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
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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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