To gain an insight into how timeless operating trains is, I recommend this trilogy, and would argue that the authors of these titles, along with O. P. Orr, could read each other's work and, despite over 150 years separating their experiences, instantly recognize and understand what each was talking about.
Southern Railroad Man: Conductor N. J. Bell's Recollections of the Civil War Era, edited by James A. Ward (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993). Era: 1846-1895.
Chauncey Del French's Railroad Man (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938). Era: 1873-1930.
Linda Niemann's Railroad Voices, with photographs by Linda Bertucci (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1998). Era: 1970-2000.
For Your Viewing Pleasure
Trains have played a role in more than 1,000 movies. In fact, on December 28, 1895, when the modern cinema was born - Louis and Auguste LumiŤne charged thirty-five Parisians 1 Franc each to watch a 5-minute "cinematographe" - commentators proclaimed the most thrilling clip to be "The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station." Film historians credit the 11-minute long movie The Great Train Robbery, released in 1903 from The Edison Company, as being the first movie to tell a complete story. If you'd like an entertaining look into the broad world of trains, here are three feature films noted for their authenticity to get you started:
Emperor of the North with Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin (1973)
The Train with Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield (1964)
The Harvey Girls with Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury, Cyd Charisse, and Victor Borge (1946)
Set Up Running
The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman: 1904-1949
Jim Porterfield is pleased to have had the opportunity to introduce this biography of a Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive engineer, Oscar P. (O. P.) Orr, who operated steam-powered freight and passenger trains throughout Central Pennsylvania and South Central New York. From 1904 to 1949, Orr sat at the controls of many famous steam locomotives; moved trains loaded with coal, perishables, and other freight; and encountered virtually every situation a locomotive engineer of that era could expect to see.
John W. (Jack) Orr, O. P.ís son, tells his fatherís story, which begins at the Central Steam Heating Plant in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. O. P. worked his way from the bottom of the senority roster to the top position (number one), and in the process operated nearly every kind of steam locomotive the Pennsylvania Railroad owned. Orr has an ear for detail, and a vivid memory. In hundreds of colorful anecdotes, he tells about such things as his fatherís first encounter with an automobile along the right-of-way - the year was 1912, about what it was like to operate a train in a blizzard, and about the difficulties railroad men encountered in stopping a trainload of tank cars loaded with oil in order to take on water and coal.
This compelling railroad history will enthrall not only everyone in the railroad community but also the general reader interested in railroads and trains, past and present.
John W. Orr graduated from Penn State University in 1949. He lived in Ralston, Pennsylvania, all of his life, and "answered the final call," as trainmen would say, in 2002.
John W. Orr's Set Up Running
". . . an engaging mix of oral history, biography, and autobiography . . . the level of detail is incredible . . . Orr successfully tempers the romance with the reality of an engineman's life."
Robert M. Blackson
". . . an unvarnished story of what engine service was really like (and) a valuable sociological portrait of railroading seldom explored in this detail. This was a difficult book for me to lay aside."
Robert E. McMillan
The Lexington Quarterly
"Detail is the great strength of this book. The cumulative effect is an extended meditation on a lost world of rugged, single-minded men who once thread(ed) their engines along river banks and down grades to deliver . . . the freight."
The Pennsylvania Magazine
of History and Biography
". . . a mosaic of colorful anecdotes (that) affords insights into railroading 'from the head end' . . ."
Frederick C. Gamst
Technology and Culture
". . . quite simply one of the liveliest and most informative works of railroad history to come along in many years."
". . . tells (of) a life as a railroad engineer with candor and attention to detail that weaves anecdote with compelling railroad history. . . a 'must read' for every dedicated railroad buff."
The Midwest Book Review