Classic Locomotives:  Steam And Diesel Power In 700 Photographs, By Brian Solomon

Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Brian Solomon has become a well-known railroad author for good reason, his titles are interesting, educational, and always offer a fabulous collection of rich and vibrant photography.  In this book, "Classic Locomotives:  Steam And Diesel Power In 700 Photographs," as the title suggests is filled with images presenting historic locomotives many of which are in color.  It is broken down into three, primary sections covering steam, diesels, and locomotives of the modern era.  Interestingly, one part even looks at steam locomotives in Europe.  The small 6 ¼"  x 8 ½" title is more or less a tiny version of a coffee-table book with many more (captioned) photos than actual written text.  However, it is fine book nevertheless!

Classic Locomotives:  Steam And Diesel Power In 700 Photographs is a relatively new release by Voyageur Press and MBI Publishing, which debuted on October 7, 2013.  The book begins with a nice four-page introduction describing the history of steam locomotives from the first steam-powered contraption built by Richard Trevithick at the Pen-y-Darran Iron Works in Whales on February 13, 1804 to the masterfully crafted machines constructed by the Norfolk & Western Railway in the 1950s (a company that arguably built the best steam locomotives ever put into service).  Solomon goes on to describe how steam made a comeback pulling excursions in the 1960s and finishes by highlighting how the Whyte Classification system works.

The first chapter of Classic Locomotives features eastern steam railroading and begins by providing a brief history of operations.  It concludes with information pertaining to where the reader can still see steam in the East today.  At the time of the book's writing the only place one could witness such action was by visiting a museum or tourist line.  However, since then one of the largest eastern railroads, Norfolk Southern, has embarked on a renewed steam program and today the public can witness the motive power in operation along various parts of its vast system.  The featured locomotives in this section range far and wide from the N&W #611 and Chesapeake & Ohio #614 to smaller designs like Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine 0-4-0T #1 and the East Broad Top's narrow-gauge Mikados.

The final three steam chapters offer much of the same covering America's Heartland and western states with the final section dedicated to European steam power.  You will see images of what are now considered celebrity locomotives like Union Pacific #844, Nickel Plate Road #765, and Milwaukee Road #261.  Today these steamers are very prominent in the public eye hosting excursions on an annual basis across several states.  However, for those who enjoy history Mr. Solomon also highlights a number of locomotives that have since been retired from excursion service such as Nickel Plate Road #759 (sister to #765) that hosted trips during the 1960s and 1970s as well as Cotton Belt #819 which pulled trains through the early 1990s.

Most of Classic Locomotives looks at diesel locomotives and the major manufacturers that were in the business from one time or another including the Baldwin Locomotive Works, American Locomotive Company (Alco), Fairbanks Morse, General Electric, and Electro-Motive.  The section starts out with an introduction of the diesel in railroad applications and how it advanced over the years.  If you enjoy seeing classic diesels there are plenty featured from Alco's PA and Baldwin's RF16 "Sharknose" to Fairbanks Morse's Train Master and virtually all of EMD's first-generation models.  The most fascinating photos to this author were the very early scenes such a Santa Fe PA adorned in the classic Warbonnet livery exiting Chicago's Dearborn Station during the summer of 1958 or an Central Railroad of New Jersey FM H15-44 hustling a Jersey City commuter train across the now-gone Newark Bay Bridge during 1961.

Classic Locomotives may not be filled with pages and pages of text but one can read plenty of interesting information regarding locomotives through the many detailed captions that accompany the photos.  This is particularly the case in the diesel section where you can learn such things as what types of prime movers powered various builders' designs (for instance, Alco's model 244 engine that powered the RS3, FA, PA, and several others) and how Electro-Motive's rugged and reliable model 567 engine eventually beat out all other competitors.  Mr. Solomon's book concludes by highlighting modern diesels of current industry leader General Electric as well as those still being built by Electro-Motive (the company has since went through several different owners after being sold by General Motors in 2005).

The final two chapters of Classic Locomotives covers current passenger and commuter designs as well as the latest switchers.  Featured locomotives here include EMD's F40PHM-2 and F59PHI as well as MotivePower's MP36PH-3C and General Electric's ubiquitous P42DC that is Amtrak's standard power for intercity trains.  In any event, whether you may be a seasoned railfan, someone new to the hobby, or would just like to learn a little more about locomotives this title would be a great addition to your collection, a statement that could be echoed for most of Mr. Solomon's books.  If you may be interested in ordering a copy the link below will take you to to learn more.