Steam Locomotives of the Nineteenth Century

 

This week, I published a visual history of steam locomotives of the nineteenth century:

Steam Locomotives Cover front and back

Steam Locomotives: Nineteenth Century Engineering, illustrated with more than 150 images of steam engines drawn by the top engineering illustrators of the 19th century.

Already, Amazon is calling it the #1 New Release in Railroading Pictorials. 

As one of my friends pointed out, in addition to being of interest to railroad and locomotive enthusiasts, it would make a great coloring book for those children and adults who love trains.

Why did I decide to write and fill this book with images of locomotives? I love trains, especially the locomotives. My family has a deep connection to railroads, since both of my grandfathers worked nearly all their lives for the B&O. My father hired on to the B&O before he went off to the Army during WWII, working as a fireman on large steam locomotives that hauled coal trains through West Virginia. My mother’s side of the family lived in Grafton, WV, one of the first major railroad towns west of the Allegheny mountains. It was an important nexus of rail transportation with a vital history during the American Civil War. When my family moved to Ohio, we lived in a town with rail lines through it with a bridge that had stood when Lincoln’s funeral train passed under it in 1865. Just up the road was Willard, one of the great rail nexus in the state. Many a time, we drove up there to pick up my grandparents who’d ridden the train from Baltimore to visit us. I can almost taste the smell of being next to a locomotive waiting to move onward as it dropped off passengers, and took on new riders going westward.

I also love illustration. I was a picture editor in my younger years, and later a professional photographer for magazines. In the later 1980s, I was an art researcher for seven years, on staff at National Geographic magazine, working with top artists. I fed them concepts, research reference, and served as the intermediary with experts in all kinds of fields, from showing the inside of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl after it melted down, to a cutaway of the USS Macon airship, to what it looked like on the deck of CSS Alabama during its fatal battle during the American Civil War. After that, I served as a researcher for the top editors of the magazine, working on advance concepts, sussing out possibilities for the magazine thorough coverage.

I hope my readers enjoy my new locomotive book as much as I enjoyed working on it. It was a labor of love, and as I say in my book, it acknowledges the importance of the illustrators who created most of the images that appear in the book. – David W. Wooddell, Baltimore, Maryland

Compression

I’ve been working on a history of the steam tugs Baltimore for several years now. It’s been rough sledding in many ways. I’m still working at it, but presently I’ve taken the book manuscript apart, and I’m trying to compress the book into an article to submit to a historical journal. Whether that will work remains to be seen. Compression is a good way to discover one’s problems in a work, however. I’ve come to recognize the book manuscript should be reorganized. If that improves the end result, then it is worthwhile.

Steam Tug Baltimore

I’m sorry to say that I feel pressed to get the article, and book published because the steam tug Baltimore is in such sorry shape that her days are numbered. She will never sail or steam again; she lacks Coast Guard certification, and isn’t likely to receive that again. The Baltimore could perhaps be lifted out of the water and moved to land, if she had the right kind of experts to do that for her, but even that seems to be beyond the Baltimore Museum of Industry to organize and carry out. The museum has good volunteers, but it takes money for materials, and to hire experts to get things done. The volunteers can’t do it all out of their own pockets.

I’d like to at least publish my history of the Baltimore, and her predecessor before she finally sinks into the mud at her dock.

 

Like Experiencing the War First-Hand

I’m posting another review of my history of a civil war regiment, Hoffman’s Army: The Thirty-First Virginia Infantry, CSA. This one from Henry Eason, journalist, novelist, and historian.

“Hoffman’s Army…like experiencing the war first-hand”

Henry M Eason Jr

A topic as enormous as the American War Between the States (or the Civil War, if your insist) is too great to fully absorb if you read, as I have, a number of the multi-volume sets that purport to explain the whole scope of the conflict. They are bewildering in their comprehensiveness. Perhaps one of the best ways to really understand the war is to have actually lived through it as a participant. As impossible as that sounds, it is almost possible to do in Wooddell’s extraordinary book Hoffman’s Army. Sometimes, you have to put the book down for a while, because it is so real, so genuine that you are anguished by what is happening right in front of you, as though you were marching along, engaged in battle, knowing the madness. Not since Bell Wiley’s Johnny Red and Billy Yank have I been so taken by a book about the war.

I also have the benefit of knowing the author and of having walked the ground of one battlefield with him on his family’s own property in West Virginia. He is a diligent and creative researcher able to make truth come alive. Hoffman’s Army should be required reading for history students and for anyone who really wants to know what it was like to be in the war that should never have been waged–had wiser heads prevailed to surmount the economic and slavery issues that existed among the contending parties.


Henry Eason was a colleague back in the 80’s, and a heck of a journalist. Before I met him, Henry was an investigative reporter on the staff of the Atlanta Constitution Journal. Later, he was a business editor and journalist for Nation’s Business magazine in Washington, DC (where I was photo editor for a couple of years.)

Here’s a link to Henry’s Into the Pacific Fog, a novel of suspense set in San Francisco during WWII. It’s a fun, and lively read, and very well researched.

Archival Fun

Steam Tug Baltimore
The wheel of the Steam Tugboat Baltimore, a National Historic Landmark

Progress continues here at the word farm as I write the profiles to be included in a the “Steam Tug Baltimore” book (not the exact title). Historic research can be a lot of fun, as well as a lot of intense work in archives and libraries, not to mention hours and hours in front of one’s computer.

Recently I had the pleasure of finding some very good material at the Maryland Historical Society library about two of the gentlemen engineers of Baltimore, James Murray and Henry R. Hazlehurst. They were partners in the firm Murray & Hazlehurst that built the steam tug “Baltimore” for the city of Baltimore in 1857. 

You never know what you might find while poking around in history. Henry R. Hazlehurst was a descendent of an important American family from Philadelphia and New Jersey. His ancestors backed and signed currency that supported the Continental Army during the American revolution. And they also paid for some of the first vessels for the Continental Navy, small as it was back then. How cool is that?

continental-currency-1a-copy
Currency signed by Hazlehurst to support the Continental Army
robert-hazlehurst-by-peale-display_image-php-copy
Robert Hazlehurst by Peale

Doing this type of archival research is slow, however, and may account for the slowness of my writing. I’ve put myself under pressure to finish the profiles, and all of the other editorial parts of the book in time for History4All Publishing to publish it this summer. It’s been a project I’ve been working on for the past five years. I want to exhibit and sell copies of the book at the Baltimore Book Festival in Sept 23, 2017. I’ll also be selling copies of my history of the 31st Virginia, “Hoffman’s Army.”

Life is what you make it. Make it a good one!

Nom de Pen contest

B&O RR Museum 052715
B&O RR Museum 052715

I write serious history books as my main occupation, though it pays little, so I could probably say it is an avocation. And I publish them under my own name, David W. Wooddell.

But my dirty little secret – well, one of them I’m willing to admit to here – is that I write fiction, too.

That’s right. Factually incorrect narratives, with wildly imaginative “facts” that are improbable, but plausible if you squint, and drink enough caffeine, and are excited by space travel, aliens, and new interpretations of physics and biology. And occasional sex. Because sex sells, and it is hilarious to write. Especially when combined with the new interpretations of biology, in which… oh, never mind for now. Just take my word for it.

Evidently, to be a successful fiction author, I need a nom de pen (or should that be nom de word processor?) I’m currently writing a series of science fiction novels. And those will be followed with a series of speculative historical adventure novels with some traces of steam punk levity.

Any suggestion would be gratefully received. I won’t guarantee I’ll use the suggestion. But I do think it would be fun to see what people suggest, and there is always a chance I might like one enough to use it on my books.

If I end up using one of the suggestions, I will award the person an autographed copy of my first science fiction novel, The Invisibles, after it is published later this year.

Who’s in? Make a comment below, or send one to me, here or on FB at my writer page.

  • David W. Wooddell