illuminate history

Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)

The Book Tour

We arrived early on July 14, to check out the special exhibit at the Railroad Museum of PA: Railroads in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. As anticipated, there was good coverage on Herman Haupt, including a video presentation. In addition, there was a nice display for the Three Authors & an Artist event.

My favorite moment came during the Q&A following my presentation. Someone asked, “How did the USMRR keep their locomotives supplied with coal?”

I knew the answer! “They used wood, not coal. There are regular references in Dispatch Logs at the National Archives to work parties sent out to cut wood and leave it stacked by the tracks.”

Four days later, we visited both locations of the B&O Museum, going first to the oldest railroad station in the US, at Ellicott City, MD. The first commercial US trains ran thirteen miles from Baltimore to Ellicott City. We learned that B&O meant “Baltimore to the Ohio River,” at Wheeling, WV. Detailed displays in station-house, car shed, and roundhouse are evocative of 19th century train travel—even as CSX freight trains rocket past at frequent intervals.

We liked the opening line on this poster:

“What was the B&O railroad’s first locomotive?

A horse, of course!”




And it was fun to climb around in the old caboose.






We went from the station at Ellicott City to Museum Headquarters on Pratt St., where the B&O Railroad was launched in 1829. There’s a wonderful painting of Charles Carroll, last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, at the ceremony to lay the first stone of the B&O, the first US railroad.

I met, as planned, with the chief curator and we tentatively agreed to a couple of return visits for presentations in Sept. or Oct. 2013 and 2014.

He’d given the review copy of my book to Eileen Blinksley, Director of Visitor Services. He said he thought she was interested in placing an order.

She was; six copies are now on their way.


On July 19, I empathized more than ever with Union Generals McDowell,  McClellan, and Hooker: we could not get far enough south of Fredericksburg, VA, on Rte. 95, to reach  Rte. 295 to Petersburg to talk to the Visitor Center manager at Petersburg Battlefield.

So we “made lemonade” by detouring to Aquia Creek, where  Herman Haupt, directed the USMRR Construction Corps in re-building the 50,000 sq. ft. landing, 3 miles of railroad track, and three bridges—three times. After Chancellorsville, in May 1863,  within three days of the order to evacuate, he ensured that military supplies, railroad property, and about 12,000 sick and wounded from the hospitals, were loaded on vessels and safely removed.


We began our train journey west on July23,  with a short hop from Washington, DC for an overnight stop at Harper’s Ferry, the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah, steeped in history. We hiked across the Potomac and up to Maryland Heights.

After descending, we visited several of the Lower Town Museums and the Park Bookshop–where we found a couple of shelves of books about US railroad history and obtained a copy of the National Park Service “author/vendor guidelines” from the bookstore manager: a new project.


We re-boarded the train for the overnight trip to Chicago. Arriving less than one hour late on July 25, we made our way to a Holiday Inn near Union Station, stored our luggage, then rented a car to drive–via several toll roads–to the National New York Central Museum in Elkhart, IN. I’ve wanted to visit this museum for several years, because the first two rooms are devoted to the history of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern–John Bailey’s railroad for 33 years.

There are several great posters, plus many early photographs of LS&MS stations from JHB’s regular route. When he was finally able to join the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1867, JHB was assigned to Div. #9 at Elkhart, IN.

Another project is to try to obtain a copy, via inter-library loan,  of the book displayed in the glass case: History of the LS&MS through the year 1900. Seems to me that JHB’s name might be in it.

I had a copy of my book with me; Drew Frailey, the man in charge that day bought it. Additional project:  follow up with the Museum Co-ordinator, to whom I sent a review copy last fall. We discovered a flyer for the Illinois Railway Museum — self- described as America’s largest railway museum –at our hotel: yet another potential outlet!


From Chicago, we headed for St. Louis,  to participate in a special Museum Association event on July 28, at the Museum of Transportation, celebrating their Roads, Rivers, and Rails in the Civil War l exhibit. I’d sent a review copy of my book and the event co-ordinator purchased 12 more. Only one was left at the end of the party.

Let’s hope they order a few more.

My conclusions? People who look at the posters and ask a few questions usually buy the book: how do I make this work exponentially?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on August 4, 2012 by in Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Civil War, Railroad, US History, Writing.
%d bloggers like this: