One of the most interesting books in my collection as been the Classic American Railroads series written by Mike Schafer. The first of these is entitled simply Classic American Railroads and was first released way back in 1996, published by Motorbooks International. In this first book Schafer details fifteen of the largest, and best remembered fallen flag railroads to operate around the country with names like the Baltimore & Ohio, Great Northern, New York Central, Southern Pacific, and numerous others. I have used all three of his books extensively as research material in helping to write this website, particularly regarding the fallen flag section, and they have been an invaluable tool. Not only does Mr. Schafer provide nicely written histories of each company but he also presents fine historic photography throughout the book, some of which is his own work as well as that of other noted rail historians/photographers such as Mel Patrick, Steve Smedley and the late Jim Boyd.
Classic American Railroads is not so much broken down into chapters as it highlighting the railroads themselves (which I suppose could be considered chapters). Mr. Schafer opens the book with a brief Acknowledgements segment describing how it all came together and what you can expect to find within its pages (such as noting that the bulk of the book is comprised of large, colorful photographs). Here the author discusses the intricacies of the book's development and is keen to point out that without the help of several individuals he could not have published such a title. It should also be noted that because of the size of Classic American Railroads it makes for a wonderful addition to one's coffee table, as much as it does in regards to research use). In the next few pages, Schafer provides a brief Foreword and Introduction, which are definitely worth taking the time to read.
It should be noted, however, that the Foreword itself is written by another noted rail historian, Steve Glischinski who, in about four paragraphs gives a ever-so-brief overview of the American railroad industry. In the intro, Mike Schafer discusses what it means to be a "classic railroad", although his writing is more rhetorical in nature considering that it is a topic with somewhat differing views and opinions. Mike also offers readers a glimpse of how the book is broken down. For instance, while there are technically no chapters comprising Classic American Railroads he made sure to include railroads from all of the different geographical areas of the country, something that holds true in More Classic American Railroads and Classic American Railroads, Volume III.