Cover image for When the steam railroads electrified
When the steam railroads electrified
Middleton, William D., 1928-2011.
Publication Information:
Milwaukee : Kalmbach Books, [1974]
Physical Description:
439 pages : illustrations ; 30 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :

On Order



The most comprehensive history of North American railroad electrification, William D. Middleton's When the Steam Railroads Electrified has been out of print for many years. Now, Indiana University Press is proud to announce the return of this much-sought-after volume in a new, updated second edition, with a new final chapter, appendixes, bibliography, index, and approximately 800 illustrations. For most of the first half of the twentieth century, the United States led the world in railroad electrification. Before the outbreak of World War II, it had some 2400 route-miles and more than 6300 track-miles operating under electric power -- far more than any other country, and more than 20 percent of the world total. In almost every instance, electrification was a huge success, Running times were reduced. Tonnage capacities were increased. Fuel and maintenance costs were lowered, and the service lives of electric locomotives promised to be twice as long as those of steam locomotives. In many cases, the savings resulting from electric operation were sufficient to repay the cost of electrification in as little as five years. Yet despite its many triumphs, electrification of U.S. railroads failed to achieve the wide application that once was so confidently predicted. By the 1970s, it was the Soviet Union, with almost 22,000 electrified routemiles, that led the way, and the U.S. had declined to 17th place, behind such countries as Czechoslovakia, Austria, Norway, and Brazil. For a while, the prospects for electric operation of U.S. railroads brightened during the energy crisis of the 1970s, and as power companies began to consider the major market represented by railroads, but then faded away again.

Author Notes

William D. Middleton has been active as a transportation and engineering historian and journalist for more than fifty years

Table of Contents

1 Electricity challenges steam
2 Electrics into Grand Central
3 New Haven's bold venture
4 Under the rivers to Manhattan
5 Taming the tunnels
6 Conquering the Cascades
7 Big motors in the Appalachians
8 Montana copper carrier
9 Catenary over the mountains
10 Electrifying the 5:15
11 The great Pennsy electrification
12 Mine haul and miscellaneous
13 Traction in Latin America
14 What future for electrification?
A The technology of electrification
B The motive power of electrification
C The what, where, and when of electrification