Network & People (2016)

Brown, Dee: Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow - Railroads in the West (1977)

Connolly, Billy: Tracks Across America (2016)

Daniels, Rudolph: Trains Across the Continent - North American Railroad History (2000)

Several contributors: Amtrak - An American History (2011)

Emeka, Mauris L.: Amtraking - A Guide to Enjoyable Train Travel (1994)

Fostik, John A.: Amtrak Across America - An Illustrated History (2012)

Gallamore, Robert: American Railroads - Decline and Renaissance in the Twentieth Century (2014)

Graham, Melissa: Trans-Canada Rail Guide (2007)

Hanus, Chris: Canada by Train - The Complete VIA Rail Travel Guide (2016)

Kisor, Henry: Zephyr - Tracking a Dream Across America (1994)

Loomis, Jim: All Aboard - The Complete North American Train Travel Guide (2011)

McCommons, James: Waiting on a Train - The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service (2009)

Millar, Peter: All Gone to Look for America - Riding the Iron Horse Across a Continent (and Back) (2009)

Pindell, Terry: Making Tracks - An American Rail Odyssey (1990)

Pitt, John: USA by Rail (2008)

Steel, Lionel: Riding Amtrak - The Rise and Fall of America on Rails (2012)

Swanson, Jack: Rail Ventures - The Comprehensive Guide to Train Travel in North America (1996)

Wiatrowski, Claude: Railroads Across North America (2007)

Williams, Anita: Ride Guide to the Historic Alaska Railroad (2003)


Amtrak Routes Traveled: Lake Shore Limited, California Zephyr, San Joaquin, Pacific Surfliner, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Cardinal, Crescent, Sunset Limited, Southwest Chief, Hiawatha, City of New Orleans, Texas Eagle, Heartland Flyer, Missouri River Runner, Lincoln, Wolverine, Northeast Regional, Acela Express, Downeaster, Vermonter, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Capitol Limited, Pennsylvanian, Amtrak Cascades.

Other Routes in North America: Denali Star (Anchorage-Fairbanks, Alaska Railroad), The Ocean (Halifax-Montréal), Corridor (Montréal-Toronto), The Canadian (Toronto-Vancouver).

Amtrak: approx. 25,000 miles and 47 states.

VIA Rail Canada: approx. 4,300 miles and eight provinces.


#2 caravanman

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 05:22 AM

I will put my head on the chopping block by recommending "Stranger on a train" by Jenny Diski.  It is not a conventional travel book, and probably says as much about the author, as the scenery. I loved it though, and went on to read other Diski books.

 

Quote:

"In spite of the fact that her idea of travel is to stay home with the phone off the hook, Jenny Diski takes a trip around the perimeter of the USA by train. Somewhat reluctantly she meets all kinds of characters, all bursting with stories to tell and finds herself brooding about the marvellously familiar landscape of America, half-known already through film and television. Like the pulse of the train over the rails, the theme of the dying pleasures of smoking thrums through the book, along with reflections on the condition of solitude and the nature of friendship and memories triggered by her past times in psychiatric hospitals. Cutting between her troubled teenaged years and contemporary America, the journey becomes a study of strangers, strangeness and estrangement - from oneself, as well as from the world."

 

More conventional trainbooks I have are "An American Journey By Rail" Witney Jackobson, and "North American Railways", a Hamlyn publication.

 

Ed.


Edited by caravanman, 12 January 2018 - 05:25 AM.


#3 Bob Dylan

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 07:10 AM

I really enjoyed a Paperback named
"TRAIN" by Tom Zoellner/Penguin Books,2014.
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 "..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#4 CAQuail

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 10:46 AM

I would recommend  "Last Train to Toronto" By Terry Pindell.  I see you have his other book "Making Tracks" on your list.



#5 KmH

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:52 AM

Thanks for the list.
The Riding Amtrak - The Rise and Fall of America on Rails is now on my tablet.


1963 U. S. Congress - underground trolley system Disneyland train (1968/various other dates) Old Tucson steam train (1969)
Amtrak - California Zephyr Coast Starlight  Southwest Chief Sunset Limited Texas Eagle  Illinois Zephyr
. . . . Amtrak miles - 16,383, so far. 7,320 more miles booked OTM - OKJ - EMY - OTM March 2018.


#6 ehbowen

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:11 PM

If you're into railroad history, you owe it to yourself to get at least one copy of a classic Official Guide. Scanned copies are available on eBay at a reasonable price, as well as the occasional original. I have one scanned copy that I own the scans of (August 1950) which I could share; PM me if interested.

