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looking for some good books

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  • looking for some good books

    being new to narrow gauge, I am looking for any good books (or websites) for information on narrow gauge railroading, history, and equipment kind of stuff.

    I am still trying to get my mind around this stuff and I need some inspiration and facts to build apon.

    I would like some just general information about narrow gauge railroads, history and dates. I would also like some books that have equipment information, drawings and construction methods.



  • #2
    Look here:

    In particular, I'd suggest "Steel Rails & Silver Dreams" for prototype information/inspiration and "Up Clear Creek on the Narrow Gauge" for both prototype info and modeling. "HO Narrow Gauge Railroad You Can Build" is a classic how-to book with great photos.

    Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)


    • #3
      Hi Jeff,

      Being a big fan of the RGS (Rio Grande Southern) I might suggest : 'Silver San Juan' by Mallory Hope Ferrell. This book might be a bit hard to find but it is out there. If you find you really like the RGS there is the multi-volume set of books called :The 'RGS Story' offered by Sundance publications. Of course the RGS in only one of many narrow guage railroads.

      You might one to find out if there were any narrow guage railroads close to where you live and go from there. I'm sure others on the forum can help steer you in that direction.

      If you don't already know Narrow Guage & Shortline Gazzette is one of the best magazines for narrow guage railroads and modeling.

      BTW what part of the country are you in?


      • #4

        Sounds like you need a copy of "American narrow gauge railroadsy" by George Woodman Hilton

        It covers information, history of narrow gauge, locomotives, equipment, physical plant and the problems associated with transfer. It also covers a short history for every narrow gauge common carrier in the US. Lists every state. Good way to broaden information about other not as well known narrow gauges. There are so many cool ones to model. Well worth every penny and useful to anyone interested in narrow gauges. Only railroads not covered are logging and mining that did not have associated common carriers.

        You can check it out at google books. (actually look through it online)

        Once you have had a chance to read it, you can then focus on getting more information and specific books on the ones that really interest you.

        Just my two cents.

        My Website:


        • #5
          Well, if you -really- want to fully understand probably the best-documented NG Railroad, the -12 volume set- by Sundance Pubs on the Rio Grand Southern can't be beat. I have the full set, worth every penny, but it took -a bunch of pennies-.

          The new Sundance Gilpin Tram book is a real treasure.

          But the #1 influence on me as a modeler is the 4 article set in Feb-May '72 Railroad Model Craftsman, "Focus on Thatcher's Inlet" by Dave Frary and Bob Hayden! (Anyone else rate this model railroad in their personal "top 10"? I'm not surprised, but I am slightly disappointed it didn't make Model Railroader's Top 10 list, when RR's I had never heard of did make their list...)

          Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)


          • #6
            Jeff, one thing you might take into consideration before buying books is your main center of interest. There are lots of delightful books on Colorado NG lines (some were mentionned above). They'll provide you with a fine knowledge of mining activities that were one of the most important reasons to having so many rail networks in such a difficult place. Darryl Muralt's book "Steel rails and silver dreams" also mentionned above is the description of a complete mad railroad and mining venture which will give you a fabulous subject of modelling (see the Dolly Varden images published on the forum), and a set of beautiful pictures of the landscapes of British Columbia. Staying in this area, there's also a fabulous book by Robert Turner about the Kaslo & Slocan railway, which besides its railroad interest, also provides a lot of navigation information, since the place depicted has a lot of lakes that used to be crossed by sternwheelers.

            Then, you have a lot of books devoted to logging companies. Two about the Westside Lumber by Mallory Hope Ferrell, one about the Diamond and Caldor (Mallory Hope Ferrell again), and others devoted to other Californian lines. All these books are excellent, I personnally have many but depending on my current mood, I choose logging or mining. I know less well eastern prototypes but I'm sure another forum member will have some good reference about the East Broad Top or the Two-Footers.


            • #7
              I have most of the books listed above, and they are great! Book 12 of the RGS Story is almost all about equipment. They are costly! and some are rare.

              I would suggest you use the internet and magazines to narrow down your options before investing in books. For Colorado history, I like This site has many pics from 100+ years ago.

              In addition to Narrow Gauge Gazette, there is also Light Iron Digest.

              Don't forget that there are also NG logging lines, found through out the country.

              Hope this helps.
              It is the duty of every patriot to protect his country from its government. -Thomas Paine

              No, That\'s not a mistake. I did that to give it some extra character. I\'m glad you noticed!


              • #8

                I have to concur that you should take a look at what your interest is and the local area which you are interested in. Are you into logging, mining or short passenger hauling with milk. How about long tank car trains for the 'oil pipeline'. Are you interested in the mountains, sea coast or North East industrial area's. And let's not not forget about the dry lands in the southwest and the marsh areas in the south coast. What era, old cotton gins and early steam, or something more into the 1940's and the transition away from steam. Also, don't forget traction. There was the suggeston of the Gilpin Tram, which was two foot and in a way fed the 3 foot line.

                What I'm really getting at is that there is a whole lot of 'stuff' to pick and choose from. I would suggest Short Line And Narrow Gauge Gazette that others have suggested. This magazine will give you clues into the wide world of narrow gauge. It will probably take a dozen or so issues to get a feel for what you may like to focus on, but the magazine is a gold mine of information. You can obtain new copies of back issues from the publisher, and there are almost always some back issues to be found on on e-bay. Once you get a feel for what you might like to model, then spend the extra dollars for some of the above referenced books which may fit your needs.

                Also, don't forget that you can have your library do an inter-library order to obtain some of the above referenced books to see determine if the book is something you may want to purchase.
                -- KP --

                Life is to short to build all of the models I want to.


