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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.’s son, tells his father’s 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 father’s 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.

What Railroad Reviewers are Saying
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
Railroad History

". . . 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."
Mark Reutter
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."
Michael Bezilla
Pennsylvania History

". . . 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