Friday, January 11, 2013

The Men Who Loved Trains - Book Review

I read. A lot. If you have the pleasure of following me on twitter, you'll see a book status update at least once every other day. Normally it's fluffy mindless chick lit (not trashy romance novels, there is a difference...though I will admit to having read all of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy...ANYHOO...) but I do read other stuff on occasion too. My Nook Color is pretty much my third hand. Just sayin'.

345 pages of awesome. Really.
On Sunday night, I finished reading "The Men Who Loved Trains: The Story of Men Who Battled Greed to Save an Ailing Industry" by Rush Loving. If you haven't already read it and read this blog - you ought to. It details a span of about 40 or so years where the big old northeastern railroads (New York Central, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the New Haven Railroad) pretty much imploded, got rolled into Penn Central (commence eye roll at what a joke that was), Conrail spawning from the smoldering wreckage of Penn Central, and then the bitter fight between CSX and Norfolk Southern for Conrail.

The book loosely follows Jim McClellan's journey through the industry while detailing all of the upheaval in the railroads in the eastern United States in the last 40 or so years. He worked for New York Central, Amtrak, the Southern Railway, Penn Central, the FRA, and a few other organizations. He ended up retiring as the Senior V.P. of planning for Norfolk Southern. During his illustrious career he helped create Amtrak and Conrail as well as help divide Conrail between Norfolk Southern and CSX. You would think a book of this nature would be kind of dry and boring to read, even if you like trains and history like I do. Surprisingly though, the book almost read like a novel, and had a good pace to it at that. It didn't drag at all.

A few reviews I've read elsewhere have pointed out an obvious bias towards New York Central and Norfolk Southern throughout this. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but I do agree with that sentiment. It's pretty clear that the author thinks the Pennsylvania Railroad and Penn Central were steaming piles of crap  - which, let's face it, Penn Central was pretty screwed, no matter how you look at it. I don't really have an opinion either way about the Pennsy, mostly because I know nearly nothing about them, aside from the fact that they whored out their real estate and allowed the original Penn Station to be demolished in favor of Madison Square Garden and the ugly basement station that Penn is now. (That's another rant for another day, I suppose). I will say that the book makes me think that the Pennsy was also an enormous joke, but I will reserve judgement on that until I learn more about them.

Overall, I suggest you get your hands on a copy of this and read it if you haven't already. The physical book seems to be going for $30(!) at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but the Nook and Kindle equivalents are both about $10. Fret not, if you don't have yourself a fancy e-reader: Amazon and Barnes and Noble have apps for iOS and Android devices, as well as computer programs to read on. Barnes and Noble actually has an in-browser reader now, you don't have to download anything. No idea if Amazon has an in-browser Kindle reader, because 95% of my eBooks are from Barnes and Noble.

What are you waiting for? I did all the work for you, it requires two clicks of a mouse on your part!

Now excuse me while I go rot my brain reading Russell Brand's autobiography, k?

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