Any good book recommendation for a railfan newbie?

714 views
15 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January, 2018
  • 14 posts
Any good book recommendation for a railfan newbie?
Posted by RailroadXplorer on Monday, February 12, 2018 4:58 PM

Hi everyone.

I am a railfan newbie and I am searching for a very good introductory book about North American railroads, freight yards, cars, locomotives, wayside structures, how it works ... I want to buy only one book on the subject. 

Thanks for your help!

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 10,632 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 4:02 PM

This one:  "Railroad: What It Is, What It Does : The Introduction to Railroading"

by John Armstrong.  

Has quite a bit of everything in easy to understand terms.  Good for neophyte railroaders, as well.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    January, 2018
  • 14 posts
Posted by RailroadXplorer on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 8:56 PM

Thanks lotmannd. On amazon.ca I see the two versions, one from 1998 and one from 2008. The price of the 2008 version is a few hundreds canadian dollars so I wont buy it.

Are there lots of differences between the two versions?

  • Member since
    July, 2010
  • From: Louisiana
  • 1,475 posts
Posted by Paul of Covington on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 9:24 PM

   I think just about everyone here would second the nomination for this book.   I have a 3rd edition (1990) and a 5th edition (2008), and I don't see a lot of difference in them as far as basic information.   Of course, you won't get information on some of the newest advances, but railroads tend to innovate at a glacial rate.   Just about everything has to be backward compatible with existing equipment.   I checked on Amazon, and I see 5th edition versions for 42 dollars or so.    I don't know how being in Canada could make such a big difference.   But there is a lot that I don't know.

_____________

   My mind's made up.   Don't confuse me with the facts.

  • Member since
    January, 2018
  • 14 posts
Posted by RailroadXplorer on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 6:01 AM

I will wait a little bit to see if the price change. I could buy a cheaper one but it will be a damaged version. When I order a book, I want it to be as clean and new as possible without paying too much.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 13,202 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 7:40 AM

Virtually any book written about some aspect of railroading will provide valuable information about railroading.  Railroading has many, many facets with which to entice one's interests.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    April, 2015
  • 182 posts
Posted by Enzoamps on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 10:43 AM

Amazon is cheap and convenient, but don't overlook your local libraries.  I am sure they will have books on railroading.  I used to check them out when I was younger.

  • Member since
    January, 2018
  • 14 posts
Posted by RailroadXplorer on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 11:15 AM

Very good idea about the library. I was there a few minutes ago and didn't think about searching for a railroading book.

 

Next time.

  • Member since
    August, 2006
  • From: Upstate NY
  • 176 posts
Posted by MikeFF on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 11:39 AM

Depending on your interests, it could vary.  Hard to go wrong with anything by David P. Morgan if you're interests go back a few decades.

 

Mike

 

  • Member since
    June, 2001
  • From: Lombard (west of Chicago), Illinois
  • 13,009 posts
Posted by CShaveRR on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:43 PM

You can't go wrong with John Armstrong's book.  It will touch on every aspect of railroading in general, without getting into specifics.

I think that you'll probably be buying more than one book once you've finished with that one.  In that case, I'd recommend the books that Kalmbach has published or will publish, including The Historical Guide to North American Railroads (it will include maps of the individual railroad companies, present and recent past), The guide to hot spots (to be published), and the guide to diesel locomotives.  Disclaimer:  I don't yet have the last two, but want them!  

My apologies for not getting back to you when you said you lived near Montreal.  I am totally unfamiliar with that area, so can't tell you where the best places around there would be.  The latest issue (March) of Trains Magazine has some good maps of railroads in Toronto that you might find helpful sometime.  I have a nostalgic affinity for Bayview Junction in Hamilton, Ontario, where there is usually quite a bit of action, both freight and passenger.

Carl

Railroader Emeritus (practiced railroading for 46 years--and in 2010 I finally got it right!)

CAACSCOCOM--I don't want to behave improperly, so I just won't behave at all. (SM)

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 4,092 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 7:39 PM

RailroadXplorer

Thanks lotmannd. On amazon.ca I see the two versions, one from 1998 and one from 2008. The price of the 2008 version is a few hundreds canadian dollars so I wont buy it.

Are there lots of differences between the two versions?

 

It's $46.95 (American) from the publisher's book store.

http://www.transalert.com/cgi-bin/details.cgi?inv=BKRRNN&cat=18 

Here's their main site for rail.

http://www.transalert.com/bookstore/Rail/ 

I found a copy from 1978 or so, at a model railroad show/swap meet for $5.  If you come across some place that has used books, keep your eyes open.  You never know what you'll find.  The newer the edition, the more relevant to modern railroading it will be.

Jeff 

 

 

  • Member since
    April, 2001
  • From: Roanoke, VA
  • 1,564 posts
Posted by BigJim on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 8:27 PM

.

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • 3,183 posts
Posted by M636C on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 9:35 PM

While it isn't really a book for a beginner, if you are in Canada, the "Canadian Trackside Guide" should be a compulsory thing to take along with you.

It is a small but very thick paperback with relatively small print but if something exists in Canada and is related to Railways it will be in there. For a beginner, it might be worth picking up a an older copy second hand since that would be cheaper and you could decide whether the mass of printed data is really for you or if you could do without knowing who built every locomotive that you see, and who first owned it and who owns it now (and the same for passenger cars). I think it lists Canadian built locomotives built for Canadian service now in service in the USA.

But any Canadian railfan should at least look at the book and decide whether they need it or if they can live without it...

Peter

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Antioch, IL
  • 3,515 posts
Posted by greyhounds on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 9:58 PM

It really depends on what you're interested in.  There are many, many aspects to railroads and each of us comes to our interest in a different way.

If I had to go with one affordable book, this would be it.  It's listed for $3.18 US.  It focuses on North American railroads and how they developed.  It's mostly about the US, but includes Canada. 

https://www.amazon.com/North-American-Railroad-Evolution-Geography/dp/0801845734/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1518666783&sr=1-1&keywords=north+american+railroads+vance

 

"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009. I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.
  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 17,840 posts
Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 10:18 PM

All great suggestions.

You might head for your local library(s) and seek out the transportation section.  They often have at least a few books about railroads.  Those may or may not include the titles suggested here, but will still provide information about railroading in general.  

The local interest section might include books about local railroading, as well.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    January, 2018
  • 14 posts
Posted by RailroadXplorer on Friday, February 16, 2018 7:05 AM

Thanks everyone for all your suggestions. Very appreciated :)

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy

Search the Community