Trains of Yore
Things you might find in an encyclopedia from 1917
One of the many old books we got when some elderly antique shop owner neighbours retired many years ago was a 1917 Encyclopedia called The Wonder Book of Knowledge. It was a bit beaten up and battered but it was a treasure that I pored over many times. And one of the fascinating items was a picture gallery of steam locomotives and other vintage railroad lore.
After I got into blogging and building websites, I decided, for my own amusement, to see how fast I could get a website up and running. So I created Vintage Railroads. It wasn't a huge website, but it had plenty of pictures and lots of good information as well. The picture at the top was the header I created for the site. I discontinued the site after a few years but here it is in its entirety all on one page (slightly edited). The page names have been changed to section headers.
Welcome to Vintage Railroads
If you're as fascinated by the trains of yore as I am, those rustic steam machines chugging their way across the landscape, then this is the site for you. When I was just a toddler living near Hamilton, Ontario, I remember stopping in our car occasionally to let one of these behemoths pass. This was back in the 1950s. Now more than half a century later, these wonderful old machines are consigned to museums. There are still a few running but most have been mothballed.
In this site you'll find some vintage pictures of old trains from the past. You'll also find a collection of links to museums that display old steam engines, as well as excursions that keep a few of these old trains running.
Our initial source for material is in the public domain, The Wonder Book of Knowledge (1917 Edition) which is filled with vintage photos. The Museums and Live Steam sections are the result of personal experience.
When we think of locomotives of the past, we usually think of steam engines. Those certainly are the ones that fascinate us. But diesel and electric engines also have a long history and you'll find examples of each here. These pictures are taken from Railroad Scenes from Shop and Road in the 1917 edition of The Wonder Book of Knowledge. The captions are reproduced from the book.
Caption: The upper view shows a passenger locomotive used on the fastest heavy express trains. It weighs 272,000 pounds, with tender 70 feet long, and has a draw-bar pull of 30,700 pounds. The lower view shows a Mallet Articulated Type freight locomotive, one of the largest ever built. It consists of two units linked together to give flexibility to the wheel base. The locomotive is 108 feet 10 inches long, weighs 700,000 pounds, and has a draw-bar pull of 96,000 pounds. Oil is used for fuel.
All of the above were built by the American Locomotive Company. The last one is also used in our header at the top.
Caption: Two of the best known types of electric locomotive. The New York Central type is 43 feet long, 14 feet 9½ inches high, and weighs 230,000 pounds. It is equipped with four 550-horsepower motors and has a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. The Pennsylvania type is the latest development. It is built in two halves for flexibility and either half may be replaced during repairs. The complete unit weighs 157 tons, is 64 feet 11 inches long, and the motors have a combined horsepower of 4000, giving a draw-bar pull of 79,200 pounds, and a speed of 60 miles per hour.
Manufacturing engines and rolling stock for the railroads was and is a huge undertaking. Usually just a few specialty companies dominate the field. In the heyday of steam in the first half of the 20th century, these companies included Baldwin Locomotive Works and the American Locomotive Company. This section will show scenes of operations in some of these plants.
Caption: View in the erecting shop where locomotives are assembled. The traveling crane in the foreground is capable of transporting a locomotive to any part of the shop. (Baldwin Locomotive Works)
Final assembly of the locomotives took place in the erecting shop.
Caption: Erecting Shop at the Schenectady, N.Y. Works, American Locomotive Company
Paint Drying Oven
Many railroads painted the cars they purchased to match their company colors in their own paint shops.
Caption: Oven for Drying Paint on Passenger Cars at the Altoona, Pennsylvania shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The foundry is the part of a locomotive factory that casts the metal parts needed in construction. See foundry in Wikipedia for more information on this process. (Link after the article)
Caption: Foundry at the Schenectady, N.Y. Works, American Locomotive Company
Every locomotive plant needs a machine shop like the one shown below.
Caption: Machine Shop at the Schenectady, N.Y. Works, American Locomotive Company
The drive rods for locomotives were separately manufactured in the rod shop.
