PLEASE NOTE: Although no longer available in this format, The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire Volume II: The Twentieth Century by James Holton is still available in a very limited edition format that incorporates gilded lettering on a leather bound cover and binding, housed in a matching slipcase. Garrigues House published a total of 50 of these volumes, each signed and numbered by the author. We are down to approximately 3 copies each of this extremely limited edition of The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire Volume II: The Nineteenth Century and The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire Volume II: The Twentieth Century. Please call us if you would like to purchase either Volume I or Volume !! in this slipcover edition.
“The Reading, one of the pioneer rail carriers in the United States, won national distinction for its innovative development of steam power – including some of the most powerful freight engines and fastest passenger locomotives on American rails – before the end of the nineteenth century. It also suffered through some of the most turbulent and violent episodes of that era as it became the major fuel pipeline for the industrial revolution. Those first 75 years of the company’s existence have been colorfully reported in Volume 1 of the Reading Railroad history, along with the adventures and personal stories of the fascinating cast of characters who controlled or were attracted to the company because of its monopoly over anthracite coal.
In Volume 2, the author picks up the story of the Reading as it entered the twentieth century under the attack from the newly born American labor movement as well as a hostile Federal government which led to a historic confrontation between the president of the company and the President of the United States. A running battle with its arch-rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and sweeping technological and social changes in the country, prompted a new Reading management, under the prodding of J. Pierpont Morgan, to fundamentally restructure its operations. After a long court battle, the government forced the dissolution of the company’s Coal & Iron subsidiary.
No longer a national leader in creating new motive power technology, the Reading won the attention of the industry by its conservative equipment policies, especially the rebuilding of older locomotives into remarkably efficient modern power. Financially, the Reading remained solvent through the depression of the 1930s, even electrifying most of its extensive Philadelphia commuter lines. As in the First War, the Reading played a vital strategic role in supporting the World War II effort.
But, even as tonnage and passenger miles rose from that crisis, the handwriting was on the wall and, like the rest of the railroad industry in the northeast, the post-war Reading was facing a battle for its very survival. The political machinations, misjudgments and ironies which attended that grueling struggle and the eventual collapse and restructuring of railroading throughout the region are related, in many aspects, for the first time.
As in Volume 1, the author – the product of four generations of Reading railroaders – dwells on the human side of the Reading story, illuminating the ups and downs of the historic railroad through the experiences of the men who ran it, from the company board room as well as in the engine cabs and interlocking towers.
In addition to seven chronological chapters, there are separate chapters dealing with the Coal & Iron Co., the Reading Shops, the New Jersey Central RR and the major facilities on the Reading. The 452 pages of text are supplemented with 483 photos, 26 in color, plus 31 maps, charts, and other graphics.”
~ From the dust jacket of The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire Volume II: The Twentieth Century by James Holton.