Top ten (actually 12) railroad books

This post is about my favorite railroad books and the ones I reference frequently.  I have about 60 railroad photography books, but really only a few of my books get much traffic.

For regular readers of Rails West it is obvious that my primary modeling interest is the West in 1981, particularly the Burlington Northern and Southern Pacific. However, I am seeking to feature a lot of rolling stock from a number of other roads with operations in the West, such as BN predecessors (including the Frisco) and the Rio Grande, Milwaukee Road, Santa Fe, Western Pacific, Chicago and Northwestern and Missouri Pacific and a few favorites from other regions, such the Norfolk and Western, Seaboard Coast Line, Illinois Central Gulf and Louisville and Nashville.

All right, here is the list (kind of but not necessarily in order)–


  1. Southern Pacific in Oregon — I love this book.  The photography is stunning and it really focuses on my era, the late 1970s-early 1980s.  The pictures are crystal clear and very vivid.  This has to be one of the best pictorial railroad books ever produced.14929
  2. Northwest Passage is almost as good.  Again excellent coverage of the Burlington Northern (late-1970s-1980s), but a little more 1990s coverage snuck in.  Still a really outstanding book–very high-quality photo production.71pqwdioswl
  3. Awesome new book released this year!  Outstanding pictures, mostly 1970s and the production is mostly high quality.  A few of the pictures are just a bit faded out, but all in all, an excellent work.5e009b2d4c42124f9c08ea479ec0b2c6
  4. A must for true modelers of the BN.  This is one of the best color guide books that Morningsun has produced.  Extensive coverage.  Don’t buy unless you want to model the BN.  If you see this book, you’ll be tempted to switch the railroad you model.s-l500
  5. I love the Milwaukee.  By 1981, sadly, it had abandoned its Pacific Extention west of Miles City, MT, but in my eyes, it was still a true western road.  Miles City is still pretty far west!  Excellent coverage of a railroad that had a very charismatic freight car fleet.51sc5znqkrl
  6. Another railroad that had a charismatic freight car fleet.  I have studied this book for hours, wishing an HO producer would run some of the special cars of the CB&Q. Below is an example of one of the more attractive cars of the fleet and an example of the kinds of interesting schemes the CB&Q offered.cbq-49437-cicero-il-nov-1-1979-chuck-zeilerBonus — click here to see (courtesy of RR Pictures Archives) the outstanding CB&Q work of Chuck Zeiler.  He is one of my rail photographer heros!9781878887498-us-300
  7. Right behind the CB&Q was the Northern Pacific for a very attractive and interesting freight car fleet.  This color guide does a great job reflecting the diversity of the fleet.riograndecolorguidefrtpax
  8. The Rio Grande Color Guide is very good.  Unfortunately, the DRGW did not own an extremely large and diverse fleet, but this book does a great job of capturing much of the roster.61og9uqpsel
  9. This book has a lot of interesting photos and does a solid job of capturing SP operations in NoCal.  The time span is a little wide for me, but most of the photos would be of interest to a 1970-1980 modeler.  A few of the photos are a bit flat, but the subject material is usually quite good.drgw
  10. This book features many great shots of DRGW actions in desolate corners of the line–lot’s of 1970s and 1980s action.  Most pictures are very clear and vivid.  This is one of the better DRGW books I have seen.frisco_katy_color_guide
  11. I love the rolling stock of the Frisco (and Katy for that matter).  Like the Milwaukee and other roads I mentioned above, the Frisco fleet had a lot of charisma also.  I really like this book since I want a fair amount of Frisco rolling stock on the railroad since the layout depicts the era right after the BN-Frisco merger.  Loads of great Frisco pictures.shortlines-of-the-pacific-northwest
  12. I like this book because it is just plain interesting.  Some of the photos are flat, but most of them depict interesting shortline operations.  Coverage is from the 1970s to the early 2000s.  It’s tempting to model a small logging operation after one reads this book.

OK, so that is the top dozen.  Of course, I like a lot of other books such as the color guides for the Western Pacific, Louisville and Nashville, Norfolk and Western and a number of other pictorial books such as the recent publication by the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modelling Society, Santa Fe on the Great Plains.

There are a couple of books missing in my eyes.  I would like to see the following books–

  1. Milwaukee Road in the West, the final decade of the Pacific Extention
  2. Burlington Northern across the Intermountain West (Love to see a great BN book in more arid areas, such as eastern Washington, parts of Wyoming, etc.)
  3. Seaboard Coast Line Color Guide to Freight Equipment
  4. Southern Pacific across the Desert, SP action (late 1970s-early 1980s) across Nevada, etc.
  5. Union Pacific Color Guide to Freight Equipment (1970s and early 1980s)

Doesn’t hurt to dream I guess.

