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Re: PC: Triumph Book Series

Hello Gary and listers

On 9/18/09, Gary L <h18w777@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
-How much PC era material is contained in them?  I realize that PRR
material will predominate, but I am interested in how much text/photos
are allocated to PC.

Although the emphasis is on the PRR, each volume also contains some
Penn Central and lesser amounts of Conrail and Norfolk Southern.  The
author tries to document each era, especially at key points along the
PRR and popular locations with heavy photographic coverage (for
example Rockville Bridge).

As a previous respondent stated, these are hybrid history books not
traditional photo essays with captions (like Morning Sun products) or
text only history books (like Stephen Salisbury's "No Way to Run a
Railroad").  Each book (except for Vol. IX) is 350+ pages so there is
a lot packed inside.  Each volume is focused on a an geographic area
or operating region.  The books are divided into chapters covering
specific portions of the lines included in the book with detours down
branch or connecting lines.  Each chapter begins with a narrative of
10-25 pages discussing the development of the line segment or branch,
competitors and the major changes in ownership.  After the text comes
maps (including many interlocking track charts), B/W archival and
contemporary photos and photos/diagrams of structures.  Each
photo/diagram/chart/map is accompanied by a detailed caption
describing passenger and freight service, railroad facilities,
commodities, equipment, geography and interesting businesses and
buildings along the ROW.  The author also includes a few anecdotal

As you might expect, the selection of illustrations, maps and charts
is driven by availability of archival materials especially for the
19th and early 20th century.  For heavy duty main lines like the
Middle Division, there is extensive 19th and 20th century photographic
coverage.  Lesser lines and branches (the Bald Eagle Branch for
example) are covered in much less depth.

On 9/18/09, Gary L <h18w777@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I understand that Triumph II has information about the Shocks Mill
bridge collapse.  Can  anyone detail what is there?  Photos? Text?
Are the photos company made or railfan?  A mix?  Is there a photo of
the repaired bridge? My interest in this incident is intense and if
there  material relevant to my interest it is likely this would be the
first purchase.

Shocks Mills is covered in Vol. II on pages 298-301.  There are a
total of six pictures--a National Archives shot from the first half of
the 20th century, a PRR aerial view from ca. 1950, a 1955 shot of a
train from the bridge deck, a shot of the collapsed bridge in 1972, a
shot of the repairs in progress and a shot of the completed repairs.
The bridge is also briefly mentioned in the text at the beginning of
the chapter.

On 9/18/09, Gary L <h18w777@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
-I take it these books primarily cover infrastructure rather than
rolling stock.  Is that correct?

Yes, although most pictures do include rolling stock.  It would be
very difficult to model any locomotives or rolling stock using
pictures in these books.

On 9/18/09, Gary L <h18w777@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Finally, would you recommend purchase of these books by someone who is
primarily interested in adding Penn Central information sources to his

Yes, if for no other reason than to understand the history of the
lines that ultimately became PC.

A word of caution.  The author/editor (Charles Roberts) does not pull
any punches when it comes to editorializing.  Sometimes the
editorializing is political while at other times it concerns a
particular issue or organization.  Most of the commentary is contained
in the introduction to each chapter or in the "afterward" in each
book.  Volume II is especially interesting because the afterward is
called "The Virulent Non-Profit Virus" which does not seem to fit with
the subject of the book.  It is actually an explanation of why the
photo reproduction in Vol. I and Vol. II (and I presume Vols. III to
IX) is so poor.  Apparently, Mr. Roberts attempted to work with the
PRRT&HS and a number of county historical societies to acquire photos
but they either did not help or charged so much for photo
rights/reproduction, that he simply made photocopies.  This editorial
explains what happened.

As mentioned, the photo reproduction is fair to poor.  The color
sections in the first volumes are almost all contemporary (post-1960)
photos but are still reproduced poorly.  Composition is also poor--in
many cases the images look like a snapshot from a throw away camera.
The reproduction quality gets progressively worse in each volume while
at the same time the color section shrinks from 47 pages in Vol. I and
Vol. II to five pages in Vol. VIII.  Happily, Vol. IX has 31 pages of
color, but one third of the pages are a reproduced map.

Before leaving the subject of the photos, I do want to mention one
item that is probably unique to these books.  Mr. Roberts commissioned
an aerial survey of the routes covered in each book and includes a
number of very good shots documenting key locations on the railroad.
These photos are frequently accompanied by a track chart to aid in
locating specific lines.  This is an interesting approach to telling
the story of the railroad that more publishing houses should adopt.

If you are looking for great color photography of PRR/PC/CR
facilities, I recommend PRR Facilities in Color.  The Triumph series
is a nice complement to the Facilities series because it provides the
detailed background lacking in the Morning Sun volumes.

Bob Holzweiss
Bryan, TX

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