Books of Railroad Work, Unions, Labor, & Strikes

Boomer - Railroad Memoirs    Linda Niemann    University of California Press   Berkley, CA    1990     One woman's story of hiring out on the Southern Pacific in the late 1970s and holding a job as a switchman, brakeman and later conductor only by booming around the system in order to hold a job. (Issued four years later in 1994 as On the Rails - A Memoir.


Brotherhoods of Color: Black Workers and the Struggle for Equality   Eric Arnesen    Harvard University Press    2002    Historical account of African-American men and women efforts to obtain social equality and opportunity while constructing and workingon America's railroads. Provides details of Black railroad workers' struggles to change the mindset of the railroad industry, mangers, and their fellow white workers.

Brownie the Boomer - The Life of Charles P. Brown    Edited by H. Roger Grant. Northern Illinois University Press    Dekalb, IL.   1991 (original text 1930)    Rare autobiography of a "boomer" trainman from the early 20th century. A vivid account of his 14 years working on major railroad systems across the continent as a brakeman, fireman, switchman.

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Convict No. 9653 A new book about Eugene V. Debs sheds light on free speech and censorship—and civil liberties more generally—during a time of war.

El Tren Pasa Primero   Elena Poniatowska    (Spanish)   A young man from Oaxaca, Mexico learned at an early age that he was gifted, not with beauty or physical strength, but with willpower, the force of the spoken word and a constant eagerness for knowledge. The story of his life is a journey that starts with the whistle of a train .... It is also the place in which his ardent speech to his railroad brothers resulted in a fight that would upturn a country and a regime.


Faces of Railroading: Portraits of America's Greatest Industry    Carl A. Swanson   Kalbach Books    Milwaukee    2004    Photo essay depicting numerous workers from the various crafts at work on the railroad in 20th century America.

Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow    Dee Brown    Holt    New York 1977     History of the building of the transcontinental railroads, starting in 1854 and proceeding in detail until the 1890s, then hurriedly summarizes until the 1970s. And Brown shows, repeatedly and at length, how the railroad builders screwed and continue to screw the American public and workers time and again.

Old Rails' Tales: Anecdotes, Stories & Memoirs - On the Road and in the Yard    Allan Allen     Trafford Publishing   Victoria, BC     2005     A collection of on-the-job first hand accounts of four generations of railroaders - engineers, brakemen, switchmen, conductors, dispatchers,and  yardmasters off the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Western Pacific and Amtrak.

Power at Odds: The 1922 National Railroad Shopmen's Strike     Colin J. DavisUniversity of Illinois Press    Urbana and Chicago   1997    Outlines and describes the development of how a mass  strike of nearly halfa million railroad shopmen went on a generalized strike that had the potential to change the nature of rail labor relations in North America.


Prarie Whistles: Tales of Midwest Railroading    Dennis Boyer   Trails Books   Black Earth, Wisconsin    2001    A collection of oral reminiscences drawn from Midwest railroaders during the 20th century.

Railroading in Texas - One Man's Memories    Fred W. Picker     Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc.   Pittsburg   1996   Historical account of one man's experience of 36 years as a railroad conductor in Texas.

Railroad Voices    Narratives by Linda Niemann and Photos by Linda Bertucci   Stanford University Press    Stanford    1998.    Photos together with vignettes from railroading in the 80s and 90s. The workers accounts are largely from the SP while the photos are largely from the Milwaukee Road.

Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class  Larry Tye    Holt   New York   2004    Chronicles the pioneering role that the sleeping car porters union and their leader, A. Philip Randolph, played in building America's union movement.

She's Been Working on the Railroad   Nancy Smiler Levinson    Lodestar Books   New York    1997    A history of women workers on the railroad from its early days until the present.

The Boomer: A Story of the Rails     Harry Bedwell and James D. Porterfield    2006

This is an episodic story about Eddie Sand, a skilled telegrapher who booms around the country working at various depots, towers and shanties plying his craft.

The Hoghead - An Industrial Ethnology of the Locomotive Engineer    Frederick C. Gamst    Holt, Rinehart and Winston    New York   1980     "... the occupation and life of the locomotive engineer and his fellow workers in an exposition of the ethnological (social and cultural anthropological) study of industry."

The Great Labor Uprising of 1877    Phillip S. Foner  Pathfinder Press    New York 1977     Outlines the Railroad Strike of 1877 and how this first generalized strike of U.S. workers spread across the entire country.

The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America      David Ray Papke    University of Kansas    Lawrence    1999    Account of the great strike waged against the Pullman Company by the American Railway Union (ARU in 1894), led by Eugene V. Debs and others.

The Working Life - A Worker on the Transcontinental Railroad     James Barter   The men who built the Transcontinental Railroad between 1863 and 1869 labored twelve hour days building bridges, blasting tunnels, and laying rail beds in the midst of freezing winters and hot summers while fighting Indians and dodging dynamite explosions. This book honors the tens of thousands of mostly immigrants by describing their day-to-day lives while constructing the greatest railroad of all time.

View from the Cab - Stories from a Locomotive Engineer    Doug Riddell    1999   The author takes the reader through his railroad career as fireman, brakeman, conductor, freight engineer and Amtrak engineer. He learns how the newly merged Seaboard Coast Line and Seaboard Air Lines operate, works as a brakeman, and enters engine service to become an engineer.

Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century   Walter Licht    1989

Workin' on the Railroad - Reminiscences from the Age of Steam    Richard Reinhardt    University of Oklahoma Press  Norman   1970    First hand accounts of work on the railroad in the 19th and 20th centuries when steam locomotives were the rule.

Working on the Railroad    Brian Solomon    MBI Publishing    St. Paul    2006    An insiders look at work on the railroad. It's a collection of stories and pictures of men and machines from the later days of steam to today working at the various crafts.

Working on the Western Maryland - A Collection of Employee Interviews    Wes Morganstern     Western Maryland Historical Society   1999    Various accounts of work and life on the Western Maryland by a wide array of workers from various crafts. They recount their life through steam and diesel, Western Maryland, then Chessie System and finally CSX.

History of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers