Railroad History - another candidate

Schuyler Larrabee

During this recent thread, I mulled over the many books I've read over the
years, and I have another candidate as the best railroad book I've read:

_Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949_
by John W. Orr.

John W. Orr wasn't the engineman in question; he was the son of the
engineman, O. P. Orr. It is clear that John and his father had an
extraordinarily close relationship. I suspect also that John had O.P.'s
notebooks, because the detail in the story he relates is extraordinary.

This is one of the few railroad history books I stayed up to 2:00 AM
reading. I could not put this book down. And I read it twice, nearly in
succession, and scanned it several times since.

Better words have been written about this book than I can write, and I will
refer you to this webpage to read them:


O.P. ran Pennsy trains for 45 years, most of them on the section of the PRR
branch to Sodus Point from Williamsport PA to Elmira NY. He did run other
trains on other parts of the PRR, most notably from Williamsport to Enola.
I happened to come across this book right after it was published, and gave
it to my good friend John Burroughs. John's a Pennsy fan, so it was a great
gift and fit his interests to perfection. As many of you know, John
travelled a great deal by car as Reboxx's principal sales rep at train
shows. After reading this book, he drove the route from Williamsport to
Elmira, several times, and I rode shotgun on one of those trips. After
reading the book, you can virtually see PRR I-10s pounding up the grades
dragging thousands of tons of coal.

One of the most memorable stories involves O.P. running a train at speed
from Enola to Williamsport, in the dark of night and in a pea-soup fog. The
RFE was aboard, and found the ride petrifying. O.P. had no trouble with the
run because he knew the track so well that he knew precisely where he was by
knowing the sequence of bridges, the culverts, stations and when to look for
signals by heart.

The RFE got off at his first opportunity, scared to death.

John Burroughs was so interested in the story of O.P. Orr that he called
John Orr's home, hoping that he might have an opportunity to visit with Mr
Orr. It was a real shock to find that John W. Orr passed away shortly after
his book about his father's career was published.

This is a great book.


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