                • #9
                  I will echo the suggestions already given above. Certainly the Gazette is a must!! Your alias "Coaltrain" suggests looking at the East Broad Top in Pennsylvania. This coal hauler has a unique feel among the narrow gauge lines, and still exists in large part. The three main books on this road are as follows

                  East Broad Top by Rainey and Kyper

                  Along the East Broad Top by Heimburger

                  East Broad Top Slim Gauge Survivor by Mellander

                  Having grown-up in Huntingdon County, PA, I have a particular fondness for the "Eastie". Indeed I remember it before it closed its operations in 1956. There is also a souvenir paperback booklet by Kyper also available. I'm in one of its pictures as a 10 year old during the bicentennial celebration re-opening of the tourist line operations in 1960.


                  • #10
                    You would be lucky to find a copy of this at all:


                    Ron Lane is active in the C&O Historical Society. He may be able to help you find a copy. I have one, and it full of plans, maps, and photographs.

                    Mark Chase

                    Richmond VA


                    • #11

                      Originally posted by quarryman

                      You would be lucky to find a copy of this at all:


                      Ron Lane is active in the C&O Historical Society. He may be able to help you find a copy. I have one, and it full of plans, maps, and photographs.

                      Mark Chase

                      Richmond VA

                      I have that book, that is the one that started the interest in narrow gauge.

                      I am looking at some form of Appalachian narrow gauge far. I am most interested in coal minning, which is what my current layout does in HO scale. What I would really like is a railroad that not only hauled coal but a little bit of freight traffic as well. I like the Mann Creek RR but the traffic base is pretty limited, I like to build all kinds of freight cars.

                      More than likly I will build a fictonal RR but I like them to somewhat follow a prototype (or prototypes).

                      I did order the American Narrow Gauge Railroads book.


                      • #12


                        • #13

                          With the expressed interest in eastern narrow gauge and coal hauling. Check out the Ohio River and Western. Yes, it is Ohio but in the hills. They hauled lots of coal and oil drilling equipment. Plus you get all the other kinds of cars as they were a very active common carrier. All kinds of cool cars. Even a box car to haul model T-fords! Tank cars, etc. Check out Ed Cass's book.

                          Hidden Treasures: The Story of the Ohio River & Western Railway

                          By Edward H. Cass

                          Edition: illustrated

                          Published by TimberTimes, 1997

                          ISBN 0965021335, 9780965021333

                          248 pages

                          Of course there is alway's the EBT which was very interesting prior to the 2-8-2's and steel hopper days......

                          As for other coal hauler's you've likely already got the Interstate RR books. Check out the 3-foot Coal Processing line that ran in Dixiana. Shay's and a Heisler. Not a common carrier, true but pure coal haulint.

                          As for the comments on the Mann's Creek, keep in mind that it WAS a common carrier and actually hauled passengers in its early days. Lots of traffic while the logging operations were ongoing.

                          Also, the West Virginia Midland is an interesting one. Lots of logging, mining and common carrier action going on with this line.


                          There is a new book out on this line, it is available from the Chamber of Commerce in Webster Springs (I'll post more once my copy arrives).

                          Also, in KY is the Mountain Central. An interesting line with Climaxes and a shay. Common carrier tied to small scale logging and some coal mining. Good history in the Three Rivers Narrow Gauge Society Magazine. - older issues. Also found in Ghost Railroads of KY

                          How about the Cairo and Kanawha? Common carrier with passenger service and mining in WV. Used Climaxes but mined ...(similar stuff to Unitah) instead of coal. Information published in NG&SLG and Railroad Model Craftsman (includes suggested track plan for HOn3) They also hauled a lot of oil drilling equipment.

                          The Pickens and Hacker's Valley in WV was mainly a logging line but it also had some coal mining. Haven in the Hardwood (available from the Pickens Historical Society) discusses the logging lines but there are some intresting pictures of the coal tipple in the WVU online photo archives.

                          The Big Sandy and Cumberland was a narrow gauge common carrier in SW Va, KY and VA. While they hauled passengers and some frieght, the majority of haulage was forest products (logs, pulpwood, bark). They did hual some coal in later years and the line was sold to the N&W and standard gauged to access the coal fields. You could always free lance a little!

                          There are lots of other examples of strictly coal hauling 3-ft lines but I think you stated you were also interested in common carriers.

                          If I can think of more, I will post.


                          My Website:


                          • #14

                            Originally posted by Coaltrain

                            What I would really like is a railroad that not only hauled coal but a little bit of freight traffic as well.

                            This may also be helpful:


                            This is my all time favorite West Virginia railroad reference book. Much of it could be "interpreted" to narrow gauge ... in fact the whole unlikely route of the Coal & Coke RR would probably have made more sense as narrow gauge.

                            You should be able to find a copy for less than the $100.00 price tag posted. [:-scared]



                            • #15
                              If you're interested in Appalachian narrow gauge railraoding I would suggest looking at the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina. There are several books on the ET.

                              1) "The Blue Ridge Stemwinder" by John Waite

                              2) the 6 volumns by Johnny Greybill on the ET. These are paperbacks and cover the engines, freight cars, passanger cars and depots.

                              3) "Tweetsie Country" by Mallory Hope Ferrell

                              And in addition, there are a couple of videos showing the ET in action.

                              Also Train and Trooper has really great models of several ET 4-6-0's

                              There is a very active historical society and a Yahoo group (Tweetsie). Society meets in June in Banner Elk, NC.


                              --Steve from the other Phoenix