Books About John Deere

Books About International Harvester

Other Brands and Farm Tractor Development

Small Farming and Rural Life

Restoring Tractors and Engines

Electro-Motive E-Units and F-Units.  Brian Solomon, 2011.

As the subtitle states, "The illustrated history of North America's favorite locomotives." Longtime railroad enthusiast and author Solomon surveys the history of the classic streamlined diesel-electric locomotives that revolutionized both the nature of railroading (from steam to diesel) and the nature of locomotive building (from unique designs developed by and for each individual railroad, to standard designs adaptable to any railroad). The book ranges from the birth of the Electro-Motive Company to development of the "567" class diesel engine, through the various models of E and F units in their heyday, to the continued use today of Es and Fs on various railroads' flagship executive fleets. Wonderful vintage color and black-and-white photos, along with modern photos of surviving Es and Fs still in operation, illustrate the text. As is often the case with general history texts, I sometimes found myself wanting more detail: More nuts and bolts, so to speak, about the various iterations of generator sets or traction motors or various truck designs, or more operational details from the perspectives of train crews or railroad executives. But all of those subjects are at least touched on, and I recognize the limits of time and pages--no one book could contain all the details various readers might want. For fans of EMD's first-generation diesel locomotives, this book is a keeper.

Classic American Streamliners.  Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh, 1997. 

Still one of my favorites, with lots of historical photos and ads and well-written, detailed text about the glory years of the great named passenger trains as well as their less-glamorous local counterparts.  I particularly enjoyed reading about the design work done for the New York Central by Henry Dreyfuss and for the Pennsylvania Railroad by Raymond Loewy--the same industrial designers who created so many classic designs for John Deere (Dreyfuss) and International Harvester (Loewy).  Republished in paperback in 2002 as Streamliners - A History of the Railroad Icon.

Twilight of the Great Trains.  Fred Frailey, 2010. 

An outstanding history of the decline and eventual end of private-sector rail passenger service in the United States.  Veteran railroad author and Trains magazine correspondent Fred Frailey details the varying approaches taken by different railroads to the pressures of competition from the highways and airlines and of regulation by state and federal agencies, all of them ultimately ending with the creation of Amtrak.  Well illustrated with black and white and some color photographs, along with detailed diagrams illustrating routes and consists of major trains, this is a well-written look at the passenger rail industry of the 1960s.

Outbound Trains In the Era Before the Mergers.  Jim Boyd, 2005. 

A beautiful collection of wonderful railroad photographs from the 1960s and 70s, all in color, along with author and photographer Jim Boyd's narration of some of his train-watching and railroad-industry experiences and of the circumstances behind the photographs.  Most of the photos are of diesels, given the era, but there are also some terrific shots of steam locomotives then still in service on short lines and industrial yards.  Boyd covered most of the nation in his travels and the book reflects that variety, with coverage of all sorts of railroads in all sorts of places.  Not a detailed history of any particular railroad so much as a photographic record of the era, this is an excellent book.


The Call of Trains:  Railroad Photography by Jim Shaughnessy; and A Passion For Trains:  The Railroad Photography of Richard Steinheimer

  Stunningly gorgeous black-and-white photography of the late steam and early diesel eras fills each of these terrific coffee-table books, one focused on the work of Jim Shaughnessy and the other on the work of Richard Steinheimer, both with accompanying text by Jeff Brouws--himself a passionate railfan and distinguished photographer.  The books follow identical approaches, each starting out with a detailed introduction by Brouws before reaching the heart of the book:  Full-page or two-page spreads of high-quality plates of many of the photographer's most compelling portraits of railroading--often with railroaders or other people in the photos, often at night or in bad weather, chronicling the grit and energy of the industry and those involved in it during the 1950s and 1960s.  A final section in each book reprints each photograph as a much smaller image accompanied by a descriptive paragraph of background information.   At 224 and 192 pages respectively, each 11" high and 12" wide, both books are physically large as well as packed with great photos.

F Units:  The Diesels That Did It.  Jeff Wilson, 2000. 

A brief history of the Electro-Motive Division F-series locomotives, which proved so versatile, economical, and reliable that they "did it"--made the steam locomotive obsolete for most railroading applications--in a remarkably short period of time.  There's not a lot of text here, but there are lots of great 1950s black and white photos, mostly of F units in action but also including several terrific scenes from the EMD plants where the locomotives were built.  Posed publicity photos from the various railroads are interspersed with evocative portraits from distinguished railroad photographers including J. Parker Lamb, Jim Shaughnessy, Richard Steinheimer, and others.  Scale drawings and model-by-model descriptions illustrate the differences between and within each model, helpful for the railfan who needs to know, for example, how to distinguish an FP7 from an F7, or an early F3 from a late F3.

