The Rock Island Line

The Rock Island Line

Bill Marvel
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/10/2013
Format: cloth 180 pages, 104 color illus., 42 b&w illus.
8.25 x 10.625
ISBN: 978-0-253-01127-5
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This richly illustrated volume tells the story of a legendary railroad whose tracks spanned the Midwest, serving farms and small-town America for more than 140 years. One of the earliest railroads to build westward from Chicago, it was the first to span the Mississippi, advancing the frontier, bringing settlers into the West, and hauling their crops to market. Rock Island’s celebrated Rocket passenger trains also set a standard for speed and service, with suburban runs as familiar to Windy City commuters as the Loop. For most of its existence, the Rock battled competitors much larger and richer than itself and when it finally succumbed, the result was one of the largest business bankruptcies ever. Today, as its engines and stock travel the busy main lines operated by other carriers, the Rock Island Line lives on in the hearts of those whom it employed and served.

Author Bio

Bill Marvel has been a newspaper journalist and freelance writer for 49 years. He is author (with R. V. Burgin) of Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific, a main selection of the History Book Club.


"This is a superior book and will appeal to a wide range of readers including business history, transportation historians, Rock Island fans, rail enthusiasts, and general readers." —John Spychalski, Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University

"A concise, factual, and highly readable account of a major Midwestern freight and passenger railroad." —William J. Watt, author of
The Pennsylvania Railroad in Indiana

"Marvel's fine balance between photos and a concise telling of the Rock Island's long history will strongly appeal to both rail fans and general readers interested in railroad history." —Library Journal

"The image selection is impressive and makes this title worthy of purchase. . . . The Rock Island Line is a great combination of a typical history book and color guide in one release." —Model Railroad News

"Bill Marvel's The Rock Island Line is a breezy and captivating short history of the Rock Island Railroad from its inception in the 1850s until its liquidation in 1980. Heavily illustrated with photographs from a diverse cross section of the Rock Island itself, the book makes for a pleasing introduction to history of a railroad which was always one railroad too many, serving an area other railroads served, usually by a more direct route." —Lexington Quarterly

"The book possess a high quality of production, and it contains some wonderful photographs, dating mostly from the more recent past." —Railroad History

"Marvel . . . documents the Rock Island’s roller coaster history in this attractive volume from Indiana University Press. . . . A beautiful collection of action oriented photos from well know camera artists like Otto Perry and Ron Hill accompany the well written text." —Michigan Railfan

"The Rock Island Line is a labor of love for the author and his enthusiasm for his subject shines through in the lavishness of the photographs he has selected. The book will appeal to both the train enthusiast and to pop culture fans. It is quite readable, with six chapters and an epilogue. The well-captioned photographs tell their own story although they also supplement the text." —The Journal of American Culture

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Table of Contents

Introduction & Acknowledgments
Chapter 1 The Bridge
Chapter 2 A Bend in the Road
Chapter 3 A Rocky Road
Chapter 4 Planned Progress
Chapter 5 The Road to Ride
Chapter 6 The Road to Ruin
Epilogue: Pieces of the Rock
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