Friday, November 27, 2020

New book on Live Stock by Stephen Sandifer

 I have just received my copy of an really excellent new book by J. Stephen Sandifer, entitled Santa Fe Live Stock Operations, with the informative and very accurate sub-title, “History, Equipment, Facilities and Modeling.” Published by the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society, it can be purchased on their website, which is at:

This is a softbound book, horizontal format, with 256 intriguing and information-filled pages, with an 11 x 8.5-inch page dimension. Designed and laid out by John  R. Signor and Son, it’s a well-printed, handsome book and a pleasure to browse or read in detail.

Note here that author Sandifer has chosen, quite properly, to use the separate words, “Live Stock,” in his title, since that was Santa Fe practice, though most of the industry did use the familiar single word. 

A good sense of the book’s scope is conveyed by the chapter titles. The introductory material begins with Chapter 1, A History of Live Stock and the Santa Fe, and continue with Operations, The Rules, and Damage Claims. Then Chapter 5 is an overview of the Santa Fe stock car fleet, followed by three chapters on specific stock car classes (totalling about 80 of the book’s 256 pages, and richly illustrated). 

The book’s final section is about operations, beginning with Chapter 9, Cleaning and Bedding, followed by Drover Cars, Not Just for Live Stock, Horses/Railway Express and other Critters, Company Stock Yards, Santa Fe Feeding Stations, Union Stock Yards. The book concludes with an interesting and well illustrated chapter called Modeler’s Notes.

A couple of important points should be made at once. First, though this is a book entirely about the Santa Fe, at the same time, it conveys a rich trove of information about livestock shipping, from the rules and regulations, to the train operations, and the major destinations. So even if you are only a passing-interest modeler of the Santa Fe (as I mostly am), you will still learn a great deal about the livestock business.

Second, some may remember that there is already a book about Santa Fe stock cars, by the noted Santa Fe historian Frank Ellington, with John Berry and Loren Martens. That book is certainly a rich trove of stock car photos, and remains worth owning if you are a Santa Fe modeler. But Sandifer’s new book does summarize, very fully and completely, the entire Santa Fe stock car fleet, so it can certainly serve in place of the Ellington volume. And of course in the rest of the book, it goes far beyond what Ellington covered, to the entire livestock business.

I shouldn’t give the impression that Santa Fe stock cars weren’t important, by the way; in 1952, for example, they amounted to over 7200 cars, in a national fleet of about 42,000 cars, or one in every six cars in the whole country. And they did travel far beyond Santa Fe rails on many occasions. So the freight-car content of this book is not just a home-road topic.

I want to show a couple of examples of book pages, chosen to illustrate how much of the book is about matters beyond the narrow confines of the Santa Fe stock car fleet. First, a page from the interesting chapter about car cleaning and bedding. It shows workmen shoveling sand into stock cars. Also included is an interesting agent’s message about car needs (page 143).

Another interesting chapter, I think for almost any reader, is the one on Santa Fe feeding stations. It accompanies and complements the one on company stock yards (which is valuable not because everyone needs such a stock pen, but the variety and amount of detail provided on how these pens were built). Here’s a photo from the feeding station chapter (page 228):

I hope these examples clarify that this is very far beyond a Santa Fe stock car book. It is a far broader view of the entire livestock industry, as one railroad handled it. It’s endlessly interesting, provides many excellent details for modeling of either equipment, or structures, or operation, and is a delight to read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Tony Thompson

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