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A Memory of Trains : The Boll Weevil and Others Hardcover – October, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of South Carolina Pr; 1St Edition edition (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157003382X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570033827
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 9.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,277,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rubin, a retired university English professor and founder of Algonquin Books, chronicles his fascination with steam locomotives that he rode and photographed in the days before diesel-powered trains. He focuses on the southeastern and Middle Atlantic states, where he lived and worked. Rubin reminisces not only about the trains but also recalls the Pullman porters and redcaps, conductors, brakemen, engineers, and travelers meeting families and friends. His photographs, 122 in number, are pure nostalgia: freight trains, passenger trains, trains rolling^B across trestles and heading into small-town stations, cabooses, water towers, and a carnival train with gaudily painted flatcars. Most of the engines are spewing plumes of bituminous coal smoke. For readers old enough to remember, the book is a joy; for readers too young to remember, here is a chance to share the joy. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From the Inside Flap

"All the machinery was on the outside, and when they came pounding along the rails, drive wheels turning, drive rods stroking, pistons exploding with sound and fury and sending a swirling cloud of bituminous coal smoke overhead, the earth shook."

This is the way that Louis D. Rubin, Jr., remembers steam railroading during the days when trains were still the dominant mode of American intercity travel. In the years after the Second World War, as a young newspaperman he spent much of his time riding and photographing trains.

Now, in a memoir featuring more than one hundred of his photographs, he tells of the role that railroading played in his life as a child and youth and as an adult in search of a vocation.

It was a time when the coal-powered Iron Horse, which had settled and peopled a continent, was giving way to the diesel-electric locomotive. By the mid-1950s, when Rubin settled into what would prove to be a distinguished teaching career, the steam locomotives were gone from the American scene.

A cub reporter who would later become a Southern literary critic and historian, Rubin began his lifelong engagement with trains in the Carolinas and Virginia, then journeyed westward to the Appalachians, northward to Maryland, New Jersey, and the Northeast, and then into the Deep South, the Midwest, and the Far West. The text and photographs of A Memory of Trains recount that journey.

There was one train that Rubin had yet to travel aboard or photograph. Known as the Boll Weevil, it ran on a branch of the Seaboard Air Line Railrway between Hamlet, North Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, via his hometown of Charleston. His account of the day he finally arrived at the station in Hamlet to ride the Boll Weevil down to Charleston and his exploration of what the little train meant for him contitute a poignant episode in this memoir of railroads and railroading.

Railrans and general readers alike will enjoy this account and photographs of a time when, in the author's words, "trains were everywhere to heard, going places."


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Jones on December 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
You won't find New England railroads in Louis Rubin's book, but you will find a wonderful personal narrative of this inveterate train watcher who captured on black and white film many of the great steam locomotives and early diesels of the 1940s and 1950s. Louis followed the Norfolk & Western from Norfolk to the coal mines of West Virginia; the Seaboard and the Atlantic Coast Line's name passenger trains which ran between the north and Florida; commuter railroads between New York and New Jersey, and some name trains out of Chicago to the Gulf and west coast. The only one he missed was the Boll Weevil, a gas-electric doodlebug which fascinated him as a boy growing up in Charleston, South Carolina watching it amble along near his baseball field between Charleston and Hamlet, North Carolina on it's daily runs. When the opportunity came to ride the Boll Weevil, it had been replaced by a Baldwin "Babyface" diesel locomotive pulling a baggage car and a coach. The only photo in his book which Rubin did not take is of the Boll Weevil.
The pictures are excellent. They are not of the glossy variety you see in expensive coffee-table books. They show real trains, really working at whatever they were doing when the author/photographer happened upon them, or they upon him as he patiently waited trackside.
The narrative is as wonderful as the photos. His description of the departure of a passenger train is worth a thousand pictures. For those of us who have witnessed this event it will conjur up the wonderful sounds, sights, and smells which we might have forgotten over time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. Stoddard on December 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found the book interesting to read. Louis entertains the reader well in describing his everyday life at work in the newspaper business. To relieve the everyday stress from work, the author goes to spend time near the railroad yards or terminals and sometimes makes pictures of the railroad activity. His interest in trains stems from his youth when he used to hear the trains go through his hometown of Charleston, SC. The reason I state it is not your typical railfan book is because he does not go into the usual facts and figures that railfans seem to enjoy. Rather, he tells the story of watching trains go by in Charleston as a youth and then different parts of the eastern US where where he worked. The title stems from lowly train that fascinating the author as a child in his hometown but he never rode until the train was no longer the one he remembered from his youth. After the reading material are many pages of pictures made by the author of trains he either rode or watched. I found some the pictures to be dark and not very sharp. I think it was the printing process that caused this. Nevertheless, if you or you know someone who enjoys the romance of trains and rail travel during the days of steam locomotives, I think you will enjoy the book and the photographs.
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