• Railroading in Fiction

  • Discussion related to railroads/trains that show up in TV shows, commercials, movies, literature (books, poems and more), songs, the Internet, and more... Also includes discussion of well-known figures in the railroad industry or the rail enthusiast hobby.
Discussion related to railroads/trains that show up in TV shows, commercials, movies, literature (books, poems and more), songs, the Internet, and more... Also includes discussion of well-known figures in the railroad industry or the rail enthusiast hobby.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by 2nd trick op
Just wondering who else in this group has an appreciation for the lost art of railroad fiction.

When I was growing up in the late 50's and early 60's, Freeman Hubbard's RAILROAD used to include a monthly short story. The quality varied, but some of those guys, particulary Harry Bedwell and Andrew Caffrey (read his "Frisco Hotshot" if you can find a copy) could spin a pretty good yarn.

So feel free to add a few comments to this thread, from a would-be Eddie Sand.
Last edited by 2nd trick op on Wed Aug 17, 2005 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

  by Marty Feldner
Almost the same time frame, but my father had been buying Railroad (under a few names over the years) since the early thirties. He saved a lot of things from back then, including most of these magazines- and had them on an attic shelf, in order (several small gaps through the thirties, and his mother threw out a lot of what he had gotten during the war years (THAT'S not a new phenomenon!).

I grew up working my way through the collection, along with the contemporary issues of the 'big four' of the time (MR, RMC, Trains, and Railroad). What an education!

My favorite was always the Engine Picture Kid series of the mid to late thirties (and one disadvantage to growing up in the 50's and early 60's- there ain't many- is a flakey memory today- for the life of me, can't remember the name of the fictional road he worked for; Kettle Valley wants to come out. Supposedly the world's shortest raiload- "we may be short, but we're just as wide as the big guys...")

The magazine was a 'pulp', and pre-war at least, a large percentage of its content was fiction, with a healthy dose of then-contemporary railroading.

  by BR&P
I always wanted to locate a copy of Harry Bedwell's full-length novel "The Boomer". The guy wrote some great stuff! And assuming one could be found, wonder who holds the rights to it. I'm wondering if a new printing would be worthwhile.

  by Aa3rt
Like Mr. Feldner, I spent (or mis-spent, depending on your perspective) my youth reading my father's collection of Trains, Model Railroader and Railroad magazines that dated back to the late 1940's.

I have a book in my collection titled "Ralph In The Switch Tower, The Adventures of a Young Railroader" by Allen Chapman, copyright 1907. The flyleaf says that this is part of "The Railroad Series" with other titles including "Ralph of the Roundhouse, Bound to Become a Railroad Man" and "The Young Express Agent". This appears to have been a series of books, like the Hardy Boys or Tom Swift Adventures that were popular series at the turn of the last century. (One of my favorites that was in the library in my hometown when I was young was "Tom Swift and the Electric Locomotive".)

I'd be interested in learning of any other titles in this series or other series like this.

  by CNJGeep
There is a good train novel called FOAMERS. It is a murder mystery.
  by 2nd trick op
Although I've tried to locate a copy of Bedwell's "The Boomer" a number of times, I've been given to understand it's not a novel, but a collection of short stories, mostly written for the Saturday Evening Post, published in paperback only, and featuring the itinerant operator Eddie Sand, his best-known creation.

Best railroad novel I've ever read is James McCague's "Fiddle Hill" (1960).
  by 2nd trick op
Foud out that the book "The Boomer", a collection of many of Harry Bedwell's Eddie Sand stories I enjoyed in Freeman Hubbard's Railroad magazine over forty years ago, is back in print.

Heres a link: http://www.amazon.com/Boomer-Story-Rail ... 648&sr=8-1
  by henry6
I started out looking for BLUEBERRY MOUNTAIN by Stephen W. Meader and found lots and lots of railroad fiction in single books and books like BOOMER. I am still gonna look for the original but will put his in my back pocket as a back up. I have several hundred books in this catagory alone! And just clipped three short stories from a decrepit and delapidated Munsny's Magazine from 1903!!!
  by David-RRS
The BOOMER, by Harry Bedwell, 1942; is it just a collection of short stories?

Harry Bedwell, widely recognized as a master storyteller, specialized in stories about the men, and women, who worked on, and around the railroad. Most of these stories are action-filled, and most take the form of a short-story. But Harry had a long-felt desire to write a novel. When he finally did it, he took full advantage of his long-proven short-story writing skills.

From 1938 through 1941, he wrote, and published, a series of seven stories, all featuring his favorite character, Eddie Sand, but with varying casts and locations. All were, apparently, just episodes in Eddie’s life as a boomer. But, in 1942, these stories reappeared, revised as one continuous narrative, in the form of Harry’s novel, The Boomer.

Now, my first reaction was to feel a little like I had been cheated. But as I look back on it now, I realize that it put a perspective on Eddie’s life, missing from the individual stories. He had longtime friends and acquaintances, and he kept in touch with them. The boomer’s life didn’t have to be lonely, or even solitary.

The original short stories, which became The Boomer.

Chapters 1-5 = "Sun and Silence." Railroad Magazine, XXIII (April, 1938),
Chapters 6-12 = "The Careless Road." Railroad Magazine, XXV (February, 1939),
Chapters 13-14 = "In Search of the Sun." Railroad Magazine, XXV (January, 1939),
Chapters 15-16 = "With the Wires Down." Railroad Magazine, XXIV (October, 1938),
Chapters 17-21 = "Pass to Seattle." Saturday Evening Post, 214 (October 4, 1941),
Chapters 22-27 = "Official Appreciation." Railroad Magazine, XXVI (October, 1939),
Chapters 28-38 = "The Code of the Boomer." Railroad Magazine, XXVII (May, 1940)

As to whether the novel is "just a collection of previously published short stories;" it looks to me as if Harry knew what he was doing before hes started to write, and publish, these stories. I think it was just his way of getting his long-time intended novel written. These stories didn't just happen, in the 5 years immediately before The Boomer, they were The Boomer, in "draft" form.
  by 2nd trick op
Interesting to note that Mr. Bedwell brought Eddie back for at least one short story in which he went back into service during the World War II traffic surge, as part of what he christened the "Old Soft Metal Gang".

Gold in their teeth, silver in their hair, and lead in you-know-where.

To my way of thinking, it wouldn't be proper for me to change my "handle" at this site after so many posts, but I use the name "Eddie Sand" or sometimes "EddySand" (not far from Eddystone?) at a couple of non-rail sites, and have taken some pleasure in explaining the origins to the uninitiated.

And Mr. Bedwell's not completely forgotten, either.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cg ... 295&df=all&
  by 2nd trick op
I finally relented and picked up a copy of Harry Bedwell's The Boomer this month, and I'm happy to say I was not disappointed.

For openers, the story line, spread out over seven short stories woven into a consistent novella, never descends into the liberties taken with actual operating conditions in order to generate too many thrills. The fine points of operating rules in the days of operation by Employees Tmetable and train order are respected, and while it's a sure bet that many more men of Mr. Bedwell's time were likely to be somewhat familiar with those constraints, the writing also presents those details in a manner such that the uninitiated should be able to grasp the point, even in a culture of PDA's and IPhones.

And while the history of the broadcast media's attempts to reconcile the demands of a highly disciplined and efficiency-driven industry with the expectations of a public running on sentiment has generated a flock of turkeys, from "The Chartreuse Caboose" to "Disaster on the Coastliner", the two chapters devoted to "in Search of the Sun". involving the "emigrant cars" of an earlier day and a collection of implausible, but not impossiblr characters, animal as well as human, could teach the Hollywood of today about the presentation of a subject culture both technical and forgotten, without insulting the audience's intelligence.

Finally, It's often difficult to judge a great deal of older fiction because of the changes in ethical/moral standards and the abandonment of the "taboos" of an earlier time. But like Sieinbeck, Mr Bedwell was able to depict the essential honesty and integrity of his protagonist in a manner which easily overcomes that disparity.

Far and away, the most realistic and enduring example of railroad fiction I have ever encountered.