Book Review: Southern Pacific Railroad

Southern Pacific Railroad, by Brian Solomon

I just finished the book “Southern Pacific Railroad“, another fine work by Brian Solomon. This is part of the MBI Railroad Color History series, published by Voyageur Press in 2007 as the second edition.

The book covers the historic Southern Pacific Railroad, from its inception in the mid 19th century through its growth, decline and eventual merger with Union Pacific in 1996.

“Southern Pacific Railroad” is divided into six beefy chapters. The first two cover the history of the “Espee”: “Building an Empire” and “The Twentieth Century”.

“Riding the Friendly SP” covers passenger operations on the Southern Pacific, including the famed Daylight streamliners and the Overland Limited. Its electric suburban lines and commuter trains are also given some space in this book.

SP’s freight operations are discussed in detail in “From Beets to Berries and Staples to Stacks”. The SP was a leader in intermodal operations, and partnered with American Car & Foundry to design the first “double-stack” container car, which are ubiquitous today.

The final two chapters cover Southern Pacific’s motive power, between “Steam Locomotives” and “Sixty Years of Diesels”. I admit I skimmed the steam section, as I am not a big steam fan, but the SP’s “cab forwards” and 4-8-4 Northerns are well known, even to me.

Ex Southern Pacific unit UP 1485 in Phoenix, Arizona, September 2010

I enjoyed the book very much. It’s an easy read, with lots of detail on the Southern Pacific and its component railroads. The photographs are great in general, although there are a few that are pretty substandard. I did find several typos in the first few chapters and in the last few – these may have been edited or added as part of the second edition.

If you are a fan of American railroads, or are just curious about the Southern Pacific, this is a good book to have in your collection. You can buy it on Amazon or perhaps find it in your local library.

Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission when you buy something after following that link, at no additional cost to you.

Ex Southern Pacific locomotive UP 1530 in South San Francisco, August 2007

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