The American Steam Locomotive in the Twentieth Century

  • Model: BK-17-903


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The American Steam Locomotive in the Twentieth Century

The C&OHS sold this book when it was first published last year in a hardbound edition. It is now available less expensively as a trade softbound. The paper is good, reproduction excellent. The content is, well, nonpareil.

There are a few books that I would be say are a MUST for the steam locomotive aficionado. . . THIS IS ONE!  I passed over it when it came out last year and let it be advertised as “just another steam book.” – Now I have read through it and it is simply SUPERB in every regard.
The author is a mining engineer and experienced with technical writing, yet he has produced a volume that though it contains seemingly every needed detail, is very well organized and easy to read/understand. Tables, charts, and diagrams add to understanding for us non-engineer/technical types.

The book is unusual in that it is taken almost totally from one single source: Railroad Gazette/Railway Age. Railway Age was probably the industry’s most read trade publication over the years of the 20th century, and the only surviving one today. This might be cause for concern, but the fact is that Railway Age, published weekly, contains original writing from almost all the railroad executives, locomotive officials, mechanical engineers, and others who were actually involved in the design of locomotives, thus it is itself a compendium of hundreds of original sources. By distilling that huge mass of complicated data to a cogent, easy to follow text, Morrison has accomplished a singular service for those interested in locomotives: he saves us plowing through about 20 linear feet of bound Railway Age to find the data we want.
The index is easy to use. The chronology is broken down into reasonable eras based on the technology of the time. Morrison starts with 1895 and ends with the diesel, and in his notes he tells us exactly where he found each important piece of information. This and a listing of ALL the locomotive articles that appeared in Railway Age, by railroad and issue date, gives the interested reader an avenue for further exploration.

The only drawback to the book that I saw (and it is a minor one) was that he relied almost exclusively on the Otto C. Perry railroad photography collection in the Denver Public Library. This is, unquestionably, one of the best available collections, and it does cover the whole U. S. over a 40-year period that fits right in with the book’s era. However, selections from a few other large collections might have yielded other interesting photos. But, where would he have put them? As it is, the book runs 624 pages of what appears to be 8-point type. Had I published it using the 11-point Bookman font we use for our books and magazines it would have run at least 900 pages.

I cannot say, in this short piece, enough good about the book; I can’t do is justice. All I can say is, if you like locomotives, BUY IT. You’ll not find anything on the market now that compares with the exception of Bill Withuhn’s book.

Now that I have finally “discovered” it, this book will be an important element on my reference shelf from now on. It should be for you as well! -Tom Dixon

625 pages, fully illustrated

See American Steam Locomotives: Design and Development, 1880-1960 ( Railroads Past and Present ) BK-19-930


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