In case you want any of these books, many are still in print.  My two favorite books sources are–

Overland Hobbies


Arizona Hobbies

There are many other good sources, but these guys always have great prices and services.  I recommend them both.


Dear Readers:

Please share in the comments your favorite Railroad book(s) and maybe one you’d like to see produced. I’d like to know some of your favorites, especially if you know any that feature great late 1970-to early 1980 western railroading!


A trip to the freight yard in the late 1970s, part III

In the last post, I indicated I’d share a few more freight car shots and more locomotives at work in yards in part III.


ATSF and SP boxcars, November 1977, photographer and location unknown. –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

What an iconic ATSF car above.  Those catches made the trip to the freight worth it alone!


GN and CB&Q boxcar, November 1977, photographer and location unknown. –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

Catching a Great Northern and Burlington car together?   Didn’t get much better than that!


SL-SF #00172, photographer and location unknown. –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

Another of my personal favorites, the Frisco.


Houston, Belt and Terminal working Mykawa Yard, Houston, Texas, November 1978–©photo by C. E. Hunt

However, the engines working the yards were very appealing as well.  There was something about watching a SW-1500 or even a SW-7 chugging back and forth showing their hard work with a reverberation and grey plume from time to time…

I loved these little work horses!


HB&T #54 coming onto Griggs Road, Houston, Texas, November 1978–©photo by C. E. Hunt

Moving back and forth to assemble trains.  It really made freight yards a “living” thing.

SP at Sentagast Yard Nov 1978

SP #2300 at Settegast Yard, Houston, Texas November 1978–©photo by C. E. Hunt


Rock Island GP #4543 at Settegast Yard, Houston, Texas, May 1980–©photo by C. E. Hunt

A bonus of growing up in Houston in the late 1970s.  I got to witness the closing days of the Rock!


Rock Island GP #4458 at Settegast Yard, May 1980–©photo by C. E. Hunt

ATSF possibly at Sentagast Yard Nov 1978

ATSF locomotive possibly at Settegast Yard, November 1978.  (I have no clue what type of locomotive it was.  Rebuild? Help me solve this mystery) –©photo by C. E. Hunt

These were the days!  This concludes this series.  I hope you enjoyed this journey into the excitement of “old school” freights yards as much as I did.

Note:  If you enjoyed this series, please check out my sales efforts on eBay (click here).  I am continuing to sell my “non-1981” appropriate or excess items to pay for this site. (slides, scanner, etc.).  I way overbought for the size of my Rails West layout. Please share my Rails West site and my eBay site with a friend.  Thanks! 

By the way, I am working on another structure, Hernandez Distributing.  More to come on that.

A trip to the freight yard in the late 1970s, part II

Here is part II to my series on the excitement freight yards used to generate for me.  (Click here to see part I.)  I loved seeing road names from all over the country–sometimes, paint schemes from lines that had disappeared 20 years before.

In addition to all the  different road names, you might see some cool loads on flats cars or gondolas.

Freight Yard CBQ flat Nov 1977 Bought from JD Gratz Aug 2016 Photog unknown

CB&Q flat Nov 1977 Photographer and location unknown. –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

ICG flat with tires Feb 1980

ICG flat with tires February 1980, Houston, TX –©photo by C. E. Hunt

The thing I liked the best were seeing cars from all my favorites, such as the Burlington, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Rio Grande and Milwaukee Road…

Freight Yard CBQ Boxcar Nov 1977 Bought from JD Gratz Aug 2016 Photog unknown

CB&Q boxcar, November 1977, photographer and location unknown. –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

GN-138489 Boxcar Original RR Slide La Crosse Wi.1988 photo by Donald C. Stewart

GN 138489, La Crosse WI 1988, photo by Donald C. Stewart–©photo C. E. Hunt Collection (OK, it’s a little after the late 1970s but a great shot nonetheless!)

GN 37612 Oct 1978 Photog and location unknown bought from McMillan June 2016

GN 37612, October 1978, Photographer and location unknown, –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

NORTHERN PACIFIC 5583 NP 50' DOUBLE DOOR 1977 photog and location unknown bought from J Will July 2016 cropc

NP 5583, 1977, photographer location unknown.–©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

MILWAUKEE 4178 50' BOX CAR Oct 1978 by Roger Bee purchase from him July 2016

MILW 4178, Oct 1978 by Roger Bee, location unknown. –©photo C. E. Hunt Collection

I also enjoyed watching locomotives, often small switch engines labor back and forth to get cars on the right track.

SP at Sentagast Yard Nov 1978

SP #2300 at Settegast Yard November 1978–©photo by C. E. Hunt

A few more freight car shots and more locomotives at work in yards in part III.