Re: The growing problem of erroneous captions

Schuyler Larrabee

Ed Hawkins wrote "The caption in the NYC color guide book is erroneous.."

Erroneous information in the 128-page wonder books is certainly a problem.
It is a shame that these authors, editors and publishers do not realize
that these are not "pretty" books, but should be regarded as histories. As
more and more faulty information gets into print, the quality of railroad
history is degraded. It is degraded because each and every caption needs to
be analyzed, post-publication, by an expert on a particular railroad to
whom accuracy is important. Only someone devoted to a specific railroad or
railroad era knows when the information is wrong. Since I follow the
Missouri Pacific I can usually spot errors in books related to that railroad (and
they are legion), but I'm at a loss when it comes to determining if
information in a caption tagged to an NYC or C&O photo is accurate. If it were
not for lists such as this, these inaccuracies would go unnoticed. However
the corrections noted here are somewhat ephemeral; even if you search the
archives. I would like to trust the information in these books. As it stands,
however, the accuracy of these books is at times equivalent to the
accuracy of Lionel paint schemes. Thank goodness we have the Hawkins, Thompsons,
Cullotas and others who produce quality railroad history books that
counterbalance the pathetic efforts of the picture books.

Now if we could lay to rest the RMJ-inspired urban myth that the Missouri
Pacific had blue cabooses!

Jerry Michels

What Jerry says here is all too true. One reason is the later comment about "underpaid," which is really true. I know of one author whose compensation for the fifth book was one quarter of the compensation for the first book. Incredibly, IMHO, he's still working on another book, but only when he has absolutely nothing better to do. The result of this is that the authors who are doing these books now tend to be people who like to see their name in print, whether they know the topic or not. Now, having said that, I know I've mortally insulted some people reading this who will probably be ready to shiv me at Cocoa. Oops, perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned I'll be there. ;^)

Seriously, I know personally that some of the authors really are pretty light in the native knowledge department. Many, I hope most, are very knowledgeable. It becomes a matter of a) knowing something about the topic yourself so you can turn on your BS meter, and b) knowing something about the author and how much credence you put in what they have to say.

I will say this. Larry DeYoung's six books on the EL, while not absolutely error free, are very very good and reliable. And yes, I do know him.


E-mail message checked by Spyware Doctor (
Database version: 6.12420

Join to automatically receive all group messages.