From the first, U.S. railroads have carried coal from mines to docks, steel mills, and power plants across the country. In this authoritative book spanning the whole of that history, from the mid-nineteenth century to present, noted rail author Brian Solomon explores the railroads and hardware that have transported the fossil fuels that made America work. Brilliant period and contemporary photographs convey the drama of the enterprise: the very long—and very heavy—trains powering up mountain grades and thundering across barren prairies.
At sites from the eastern and western U.S., past and present, readers see giant double-headed Norfolk and Western steam locomotives moving Appalachian coal in Virginia; modern CSX diesels dragging unit coal trains over the well-groomed former Chesapeake & Ohio main line; BNSF’s SD70MACs with more than 100 hoppers in tow; Rio Grande locomotives snaking through the Rocky Mountains; and coal trains working full-throttle up Colorado’s Tennessee Pass, cresting the Continental Divide at 10,000 feet above sea level. Taking up topics ranging from the colorful but now-defunct “anthracite roads” of eastern Pennsylvania to today’s AC-traction diesels that work Wyoming’s thriving Powder River Basin, Solomon reveals how for 150 years the unique demands of coal—and America’s demand for coal—have prompted new railroad technologies.