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I've always enjoyed James Michener's style of writing as in Centennial, Alaska, and Journey. A little geology, lots of history, and good fictional characters to accompany the story. Same is true of Leon Uris' book on Ireland, Trinity.  Any recommendations on historic fiction on the railroad industry?

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I appreciate the historical fiction category. Where conversations are fictional in a historic background and timeline. Titles such as:

’Nothing like it in the world’ by Stephen Ambrose. The building of the first transcontinental railroad.

’Conquering Gotham’ by Jill Jonnes. The story of the PRR entering Manhattan.

I don't know about the best but I can certainly offer some thoughts with respect to some of the finest writers of the genre. Two authors that immediately come to mind are Frank Spearman and Frank Packard.  Both wrote novels and short story railroad fiction.  Spearman was a banker whose primary clientele were railroad workers. His short story fiction reads like someone sitting down in an easy chair and telling you about their daily adventures on the railroad.  Packard was a civil engineer on the CP before he shifted to writing fiction - his work too reflects his familiarity with things railroad.

  In my estimation Spearman was at his best when he wrote short stories.  I think his two collections, Held For Orders, and The Nerve of Foley are worth every minute you would spend reading them. I have read and re-read them a many times.  He wrote two novels - Daughter of the Magnate and Whispering Smith. Hollywood made two movies based on the Smith novel.  The novels are OK but really don't match the short story constructs.

  Frank Packard wrote a number of novels and short story collections.  Probably his best know short story collection is Night Operator.  His other two well known collections of short story railroad fiction are On the Iron At Big Cloud and Running Special.  Of his railroad novels I think the best is The Wire Devils - it reads as well today as it did when published - it's basically Tom Clancy ca. 1918.

  I'd second The Boomer recommendation.

"The Boomer" is a classic.  

"Setup Running" BY jOHN w. Orr is not fiction, it is the true biography of John's father running steamers from about WWI until the later 1940s.    Well written and easy read.    Good steam railroading stories.

"Headlights and Markers" is collection of short RR stories edited by Frank Donavon and  Robert Henry.    Lost of classic RR fiction writers included.

"Harry Bedwell, Last of the Great Railroad Storytellers"  by Frank Donavan is also pretty good.

Hi all. Thought I'd like to weigh in here, being a big fan of railroad books. Some of my thoughts, and choices, follow.

Nothing Like It In The World: This is excellent, although it does contain a glaring mistake. In a Civil War item, it was stated that General Lee's Confederate forces came upon a copy of General McClellan's Union battle plans prior to the Antietam battle. Actually it was McClellan's men who found Lee's plans. Due to McClellan's chronic slowness in engaging battle, the outcome, although judged a Union victory, could have been more decisive with more aggressive leadership. Pallalin, and other Civil War buffs, can confirm this. Otherwise, this was an outstanding read.

The Boomer: Probably one of the best!

Whispering Smith: Spearman always comes through. This one has some excellent dialog and also has a western setting. After reading this book, the movie of the same name starring Alan Ladd, could have been much better, but that's Hollywood.

Ralph On The Railroad: An extensive serial set. Somewhat juvenile, but if you're a Horatio Alger fan, these fit the bill. Still a good read.

The Young Section Hand, by Burton Egbert Stevenson: This is part of another serial set, but superior to Ralph, above. Alger-like also, though. Some of these books can be read online at Project  Gutenberg.

If you're a fan of crime drama in a railroad setting, a great series of books was written by Bert and Dolores Hitchens, concerning railroad police work. This includes F.O.B.Murder, One Way Ticket, End of the Line, The Man Who Followed Women, and The Grudge. I would recommend this set highly.

My personal favorite may not be well-known. That is Double Jacks, by Michael E. McGinley. This work concerns the career of a division engineer on the fictitious Southwestern Pacific Railroad in the pre-1980's. I couldn't give enough praise for this one. It's a long read, and the binding on this paperback disintegrates, but is a great book.

By the way, if you go to "railroad stories" on the Project Gutenberg site, they have a good selection to read on-line.

Well that's all for now.   Don Francis

A couple of thoughts:

First of all, Mooner, you're very welcome.

@laming: Could you be thinking of Rail (or Railroad) Fiction Classics? This was a yellow hardback with an elaborate  locomotive design on the cover. It was followed by More Rail Fiction Classics. Recommended.

@smd4: Clear The Tracks is also excellent.

I'd like to also point out that Double Jacks is reviewed and available on Amazon.  Don Francis.

@Don Francis posted:
@laming: Could you be thinking of Rail (or Railroad) Fiction Classics? This was a yellow hardback with an elaborate  locomotive design on the cover. It was followed by More Rail Fiction Classics. Recommended.

Thanks for the assist.

I did a search, and "Rail Fiction Classics" is only three stories in one book.

I now think I recall there were more short stories than that. I also think I remember the name of one of the short stories was "Hot Engine", and the engineer in that story was "Danny"?

The mind is a terrible thing to waste (away)!


@C.Vigs: Wow! I just finished your "Commentary" reference, and the mistake I found was obviously the very summit of a huge iceberg of mistakes! It makes hard to believe that this was purported to be non-fiction.

@laming: Well I tried for ya! As for your "mind...waste(away)" comment, I'd second that thought. Like an Amishman said "the hurrier I go the behinder I get!"   Don Francis

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