Guide to the Research Collections

- Railroads


Numbering over 50,000 volumes, this subject is one of the rich resources of the library with good world coverage and considerable depth. Particular emphasis has been placed upon the great age of the railroads in the United States from their beginnings to the end of World War I.1 The preponderance of material is in the general collections, with some technical works in the Science and Technology Research Center.

Railroads are a subject long of interest to the library. Some materials came to the library with the Tilden collection; in 1906 Dr. Billings reported that the library was strong in official statistical reports in this field. Gifts of materials from the various railroad companies and from private individuals have enriched the holdings. The Parsons collection in the Science and Technology Research Center contains railroad materials including a set of early Bradshaws.2 The William John Wilgus collection is made up of books, scrapbooks, and other material on engineering subjects including transportation; it is housed in the Science and Technology Research Center.3 The papers of Bion J. Arnold, William Barclay Parsons, Frank Julian Sprague, Timothy Shaler Williams, and others in the Manuscripts and Archives Division include documentation on the AEF Transportation Corps in World War I, the New York Central Railroad, the Rapid Transit Commission in New York City, the electric trolley, the electrification of railroads, and other related subjects. The papers of Robert Brewster Stanton consist in part of his survey of the Grand Canyon made for the Denver, Colorado Ca&macron; and Pacific Railroad from 1889 to 1890.4

Serial publications on railroads are strong, with substantial if not complete files of important journals from many countries, and good historical coverage. There are such titles as Zeitschrift für Eisenbahnen und Dampfschiffahrt der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie (1888-97), the French Journal des chemins des fers (1842-1940)

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and Chemins de fer (1951-); the German Organ für die Fortschritte des Eisenbahnwesens (1846-1944) and ETR; Eisenbahntechnische Rundschau (1952-); the British Railway Times (1838-1914) and Railway Gazette (1906-); and the American Railway Review (1859-62) and Railway Age Gazette (1870-); as well as others which commenced in the 1870s and 1880s. Other short files of periodicals that appeared in earlier decades beginning with the 1840s are also present. Another type of administrative and technical serial publications, the proceedings of unions, associations, congresses, etc., is very well represented, as are railway employees' magazines. The official publications of federal, state, and municipal governments also constitute a strong feature. The file of the Official Guide of the Railways and Steam Navigation Lines of the United States, Porto Rico and Mexico and Cuba is virtually complete. Annual reports of railroad companies, especially those in the United States, are noteworthy if not always complete. Since 1956 the Economic and Public Affairs Division has made available on opaque microforms the annual reports of those railroad companies whose stocks are listed on the major American and Canadian exchanges.

All aspects of the railroad, including the financial and technical, are covered in the library's holdings. Headings in the Public Catalog range from "Railways--Abandonment--U.S." to "Railways--Yearbooks." The resources for electric railways include contract specifications for construction for the New York City Transportation Board. A splendid exhibition mounted by the Science and Technology Research Center in 1967, entitled "The Rise and Fall of the Elevated Railroad 1867-1967," displayed the library's wealth of printed and pictorial resources. In 1968 the donation of the Walter Weichsel transfer collection added an extensive array of bus and streetcar transfers, ferry and toll tickets, passes, etc., for the United States and the larger nations of the world.

One of the most significant aspects of this collection is the vast amount of pamphlet material, much of which might be considered ephemeral. This includes reports of legal cases involving railroads, indentures, mortgages, manuals of operation, promotional and tourist materials, and labor contracts, among other items. The greater part of this material is American, issued prior to World War II.