When the Steam Railroads Electrified, Revised Second Edition

When the Steam Railroads Electrified, Revised Second Edition

William D. Middleton, foreword by John W. Barriger III
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/29/2002
Format: Hardback 697 b&w photos, 34 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-33979-9
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This comprehensive history of North American railroad electrification has been out of print for many years. Now, Indiana University Press is proud to announce its return in an new, updated second edition.

For most of the first half of the 20th century the United States led the way in railroad electrification. Before the outbreak of World War II, the country had some 2,400 route-miles and more than 6,300 track-miles operating under electric power, far more than any other nation and more than 20 percent of the world’s 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. 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 route-miles, that led the way, and the U.S. had declined to 17th place.

Today, electric operation of U.S. railroads is back in the limelight. The federally funded Northeast Corridor Improvement Program has provided an expanded Northeast Corridor electrification, with high-speed trains that are giving the fastest rail passenger service ever seen in North America, while still other high-speed corridors are planned for other parts of the country. And with U.S. rail freight tonnage at its highest levels in history, the ability of electric locomotives to expand capacity promises to bring renewed consideration of freight railroad electrification.

Middleton begins his ambitious chronicle of the ups and downs of railway electrification with the history of its early days, and brings it right up to the present—which is surely not the end of this complex and mercurial story.

Author Bio

William D. Middleton has been active as a transportation and engineering historian and journalist for more than fifty years. Among his 16 books are a number of titles concerned with the history of electric railways and rail transit in North America, including When the Steam Railroads Electrified, The Time of the Trolley, and The Interurban Era. Other recent titles are Landmarks on the Iron Road, "Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take", and The Bridge at Quebec, all published by Indiana University Press. Middleton is a 1950 civil engineering graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia and Wisconsin. His professional career has also included work as a structural engineer and a bridge designer. He retired from the U.S. Navy's Civil Engineer Corps as a commander in 1979, and then served until 1993 on the general faculty and as the chief facilities officer at the University of Virginia. He remains active as a consultant in higher education facilities management.


“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 nearly 800 illustrations.”

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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