Southern Pacific Passenger Trains,
by Brian Solomon. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks, 2005. Hardcover – 8 ½ "x 11" - 160 pp - 90 color, 90 b/w photos; ISBN: 076031795X http://www.motorbooks.com/ Rev. by Doug Weiskopf
Solomon’s love of passenger trains and knowledge of western railroading history animate his clear and casual style, inviting the reader to relive a more elegant way of travel. SP Passenger Trains is full of stunning color and black & white photographs, as well as artwork and advertising that are not only fun to look at, but are well-identified and illustrate the text well. The SP is best known in Texas for it's "Sunset Route" west from New Orleans through Houston, while the Texas and Pacific entered Texas near Texarkana, and ran westward through Fort Worth to El Paso, and its juncture with the SP.
The opening essay by noted railroad photographer Fred Matthews, many of whose photos are reproduced here, provides a kind of thumb-nail sketch of 20th Century SP passenger train history and business philosophy. Matthews discusses how passenger service degenerated from one of punctuality, taste and reliability provided by “Your friendly SP,” to a system characterized by “negative advertising, and side-tracking passenger trains for freight.”
SP’s famous “Daylights” receive the most attention, followed by other Pacific coast routes, but the “Sunset Limited” and “Golden State,” both of which served Texas, are also documented. This Texan would have appreciated a little more attention to the Atlantic division, which stretched from El Paso to New Orleans, under the Texas & New Orleans RR. Here the “Hustler” and the “Sunbeam,” at one time provided fast service between Houston and Dallas in “Daylight” style and the “Argonaut,” a more prosaic mail train, served the Sunset route. But overall, this is an informative and entertaining book, well-written and accurate, and much better than many “coffee table” type photographic works now being published in China.
Whether one wishes to add it to his or her personal library, or simply borrow one from your local Public Library, an “Espee” fan or passenger train buff will not be disappointed!