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#7 Rheavon

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 01:26 PM

I'm currently reading Tracks to the Sea: Galveston and Western Railroad Development, 1866-1900 by Earle B. Young - in case you want to go way way back.


~Rheavon~


#8 EmCee Al

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 01:58 PM

Read Nothing Like It in the World by Stephen E. Ambrose.

 

It's another book about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and like other Ambrose books, it is accurate and readable.  My personal opinion:  It is much more factual and interesting than Dee Brown's book on the same subject.



#9 railiner

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 09:42 PM

The following three books had an influence in what led to the creation of Amtrak:

 

Megalopolis Unbound, Senator Claiborne Pell, 1966

To Hell In A Day Coach, Peter Lyon, 1967

The Wreck Of The Penn Central, Joseph R. Daughen and Peter Binzen, 1971


metroblue?

okay on the blue!

#10 Eric in East County

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:05 PM

Here are some of the railroad books that we’ve found particularly interesting:

 

Bradley, Bill: THE LAST OF THE GREAT STATIONS 40 Years of the Los Angeles, Union Passenger Terminal (1979)  (This book will be of interest to anyone whose trains begin or end in Los Angeles.)

 

Beebe, Lucius & Clegg, Charles: THE TRAINS WE RODE Volumes I & II (1965-1966) (An oldie but goodie which recounts the histories of most of the “name” trains of yesteryear.)

 

DeRouin, Edward M.: CHICAGO UNION STATION – A Look at its Operations before Amtrak (This book will be of interest to anyone whose trains begin or end in Chicago.)

 

Dorin, Patrick: SUPER CHIEF AND EL CAPITAN 1936-1971 (2005) (This book will be of interest to anyone who has ridden on or is planning to ride The Southwest Chief.  Illustrated with black & white photos and a “color portfolio” section with period Santa Fe advertising material.)

 

Repp, Stan: SUPER CHIEF: TRAIN OF THE STARS (1980) (This book provides a good history of the pre-World War II Super Chief, with special emphasis on the first lightweight stainless steel Super Chief-2 train designed by Sterling McDonald.)

 

Sanders, Craig: AMTRAK IN THE HEARTLAND (2006) (This book provides a fairly good history of Amtrak up to 2006.) 

 

Solomon, Brian: AMTRAK (2004) (Similar to the Sanders book listed above, this one is notable for its many nice color photos showing Amtrak rolling stock, engines, stations, etc.)

 

Yenne, Bill, SANTA FE CHIEFS (2005) (A good history of the Santa Fe’s various passenger trains, illustrated with color and black & white photos of historic and modern trains, great old period advertisements, maps, etc.  Includes a chapter on the Amtrak Southwest Chief.)

 

Happy reading.

 

Eric & Pat



#11 FrensicPic

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 12:42 AM

I like to read about American and Canadian railroad history and about train travel in general. Over the years I've bought quite a few books and I've enjoyed reading them. Here is a list and I wonder if Forum Members could provide any suggestions for other interesting books:

 

 

Fostik, John A.: Amtrak Across America - An Illustrated History (2012)

There is now a "Second Edition" ©2017...

Got it for Xmas and been good reading/looking so far.

Attached Files


John...

29,076 miles on the Coast Starlight, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr and Capitol Limited.

More miles on the Pacific Surfliner, Metrolink, White Pass and Yukon Route, Grand Canyon Railway, Napa Valley Wine Train, Fillmore and Western and private railcars with LARail.com

 

Photos: http://www.flickr.co...rensicpic/sets/<p> 


#12 FrensicPic

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 12:48 AM

There is also "Amtrak An American Story" published by Amtrak ©2011. Don't know if still available. I purchased mine on the 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train.


John...

29,076 miles on the Coast Starlight, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr and Capitol Limited.

More miles on the Pacific Surfliner, Metrolink, White Pass and Yukon Route, Grand Canyon Railway, Napa Valley Wine Train, Fillmore and Western and private railcars with LARail.com

 

Photos: http://www.flickr.co...rensicpic/sets/<p> 


#13 caravanman

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 07:21 AM

At risk of going off topic, I enjoyed "Parallel Lines" by Ian Marchant.  It is about railway in the UK, and struck a chord with my own rather nostalgic and quirky relationship with our railways, past and present...

 

Ed.



#14 AKA

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 09:00 AM

Read Nothing Like It in the World by Stephen E. Ambrose.
 
It's another book about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and like other Ambrose books, it is accurate and readable.  My personal opinion:  It is much more factual and interesting than Dee Brown's book on the same subject.


Do, do this. Exclent book. A lot of learn as you go problem solving. If nothing else you will learn why the Chinese workers never got sick.

#15 rtabern

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 12:18 PM

My favorite books are Eva Hoffman's "Flashing Yellow Guidebooks".... they were written for most of the western long distance trains and tell you what you are seeing out the window of the train.

 

She was an inspiration for me... and over the past 7 years... I wrote my own series of guidebooks for the Midwestern routes out of Chicago called "Outside the Rails"... we have 11 books in the series now.

 

I have also gone on to help Eva set up an online shop for her books and we have become friends over the past few years... fun and interesting lady!

 

I won't post the link here though as not to upset the moderators, but you can find the site pretty easy by doing a Google search.



#16 Charles785

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 08:23 PM

Of course, like the above references, I prefer non-fiction passenger rail history, but if someone is still

hungry for train oriented reading I might mention two books of fiction - murder mysteries - that might

be interesting to readers; I did enjoy them solely because they had to do with trains - otherwise I don't

care for fiction.

 

They are both by Janet Dawson; one is Death Rides The Zephyr, John Daniel & Company, 2013,

and the second one is Death Deals A Hand: A California Zephyr Mystery, 2016. The author indeed did

her research on the California Zephyr to be as accurate as possible in her descriptions of train personnel,

equipment, and routes.  She actually interviewed two former Zephyrettes for her books, Cathy Moran Von

Ibsch and Rodna Walls Taylor.



#17 Pere Flyer

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 08:47 PM

The author indeed did
her research on the California Zephyr to be as accurate as possible in her descriptions of train personnel,
equipment, and routes.  She actually interviewed two former Zephyrettes for her books, Cathy Moran Von
Ibsch and Rodna Walls Taylor.


Who were the Zephyrettes?


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#18 Charles785

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 11:40 PM

Who and what were the Zephryettes?  In 1936 the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad was looking for an executive-level supervisor of passenger services to help expand their passenger train market to families and women.  They hired former tea room manager Velma McPeek, and she immediately put her stamp on improved passenger train service. 

 

She was the brainchild behind the concept of hostesses on various Zephyr-named trains operated by the Burlington, including the Chicago to Denver Denver Zephyr and the Chicago to Minneapolis Twin Cities Zephyr.  McPeek specified that all the girls hired would be college graduates (and keep in mind this was 1936; what percent of the population had even junior college diplomas?) or registered nurses, of good character, have pleasing personalities, be unmarried, five foot four to five feet eight inches in height, between 24 and 28 years of age, and in good physical condition.

 

And following World War II, Velma McPeek, who sat on committees representing the three railroads who wanted to develop a second-to-none luxury train that would offer breathtaking scenery from Chicago to San Francisco, brought the Zephyrettes back on the 1949 California Zephyr with new uniforms of two-piece teal blue suits, military style hats, monogrammed white blouses, shorter skirts, and a mandate to offer distinctive elegance and excellence in service. 

 

    The Zephyrettes were responsible for working throughout the train acting as kind of a liaison between the passengers and the conductor, making announcements on the public address system, sending telegrams for passengers, arranging bridge games in the parlor car, taking reservations for the dining car, answering questions from passengers, and even providing first aid when needed. And under Velma McPeek’s direction no detail, from fresh flowers on the table to pillows on the sleepers, was to be ignored.

 

The Zephyrette hostesses might have been the most prominent symbols of luxury train travel - and the California Zephyr - during the entire existence of the Western Pacific, Denver & Rio Grand Western, and Burlington Road's operation of the California Zephyr from 1949 to 1970.

 

I certainly wish that I could have ridden the original California Zephyr and met some of the Zephyrettes.  I suppose I might have done one of the next best things when I interviewed Cathy Moran Von Ibsch for an article I wrote in a Wichita seniors publication on railroad executive McPeek, who was from the Wichita area and in the tea room management business there.  Velma McPeek may have been the first high level woman executive of a major US railroad.



#19 Pere Flyer

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 12:56 AM

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing the history, Charles785! Sounds like Amtrak OBS need to read Dawson’s books for model examples!


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#20 Ronbo

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 01:27 PM

A couple of photos and an artist's rendition of the Zephyrettes.Attached File  IMG_1243.JPG   23.55KB   3 downloadsAttached File  IMG_1245.JPG   24.7KB   6 downloadsAttached File  IMG_1244.JPG   28.58KB   4 downloads




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