Caption: Rod Shop at the Schenectady, N.Y. Works, American Locomotive Company
The cylinders for locomotives were separately manufactured in the cylinder shop.
Caption: Cylinder Shop at the Schenectady, N.Y. Works, American Locomotive Company
This section shows various scenes of passenger trains from the first twenty years of the twentieth century.
Caption: The Pennsylvania Railroad Company's "Broadway Limited", a twenty-hour train between New York and Chicago
Electric trains were popular in the early twentieth century for runs that went through lengthy tunnels such as those in New York.
Caption: All-steel passenger train, drawn by electric locomotive, as used in the New York tunnels of the Pennsylvania Railroad
Caption: Electric train on the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad
Caption: Express train ready to leave the Broad Street Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Philadelphia
Caption: The observation car is provided with book-cases, a writing desk and a stenographer.
This section shows various scenes of freight trains from the first twenty years of the twentieth century.
Caption: Train of 120 loaded coal cars drawn by a single locomotive
Caption: A string of all-steel freight cars just turned out of the shops
Caption: Freight train, eastbound on the horseshoe curve
Fire fighting locomotives were essential on railroads powered by steam engines.
Caption: Locomotive equipped with fire-fighting apparatus
Sometimes specialty freight cars were built for specific purposes.
Caption: Length of car over couplers, 103 feet 10½ inches; capacity 300,000 pounds. Weight of car, 196,420 pounds. Shown here loaded with casting of large 5000 ton flanging press. Weight of casting, 252,000 pounds.
Vintage pics of a couple of classic railroad stations.
Caption: Bird's-eye view of the Pennsylvania Station, New York City
Caption: The Union Station at Washington, D.C.
Here are some links to Railroad Museums where you can see vintage trains like the ones in these pages.
- The Roundhouse – The Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, is a community center jointly operated by the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Society and the Vancouver Park Board. The center is a converted CP Rail Roundhouse and beside it is a glass pavilion housing CPR Engine 374 which pulled the first train into Vancouver in 1887.
- Revelstoke Railway Museum – the Revelstoke Railway Museum is one of Canada's premier railway museums with displays including both engines and rolling stock. You can also take an online tour of the museum which includes a number of 360° images. (Virtual Tours)
- The Last Spike – located 27.8 miles west of Revelstoke, B.C. at Craigellachie, this is the site where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven. The site is operated by the Revelstoke Heritage Railway Society which operates the Revelstoke Railway Museum.
- 3 Valley Gap Railway Roundhouse – Located about 19 miles west of Revelstoke, B.C. this musuem contains many railroad artifacts including a 0-4-0 steam locomotive circa 1922 and a velocipede from around 1910. A velocipede is a track car powered by foot like a bicycle.
- Railway Museum of British Columbia – home of the renowned Royal Hudson engine 2860, this rail museum has lots to see and do. It is located in Squamish, BC, 64 kilometers north of Vancouver. The museum runs a Polar Express 50 minute excursion to visit the North Pole during the Christmas season. The Royal Hudson is operable but hasn't been on an excursion since 2010. But the museum does do other excursions with diesel engines.
- Canadian Northern Society – The Canadian Northern Society runs museums in Big Valley, Camrose, and Meeting Creek, Alberta. There is information on each one at this website.
- Camrose Railway Museum and Park – additional information on the Camrose Railway Museum from Tourism Camrose
- Arizona Railway Museum – located in Chandler, Arizona, this museum includes engines and rolling stock. There is an extensive photo collection online.
- Brodhead Historical Society Depot Museum – the museum is located in a former depot of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad in Brodhead, Wisconsin. Various artifacts are on display and on a track behind the museum sits a diesel engine circa 1950 and a caboose. Admission is free.
- Central Florida Railroad Museum – located in Winter Garden, Florida, this museum is located in a restored railroad depot. On display, according to their website, are "historic photographs, lanterns, telephones, telegraphs, stoves, tools, furniture, timetables, tin ware, marker lanterns, ticket punches, lamps, uniforms, locomotive bells and whistles, a 1938 Fairmont motorcar, a velocipede hand car and a very large collection of dining car china and silver service. Outside we have former Clinchfield caboose #1073 and a three head interlocking signal from the former ACL SAL junction in Plant City."
