Shortly after Christmas I was tipped off by a friend this book was in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble. I had a gift card to a sport shop in that vicinity so I quickly headed out, swung by B&N and was able to snatch up the last copy at that location.

Written by David Ross, Colin Boocock, David Brown, Nick Lawford and Brian Solomon (Solomon also wrote Railroad Signaling which I recommended on this blog about a year ago) this book covers steam, gas-electric, diesel, and electric from all over the world in fine detail. It is organized by year of introduction starting with the 0-4-0 Locomotion No. 1 in 1825, through high speed commuters of today such as the Acela Express and German engineered Transrapid Magnetic Levitation Trains (can achieve test speeds of 310mph).

An unusual train was Lartigue’s Monorail which wasn’t actually a monorail at all, but ran on an A-frame track. The most famous Lartigue Monorail was built in Ireland and linked Listowel and Ballybunion running from 1888 until 1924 when it was severely damaged during the civil war (1921-1923).

Due to the A-frame structure, switches and road crossings were actually turntables that could turn and connect to adjacent track. Like saddle bags, the train straddled the A-frame with each side being separate holding passengers and cargo balanced on either side. According to the Lartigue Monorailway Web site (see group site below), if a farmer sent a cow, two calves would be sent along on the other side of the car to balance it. On the return trip the calves would be transported one on either side to maintain balance. The engine had two boilers and two fireboxes, one on each side. I was able to do some additional research and found that a replica of the line has been restored by a group in Listowel, Ireland.

There are over 900 locomotives listed in the book, about 90 percent with either historical photos or recent color photos of restored engines (I am very impressed with the number of photos taken of restored engines). There is also a glossary of terms in the back.

Though there are many books out there devoted to detailing either a single engine or even a small subset, this encyclopedia is still worthwhile as its breadth gives such a wide sampling. A train enthusiast may have otherwise missed looking at the engines one by one from complete resources. I probably never would have set out to read up on the Lartigue Monorail without first discovering it within these pages.

Ross, David (General Editor), The Encyclopedia of Trains and Locomotives. Original copyright 2003, Amber Books Ltd, the 2007 edition I purchased was published by Barnes and Noble, Inc.

About Chad Leigh Kluck

Originally from Nebraska, I am a history and railroad enthusiast currently living near Saint Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy trains, photography, and nostalgic memories, as well as the history of transportation, agriculture, eateries, breweries, and railroad towns. More...

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