Book Review: My Life With Trains

I’ll be honest – I didn’t know who Jim McClellan was. Now I feel like I know who he was, and I’m sorry that he’s gone.

I saw a recommendation somewhere (TRAINS magazine? Amazon? not sure) for this autobiography, My Life With Trains, so I asked for it for my birthday. I really enjoyed reading it and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in American railway history in the latter half of the 20th century. Oh, and Jim’s photographs are great too!

Jim was a life-long railfan and worked for several railways (Southern Railway, New York Central, Penn Central, Norfolk Southern) as well as several government/industry agencies such as the FRA, Amtrak, the USRA and the AAR.

He was a railway planner and was heavily involved in several major railway merger / creation processes, including the creation of Amtrak and Conrail and Norfolk Southern, as well as the division of Conrail between CSX and Norfolk Southern.

This book is a really engaging tale of his career from humble beginnings through his various jobs “behind the scenes”. It was really interesting to hear the thought processes that were behind some of the major American railroad events in the 1970s through the 1990s.

My Life With Trains” is liberally sprinkled with Jim’s own photographs, taken from trackside and from locomotive cabs, often featuring railroads that don’t exist any more, like the Lehigh & Hudson and the New York Central. There’s even a chapter on Canada featuring his photos from the 1960s and early 2000s.

Jim died on October 14, 2016 at the age of 77. This book is a great tribute to his life and I’m glad he was able to share it with us.

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