Ill just come out and say it: This is not a book review because, quite frankly, I didnt read the book.
That said, consider this a hardy recommendation to get yourself or someone on your shopping list a copy of Locomotive 315: The Lives, Times and Rebirth of an 1895 Steam Engine.
Author George Niederauer, who had a slew of help from his cohorts with the Durango Railroad Historical Society, said Im not the only member of the press to pass on a comprehensive review. At more than 500 pages, its not a quick read.
I dont expect a whole lot of people to sit down and read it cover to cover, Niederauer said.
What the book lacks in brevity it more than makes up for in painstaking detail; 230,000 words, nearly 1,100 images, 12 graphs, 20 maps and 52 tables. And all to pay homage to one little engine that could.
The story of the 315 should be familiar to many in the area. The engines heyday was the mining boom that built the towns of the San Juan Mountains in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but after a brief last gasp in the 1940s the locomotive sat idle for more than 50 years, many of them in Gateway/Santa Rita Park.
Led by Niederauer, the historical society went to work on restoring the 315 in 2001 and took it step further by rebuilding it entirely and returning it to a fully functional locomotive. It took seven years and almost a half million dollars, but the group has made the most of their labor by showing off the 315 at rail events near and far.
Should you choose to read Locomotive 315 in its entirety, the experience should prepare you to build your own working steam locomotive its that comprehensive. The book is organized into thee parts: history, restoration and technology, and its in the third section that Niederauers attention to detail is most evident. He traces the mechanics of locomotives back as far as the 17th century and includes technical drawings of the 315 and its contemporaries. The books appendix even includes the original Baldwin Locomotive Works blueprint for the 315. There is nothing ever printed about the 315 not a drawing, press clipping or documentation of the restoration process omitted from this massive tome.
Niederauer worked with and received funding from the State Historical Fund of the Colorado Historical Society. Under that agreement, the book, which retails for almost $80, will be made accessible to almost all Colorado residents. The DRHS donated books to libraries and railroad museums in Durango, Cripple Creek, Victor, Florence, Cañon City, Salida, Gunnison, Montrose, Alamosa, Chama and Silverton. Major museums that supplied documents for the book also receive copies, including the Colorado Historical Society library, Denver Public Library, Colorado Railroad Museum, Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, Cripple Creek District Museum, Steelworks Museum of Industry & Culture in Pueblo, Friends of the C&TS library in Albuquerque, the California State Railroad Museum, Stanford University, DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Smithsonian Institution and the Science Museum of London.
Locomotive 315 is a coffee-table book, a keepsake and a historical document rolled into one. Theres no shame in owning such a book without reading it.
Even Andrew Leonard, a rail fan who reviewed the book for the October edition of The Colorado Time-Table, a paper dedicated exclusively to railroads, also admitted to not having actually read the book despite his own rave review:
If there is any fact or piece of information about No. 315 that is not in the book, I would question if it even existed, Leonard wrote.
The detail and exhaustive research that went into this book are almost shocking. I would recommend this book, of course, for anyone interested in 315, but really anyone interested in Colorado rail and even anyone who likes trains in general would do well to pick up this book.