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Where Can You Find Information on Railroad Related Subjects? (Pt.1)

March 11, 2010

This is a question often posed on online forums, and while they are good sources for information thanks to a handful of knowledgeable people, you can do the research yourself and be just as satisfied, and perhaps come across some great related topics around the way. Remember that researching yourself is almost always better than relying on other people, but the right people can steer you in the right direction.

Since learning about Railroads is a very vast topic spanning not only the trains, but the architecture, culture, history, engineering, art, photography and literature of the last 200 years it isn’t hard to find general information about railroads, but what happens when you want to learn something more specific about a railroad you model

Historical Societies

Most major railroads, and a few well-loved smaller railroads have historical societies acting as a repository of information for their respective operation. Some are linked with the extant company itself, but most are groups of modelers, former employees and others interested in the history of the railroad. Check out the National Railroad Historical Society as a jumping off point, I’m sure that you can find a list of all the RR specific historical societies like the SPH&TS the NYCHS the GNHS the CNWHS or practically any other railroad historical society.

These societies often have large collections of documents, blueprints, and sometimes even the entire historical company records of that railroad tucked safely away for future generations.

To gain access to this resource it’s typically an annual membership cost, which is marginal in most cases compared to the amount of information you can gather on what you’re trying to research.

A few societies even have annual conventions in places that the railroad used to serve. For instance, the SP Historical and Technical Society has an annual meet, last year’s was in San Luis Obispo, a scenic central Californian town along the famous Cuesta Grade that the SP’s coast line goes through. That way you not only get to see the actual remnants of a fallen flag you can enjoy a convention style atmosphere with more historians and railfans who could answer most questions, they’re sometimes the foremost living authorities on the subject, which would be a boon to your research.

If nothing else, check out the Historical Society’s website for your favorite railroad, it’s often a great resource all by itself.

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