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Books about Amtrak and Rail Travel

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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)

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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

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I really enjoyed a Paperback named

"TRAIN" by Tom Zoellner/Penguin Books,2014.

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

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

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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.

 

Sent from my STV100-1 using Amtrak Forum mobile app

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

post-5917-0-34238800-1515822160_thumb.jpg

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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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.

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

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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Depends on your taste... I have a thing for maps, so I have the complete set of SPV Railroad Atlases. I also have some very obscure volumes on carbuilding and the history of railroad passenger car design, which I won't recommend because you'll never find 'em. I also like stuff about the corporate wheeling & dealing -- _The Wreck of the Penn Central_ is a good example of this.

 

A lot of my other reading has been online -- the history of the destruction of the Milwaukee Road through corporate shenanigans is fascinating.

 

"What Really Happened" -- http://www.trainweb.org/milwaukee/article.html

 

Some supporting comments from people who were there about the deliberate accounting fraud -- http://cs.trains.com/trn/f/111/t/88226.aspx?page=0

 

https://www.classicstreamliners.com/rr-cmstp-p.html

 

I'd love to see a full book about the history of the decline, fall, and destruction of the Milwaukee Road along the lines of _Wreck of the Penn Central_ but I haven't seen one.

Edited by neroden

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Depends on your taste... I have a thing for maps, so I have the complete set of SPV Railroad Atlases. I also have some very obscure volumes on carbuilding and the history of railroad passenger car design, which I won't recommend because you'll never find 'em. I also like stuff about the corporate wheeling & dealing -- _The Wreck of the Penn Central_ is a good example of this.

 

A lot of my other reading has been online -- the history of the destruction of the Milwaukee Road through corporate shenanigans is fascinating.

 

"What Really Happened" -- http://www.trainweb.org/milwaukee/article.html

 

Some supporting comments from people who were there about the deliberate accounting fraud -- http://cs.trains.com/trn/f/111/t/88226.aspx?page=0

 

https://www.classicstreamliners.com/rr-cmstp-p.html

 

I'd love to see a full book about the history of the decline, fall, and destruction of the Milwaukee Road along the lines of _Wreck of the Penn Central_ but I haven't seen one.

 

They say everyone has one good book to write... Maybe you should pick up your pen...?

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Nah, it should be done by someone with more information (like maybe the author of one of those articles).

 

My book, if I ever wrote it, would be about investing. Or possibly my father's biography, if he doesn't write it himself.

Edited by neroden

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Here's a few more passenger related RR books that I have in my library.....

 

Some Classic Trains, Arthur Dubin, 1964

More Classic Trains, Arthur Dubin, 1974

Great Railway Journeys of The World, Max Wade-Matthews, 1998

Union Pacific Streamliners, Harold Ranks and William Kratville, 1974

Grand Central, William Middleton, 1977

Grand Central Terminal, Anthony Robins, 2013

Interurbans Without Wires, Edmund Keilty, 1979

Doodlebug Country, Edmund Keilty, 1982

The Doodlebugs, John McCall, 1977

The 400 Story, Jim Scribbins, 1982

Limiteds Along The Lakefront, Alan Lind, 1986

Monarchs of Mid-America, W. David Randall and Alan Lind, 1973

The Streamline Era, Robert Reed, 1975

Mansions on Rails, Lucius Beebe, 1959

The Overland Limited, Lucius Beebe, 1963

Twentieth Century, Lucius Beebe, 1962

The Twentieth Century Limited, Richard Cook, 1993

20th Century Limited, Karl Zimmermann, 2002

Coach Trains and Travel, Patrick Doran, 1975

The American Railroad Passenger Car, John White, 1978

RDC, The Budd Rail Diesel Car, Donald Duke and Edmund Keilty, 1990

The 5:10 To Suburbia, Robert Olmsted and Joe McMillan, 1975

All Aboard With E M Frimbo, Rogers Whitaker and Anthony Hiss, 1974

The Electric Interurban Railways in America, George Hilton and John Due, 1960

The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station, Lorraine Diehl,1985

