Late 19th Century Railroad Resources
A collection assembled by David
Emery with contributions from the EarlyRail group.
Here's a list of useful links, books, etc for anyone interested in
railroading (prototype or modeling) the period from approximately 1880
to about 1900 or so.
There are a couple of Yahoo groups that are essential sources for this
There's also a group for the American Civil
War period, and another looking at 1914-1940 era
And, of course, just about every railroad has its own historical discussion
group. I find the V&T Modelers
1869 (Original V&T) and Colorado
Midland groups particularly useful. There are also groups for a
lot of railroad industries. Yahoo provides a relevant collection of railroad
- SilverCrashCarWorks -
specializes in western prototypes of boxcars, reefers and a stock car,
particularly Colorado Midland. Resin kits.
- Amesville Car Shops -
grew out of the ER Kits project. Resin kits
- Art Griffin
Decals - online catalog, now up to 110 pages with 8 cars per
page. Art also sells late 19th century reefer and boxcar kits, best
place to get information on those kits is his Yahoo Group. Resin kits
- Alkem Scale Models
- Most of these cars are 1860s/1870s, but still usable in the
1880s/1890s as older cars. Laser-cut wood kits
- B.T.S - Produces cars
suitable for 1860s/1870s, and an unique line of 1880s era prototype
cars. Laser-cut wood kits
- Westerfield - Mostly
focused on first half of the 20th century, but some kits cover late
1890s. Resin kits.
- Old and Weary
Car Shops - NYO&W prototypes, including a late 19th century coal
hopper. Resin kits.
- Funaro & Camerlengo - A
variety of eras, including a DL&W late 1880s boxcar and some hoppers
that can be used for 1890s. Resin kits.
Books (reprints, Google books, historical volumes etc)
New books or reprints
Note: Links to Amazon are provided for bibliographic information.
You can find a lot of these books, if they're out of print, on eBay.
John H. White is the authoritative author on this period. His books
are required reading.
The next set of must-have books are the Car Builders Dictionary.
Various editions have been reprinted and you can find them on eBay or
used book stores. Some are also available for download from Google
Books. There are editions from 1879, 1888 and 1906 (covers both brand
new cars and older cars.)
There are also locomotive books in the same general series, again
some have been reprinted. Recent Locomotives of 1888 has been
reprinted twice, the second time in an 'expanded edition' that
includes the ads. There's also an 1883 version that I do not believe
has been reprinted. The Locomotive Dictionary of 1906
was reprinted and can be found on eBay and used book dealers.
Other books worth considering that are relatively easy to find:
Newton K. Gregg did a series of reprints under the name of "Train Shed
Cyclopedia". There were about 100 of these, mostly on 20th century
topics. However, over 5 volumes they reprinted Buildings &
Structures of American Railroads from 1893. (I have an original of
that volume, and the Gregg reprints are quite nice copies...) It's
hard to find all 5 volumes, but worth it.
Most railroad histories cover the 19th century (of course, a history
of the Penn Central would be an exception :-). There are specific
19th century volumes for the DL&W (Taber), the Reading (Holton),
Central Vermont (Jones).
Al Westerfield provides reprints of the ORER (Official Railway
Equipment Register). These were published periodically to provide
information to railroads, shippers, car auditors, etc (and usually tossed when
the next copy came out). ORER
and related CDs
Historical Books (not reprinted)
One of the most interesting sets of books that you can find on eBay
are the series of volumes associated with correspondence schools used
by railroad men to get promoted. In particular, Marshall Kirkman had
a series called "The Science of Railways" that was put out about every
2 or 3 years in a new edition. A set ran about 10-15 volumes, and you
can look for individual volumes or complete sets on eBay.
In the 19th century most states had Railroad Commissioners that issued
annual reports with information on railroads charted in their states.
These usually include accident reports (scary reading!), reports on
new construction, condition of roadbed, and often information on
rolling stock. They show up on eBay at usually a reasonable price.
One of the best historical books I have is George Vose' Manual for
Railroad Engineers of 1879. Apparently this has been reprinted by
Press, but I don't know if this reprint includes the pull-out
pages of bridge trusses, locomotive cross-sections, etc, that make
this book such a treasure.
Another source of great info are the 19th century professional
societies, such as Master Car Builders I have some volumes of
their Proceedings, and a lot of these are available on Google Books.
Google books is turning into an amazing resource as libraries
contribute their reference materials. Other sources include
Gutenberg.org and Archive.org.
I need help collecting Google Book and other on-line links, please send contributions to David Emery or add them to the
Links section of the EarlyRail Yahoo Group
Photo and other Archives
Searchable Photo Archives
A lot of state/county/city historical societies have
on-line/searchable photo collections. There's a great collection
of railroad history archive links on the UCONN site:
Other Photo Sources
Another great source are the Arcadia Publishing "Images of
America" historical photo collection books. Now these are mostly
focused on locations (but there are some interesting volumes on
railroads, including one on the Boston & Maine in the 19th century.)
It's worth checking out books for the area you are interested in
The NMRA's Kalmbach Library
and major railroad museums (Pennsylvania
Railroad Museum Library and Archives, Colorado Railroad
Museum Richardson Library and California
State Railroad Museum Library & Collections) have extensive
collections with varying degrees of on-line access. However, a visit
to one of these collections would be invaluable. Best to contact them
for hours, and enquire about photocopying or photographing rules.
(The state of digital cameras these days means that often the best
thing to do is take photos of the books/pages you're interested in,
but practice this at home first.)
Civil Engineering (bridges and structures)
The Sanborn Map collection
provided by ProQuest is a real treasure trove. The on-line collection
has black-and-white scans of many of the maps, and you can usually
find the username/password through a Google search. A couple of
things to note about Sanborn maps:
Still, they're the best things going to get a sense of how 19th
century towns were laid out, and often the only resource for a given
area. Some universities, and of course the Library of
Congress/National Archives, have originals or color copies of Sanborn
books, so keep that in mind if you need information you can't find on
the on-line versions.
- They were actually done in color, so you lose some information
viewing them in black-and-white.
- Track plans, in particular, are not guaranteed to be accurate,
since Sanborn was interested in structures and not track.
Furthermore, Sanborn inspectors might update structure information
but not trackplan information, so there's no guarantee that a
well-detailed track plan on a given map with a given date is correct
for that date.
Last, but most certainly not least from a modeler's perspective, is
the treasure trove of the "HAER", the Historic
American Engineering Record. This is a division of the Library of
Congress that contains photographs, drawings/blueprints and narrative
sheets for a huge number of historic buildings across the USA. These
vary in quality from a single photograph and caption, to 50 or more
photographs, 10 drawings and 20 page descriptions of a single
Page maintained by David
Emery on www.Earlyrail.org.
Copyright (c) 2009 by David Emery. This page provided under the
Commons License, allowing others to share and adapt this
information for non-commmercial use.
Last modified: Sat Dec 12 15:26:35 EST 2009