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Faces of Railroading

review by Vince Bushell

One of my first memories is swinging from an old tree while a steam locomotive chugged past, pulling its load of boxcars on the rail embankment behind my home in Racine. Later an engineer on a diesel switching locomotive would wave to me as I walked home from Kindergarten. Still later I rode the train with my mom and sister to Florida. We experienced the greatness of train travel, dining cars with linen napkins and a flower on the table, the club car at the end of the train, and time to spare as the country rolled by. The trains are still with us but with a greatly diminished role. But we still can remember the machines and the people that ran them. Riverwest resident and Model Railroader magazine senior editor Carl Swanson’s book, Faces of Railroading, does that in a personal way. The book is filled with excellent photographs of men and women at work. The stories complementing the photographs round out the image of a working industry. Making the trains, fixing the trains, fixing the rails, stoking the engines. The great train halls, the small town stations. Checking their clocks and watches, serving the public, moving the freight. It is all there in these portraits of the workers and the grand transportation system that built America. You see in their faces and hands the value of work. It is not the “good old days” this book makes me miss; it is the good jobs those days had for so many men and women. These are “portraits of America’s greatest industry.” For a glimpse of the book’s contents go to www.facesofrailroading.com. Carl Swanson writes about the railroads in Riverwest in this issue of the Currents: “Riverwest: A Railroad Ran Through It.”