From Horsecars to Streamliners, Alan Lind, 1978

Dining on Rails, Richard Luckin, 1983

Streamliners, Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh, 2002

Zephyrs, Chiefs, & Other Orphans, Fred Frailey, 1977

The Surfliners, Dick Stephenson, 1988

Southern Pacific Passenger Trains, Brian Solomon, 2005

Burlingtons Zephyrs, Karl Zimmermann, 2004

Illinois Central Streamliners, Paul Somers, 1995

Midwest Florida Sunliners, R Lyle Key, 1979

Night Trains, Peter Maiken, 1989

Travel by Pullman, Joe Welsh and Bill Howes, 2004

Never On Wednesday, Richard Loveman and Mel Patrick, 1980

Portrait of A Silver Lady, Bruce MacGregor and Ted Benson, 1977

By Streamliner, Joseph Welsh, 1994

The Domeliners, Patrick Dorin, 1973

Domeliners, Karl Zimmermann, 1998

The Train of Tomorrow, Ric Morgan, 2007

New York Central and Trains of the Future, Geoffrey Doughty, 1997

Commuter Railroads, Patrick Dorin, 1970

The Amtrak Story, Frank Wilner, 1994

Derailed, Joseph Vranich, 1997

Amtrak Trains and Travel, Patrick Dorin, 1979

Amtrak, Roger Bradley, 1985

Journey to Amtrak, Harold Edmonson, 1976

All Aboard Amtrak, Mike Shafer, 1991

Amtrak at Milepost 10, Karl Zimmermann, 1981

Turbotrain, Jason Shron, 2007

Chicago Stations and Trains, John Kelly, 2008

The Cars of Pullman, Joe Welsh, Bill Howes, & Kevin Holland, 2010

Via Rail Canada, tom Nelligan, 1982

Santa Fe Streamliners, Karl Zimmermann, 1987

Spirit of the South Shore, William Raia, 1984

The Broadway Limited, Joel Rosenberh and Tom Gallo, 1988

St. Louis Union Station, Norbury Wayman,1987

Car Names, Numbers, and Consists, Robert Wayner, 1972

Union Pacific Railroad Passenger Cars Volume I, G B Davies, 1976

Waiting For the 5:05, Clay Lancaster, 1977

Forty One Years in the D, C, & H, Paul Mcdonald, 1983

The Last of the Great Stations, Bill Bradley, 1979

Streamliner Cars, W. David Randall, 1981

Timetable Treasury, Robert Wayner, 1979

From Zephyr to Amtrak, David Randall, 1972

The Story of The California Zephyr, Karl Zimmermann, 1972

C&O Streamliners, James Millard, 1994

The Trains We Rode, Vols I and II, Lucius Beebe

*

 

Also have a bunch of railroad histories, that also detail a lot about their passenger services, as well as several softback "Annuals" from different publisher's....

I left out the books that cover transit systems....I've been collecting transportation books since around 1968....they stack up over the years....listing some of them drives home that point...

but they have been a great source of pleasure, both when originally read, as well as when referenced during research from time to time.... :)

Edited by railiner

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I may be blind and didn't see it, but I'd recommend Twilight of the Great Trains by Fred Frailey. This book covered the final few years of passenger service on private railroads just before Amtrak, and has lots of information about how the railroads were trying to consolidate services, reduce costs, and keep service standards up, at least on the profitable western railroads. Having grown up in Green River WY, I was too young to appreciate the "City of Everywhere" service, and all the maneuvers that UP did to combine and split their remaining trains while maintaining decent service standards.

 

Another one that may have been missed is Appetite for America by Steven Fried. This book covers the Fred Harvey company, from it's inception through the eventual closure and spinoff of the remaining park concessions to a successor company. Lots of good detail about both the business structures of the Harvey company (including centralized purchasing, standards setting, and business operations) as well as discussions of how the company evolved over the years. Very interesting book although it's depressing somewhat in the end to see how the company basically ran out of steam when a key family member died in tragic circumstances. The author also maintains a web site with additional Harvey company info including notes on remaining properties.

 

One final recommendation - The Twilight of Steam Locomotives by Ron Ziel. This covered end of steam operations, with lots of photos of remaining engines plus scrapping / scrapyard shots. I remember this book as a child growing up, and it really depressed me to think of all these interesting engines being chopped to shreds. Still, this book captured my interest and got me interested in railroads growing up.

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