Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The SP book on MOW is coming soon!

The long-awaited book about Maintenance of Way (MOW) equipment of the Southern Pacific is finally nearing release, scheduled for early in the new year. Author Kenneth Harrison has been working on the book for over two decades, thoroughly researching all extant SP records at the California State Railroad Museum and elsewhere, and an enormous amount of information has resulted. Publisher is the SP Historical & Technical Society. Here’s the cover:

The book covers the histories of more than 50,000 MOW cars and equipment, illustrated with more than 1200 photographs, most never before published. I’ve seen the proofs, and believe me, this is a stunning amount and richness of information.

The full price of the book is $149.95, doubtless enough to curl your hair if you haven’t been keeping up with Society books. But I want to make two points. First, this is a huge book, 8.5 x 11-inch size in landscape format, and 495 pages. If you know the five-volume series of magisterial books on SP passenger cars published by the Society, you know what I’m talking about:

The book shown above, Volume 2 of the passenger car series, is about 100 pages larger than the MOW book, but note, it is fully 1.5 inches thick, so the MOW book ought to be around 1.25 inches thick. These aren’t just physically big books, they are big in content too, packed with information. In my opinion, a book with this kind of completeness and background of research is a bargain at the price. 

There is a substantial member discount, from the full price down to $119.95, a saving of $30. In fact, members have already been mailed a flyer to reserve a copy. How does that discount stack up against a membership? Annual membership is just $45, as you can determine at the Society’s web site, .

“Well,” you may say, “that’s almost a wash,” but you will get four issues of the Society’s outstanding quarterly magazine, Trainline, in the bargain. You may even decide you like belonging to and supporting the Society.

So if you have any curiosity or interest in a car like the one below, this book is your authority. It happens to be a former Class B-50-2 box car, converted to a cook-diner, and photographed at Salinas, California in November 1937 (photographer unknown, Arnold Menke collection).

But it isn’t just this kind of converted work equipment that is covered. Also included are plows and flangers, wrecking cranes and relief outfits, pile drivers, shovels, ditchers, water cars, test and supply cars, shop switchers, and more.

Finally, I want to point out that already the published SP historical record is enormous. The Society has published the five-volume series on passenger cars and a companion volume on official cars. Signature Press published a five-volume set of books on SP freight cars. And Joe Strapac, Bob Church, and colleagues have extremely thoroughly documented the motive power of the SP, both steam and diesel. This MOW book will be a proud addition to that impressive and distinguished record. I’ve already reserved mine.

Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Aloha Dr. Thompson:

    I've been awaiting Ken's book with great anticipation.

    I've another question for you on a different topic after watching the video the late Otis McGee had made on his SP Shasta Route; what has happened to that beautiful layout.