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)–
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.Bonus — 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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–
- Milwaukee Road in the West, the final decade of the Pacific Extention
- 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.)
- Seaboard Coast Line Color Guide to Freight Equipment
- Southern Pacific across the Desert, SP action (late 1970s-early 1980s) across Nevada, etc.
- 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–
There are many other good sources, but these guys always have great prices and services. I recommend them both.
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!