The Cars of Pullman.  Joe Welsh, Bill Howes, and Kevin Holland, 2010. 

Somewhat of a departure from most of the other books I've collected, this one focuses not on a railroad or on types of trains but on Pullman cars themselves.  The Pullman Company was an early innovator in developing comfortable sleeping cars, as far back as the late 1800s, and grew to be the dominant manufacturer, owner, and operator of sleeping cars and parlor cars--which it leased to the railroads themselves, often in the styling and colors of the rest of the given railroad's passenger trains.   The detailed text is well illustrated with lots of black and white and color photos.

Great Passenger Trains:  Milwaukee Road Hiawathas, Great Northern Empire Builder, Santa Fe Chiefs.  Various authors and publication dates.

A very good series of books, each focusing on a single railroad's elite passenger trains and covering their history from the earliest days through the end of private-sector passenger trains and the advent of Amtrak.   Good text, lots of excellent color and black and white photos, reproductions of advertisements and other materials.  I haven't read them yet, but I've seen similar books in the series for Baltimore and Ohio's Capitol and National Limiteds, Burlington Zephyrs, New Haven Passenger Trains, Pennsylvania Railroad's Broadway Limited, Southern Pacific Passenger Trains, and Union Pacific Streamliners.

Great Northern Color Pictorial, Volume 1.   Joseph Shine, 1992.

This color pictorial illustrates the history of Great Northern railway locomotives ("The Electrics, Last of Steam, and First Generation Diesels") through excellent vintage color photographs with captions detailing the time, place, and circumstances.  For the diesels, charts list each unit by number and show the builder, horsepower, build date, the various renumberings and eventual dispositions.  Wonderful photographic record of Great Northern motive power during the period between about 1950 and 1970.

Great Northern Color Pictorial, Volume 3.   John Strauss, Jr., 1993.

Another in the Four Ways West publishing series on the Great Northern, this book focuses on the Empire Builder, GN's premier transcontinental passenger train.  Author John F. Strauss, Jr. served for years as a Traveling Passenger Representative on the Empire Builder, and in the words of the publisher, "...We have departed from an all color format and have adopted a format utilizing color along with the author's extensive black and white photo collection..."  Period advertisements and timetables supplement the photos and Strauss' detailed and well-informed narration. 

The Hiawatha Story.  Jim Scribbins, 1971.

At 265 pages, this classic book by longtime Milwaukee Road employee Jim Scribbins lavishly chronicles the railroad's Hiawatha trains.  In an era when passenger trains symbolized luxury and speed, the Milwaukee Road drew inspiration from Longfellow:  "Swift of foot was Hiawatha; He could shoot an arrow from him, And run forward with such fleetness, That the arrow fell behind him!"  Thoroughly researched, well written, illustrated with lots of great vintage photos.  Republished in paperback in 2007.

Milwaukee Road Remembered.  Jim Scribbins, 1990.

The definitive history of the Milwaukee Road, written and illustrated with Jim Scribbins' trademark care, attention to detail, and firsthand knowledge.  Many outstanding black and white photos, along with eight pages of full color photos in the center of the book, complement the detailed and easy-reading text.  Still the one must-have book on the Milwaukee Road, out of print in the original hard cover but available used, and republished in paperback in 2008.

The Milwaukee Road In Color.  Various authors and publication dates.

[Various Railroads] In Color.  Various authors and publication dates.


These "...In Color" books from Morning Sun Books, each focusing on a different railroad or a different aspect of a given railroad, are composed primarily of excellent color photographs from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with detailed captions.  An extra paragraph or two sometimes introduces a section of photos from a particular district or theme, but the books are about the photos and captions rather than written histories.  They're great references for fans of the particular railroad or for hobbyists looking for prototype details of trains, yards, or trackside structures.  I have the ones shown here but I've also seen them for the Lehigh Valley, New York Central, Northern Pacific, and Union Pacific, and expect more are out there, typically with multiple volumes per railroad.

The Great Northern Railway - A History.  Ralph Hidy, Muriel Hidy, Roy Scott, Don Hofsommer, 1988. 

A meticulous and scholarly history of the Great Northern, from its Minnesota origins in the 1850s, to the turn-of-the-century Empire Building decades under James. J. Hill, to the 1970 merger with the Northern Pacific that created the Burlington Northern.  Well illustrated with vintage black and white photos, this book--at 360 pages--is nonetheless more of a business case study than a pretty coffee table book, reflecting the Harvard Business School connections of its authors and publisher.  Republished in paperback in 2004.

Milwaukee Road Locomotives, Volume 1.  Thomas Strauss, 2006. 

This page is under construction. 


Thanks for visiting!  E-mail me at if you have any comments--I'm always glad to talk tractors and such. --Dean Vinson
Farm Life Books
Magazines, etc
Farm Life Web Page