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Center for Railroad Photography & Art Releases Illustrated Guide to North American Railroad History

A quick-and-easy illustrated guide called “North American Railroad History in a Nutshell” is now available from the Center for Railroad Photography & Art (

“Nutshell” showcases 50 images, 22 in color, each accompanied by a description that explains each image’s importance and how it relates to railroad history. The selection summarizes in 48 pages the growth and change in railroading from the 1850s to today.

The illustrations were distilled from more than 1,300 entries on the Center’s Internet archive and web portal,, a project supported by the North American Railway Foundation, Harrisburg, Pa.
The guide traces the history of railroads in North America from its beginnings, illustrated by a copy of a daguerreotype of the locomotive “Tioga,” to today’s preservation movement, illustrated by one of noted photographer David Plowden’s early photographs, a Canadian steam engine that now pulls excursion trains. Modern-day growth in freight is illustrated by lush color images of coal trains in the Powder River Basin and an intermodal train crossing the Columbia River.

Besides these examples of railroads’ role in the growth and economic life of the country, readers will get a look at how railroads have influenced fine art, photography, travel, and popular culture. The illustrations include a sheet-music cover from the turn of the twentieth century to a photograph of a four-year-old embracing a toy train as if it were the greatest gift he ever got–not in 1949, but in 2009. To enhance the guide’s use as a classroom tool and for teaching, it includes a bibliography and biographical sketches of the photographers and artists.

As a bonus, the issue includes the story of Lewis W. Hine’s iconic photographic portrait of a locomotive engineer whom he called “monarch of the rail.” For the first time, the image is placed in the historical contexts of both its journalistic and commercial uses, and the engineer is identified as a Pennsylvania Railroad real-life figure.

Copies are available as a membership benefit ( or on sale for $19.95 plus shipping and handling (

The publication and the Internet archive from which it is drawn are projects of the Center, a nonprofit arts organization that preserves and presents significant images of railroading — interpreting them in print, exhibitions, and on the Internet. The Center maintains an administrative office at 1914 Monroe St., Madison, Wis., 53725-9330, and maintains partnerships with organizations across the country for exhibitions and programs. For more information call 608-513-5291.

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