- Colis P. Huntington Railroad Museum – this outdoor museum features a number of pieces of rolling stock, a tank switcher engine slated for restoration and a couple of steam locomotives including an impressive Baldwin H-6 Mallet. The museum, located in Huntington, West Virginia, is open Sundays. Admission is free. The historical society offers rail excursions in October.
- Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad – more than just a museum, the Cumbres & Toltec is an actual operating railroad. It is the longest narrow gauge railroad in North America and a designated National Historic Site. There are four historic sites along the right-of-way at Chama, New Mexico; Sublette, New Mexico; Cumbres, Colorado and Osier, Colorado. They feature restored historical buildings and other artifacts. But the highlight of this railroad are the steam excursions that run from Memorial Day through mid-October.
- Eastern Shore Railway Museum – located in Parksley, Virginia in a 1906 pasenger railway station, the museum contains many railroad artifacts as well as a collection of handcars.
- California Trolley and Railroad Corporation – based in San Jose, California, this non-profit corporation is currently developing the San Jose Steam Railroad Museum. It has also restored a number of trolley cars and is currently restoring a Southern Pacific steam locomotive.
- Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum – located in North Judson, Indiana, the museum includes a number of steam engines and a large variety of rolling stock. Rail excursions are also offered.
- Las Cruces Railroad Museum -located in the historic Santa Fe Depot in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this museum features numerous railroad artifacts as well as an old wooden caboose and several model railroad displays.
- Martin & Frances Lehnis Railroad Museum – located in the historic Brownwood Santa Fe Depot in Brownwood, Texas, this museum includes various artifacts as well as some rolling stock and a steam locomotive.
- Mid-Continent Railway Museum - according to their website, "the full equipment roster currently consists of 13 steam locomotives, 38 passenger cars, 31 freight cars, 21 cabooses, and 15 pieces of service equipment." The museum also offers rail excursions. Located in North Freedom, Wisconsin.
- Railway Museum of San Angelo - located in an historic rail depot built by the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railroad in 1909, the museum houses numerous artifacts, a photo gallery and several model railroads in various gauges. Outside are two diesel engines, a caboose and a boxcar. The museum is in San Angelo, Texas.
- San Francisco Cable Car Museum - when we were in San Francisco we took a cable car and stopped to see the powerhouse where the museum is housed. Here you can see it in operation – the wheels turning and pulling the cables that drive the cars. Fascinating. Definitely worth visiting.
Steam Train Excursions
There are still places where you can take a steam train excursion. Check out the links below!
- Kettle Valley Steam Railway - The Kettle Valley Railway in Summerland, B.C., Canada has regular excursions throughout the Spring and Summer and several special "Great Train Robbery" events.
- Railway Museum of British Columbia – home of the renowned Royal Hudson engine 2860, this rail museum has lots to see and do. The museum runs a Polar Express 50 minute excursion to visit the North Pole during the Christmas season. The Royal Hudson is operable but hasn't been on an excursion since 2010. But the museum does do other excursions with diesel engines.
- Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad -more than just a museum, the Cumbres & Toltec is an actual operating railroad. It is the longest narrow gauge railroad in North America and a designated National Historic Site. There are four historic sites along the right-of-way at Chama, New Mexico; Sublette, New Mexico; Cumbres, Colorado and Osier, Colorado. They feature restored historical buildings and other artifacts. But the highlight of this railroad are the steam excursions that run from Memorial Day through mid-October.
- White Pass & Yukon Railway - The White Pass & Yukon is a railway that runs both steam and diesel excursions at Skagway, Alaska from May to September. Skagway is a port of call for Alaska cruises with most cruise ship lines.
Links of Interest
About the author
Marco is the published author of two books on investing in the stock market. Since retiring in 2014 after forty years in broadcast journalism, Marco has become an avid blogger on philosophy, travel, and music He also writes short stories.