Book Review – Interstate Railroad – Memories of an Appalachian Short Line

by Ed Wolfe
HEW Enterprises, 2003
ISBN 0-9720692-1-6

4starReview by Dan Bourque

Interstate Railroad Memories - CoverThis is Ed Wolfe’s third book in his series on the coal-hauling short line, the Interstate Railroad. The first book is an overview and is focused on the railroad’s history and development. The second book is a detailed look at the tipples and operations with first-hand recollections of the way the men worked the railroad. This third book picks up where the others left off and continues the stories and recollections of several Interstate employees.

Whereas Ed’s second book tells the “what” and “how” of the Interstate’s operations, this book tells much more of the “why.” The men interviewed include car repairmen, machinists, locomotive maintainers, brakemen (including the author’s father, Hugh), and a vice president and general manager. Their stories are wonderfully captured, and Ed does a great job of passing along the lingo and slang while still keeping it easy-to-read. The stories mostly relate to the Interstate, but there are also some just plain stories which help the reader get a better feel for railroaders and people of Appalachia. The stories cover a wide range of subjects including wrecks, accidents, interactions with other railroads, car supply, maintenance and a wealth of other topics. After reading this book, the reader will have a much better understanding of how and why decisions were made on a short line.

Ed uses a wide variety of photos and diagrams which help illustrate the stories. While many of the photos are repeats from the earlier books, there are many new photos including dozens which show the more human side of the railroad.

My thanks goes out to Ed for capturing so many great stories from “the greatest generation” and letting the rest of us catch a rare glimpse of the inner workings of a small railroad. This book is an excellent addition to the library of anyone interested in railroad history (especially coal-hauling railroad history) and like Ed’s other books in the series, this is a “must have” for fans of the Interstate.

Subject: Personal recollections of events and operations on the Interstate Railroad
Primary Era: 1940s – 1980s
Facts: Pages: 192, Cover: hardcover, Photos: 150+ B&W photos, 15+ maps, diagrams, timetables 
Photos: 3star Good black-and-white photos, many repeats from earlier books
Text: 5star Engaging text full of the personal stories of several Interstate employees
Maps and Diagrams: 3star Some maps, timetables, etc. but not the focus of this book
Value for the Modeler: 4star Good insight into the inner workings of a small railroad to improve the realism of model operations
Purchase Value: 4star Well priced for the size and wealth of content

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