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An American Journey By Rail

April 2024
1min read

Photographs by Dudley Witney, text by Timothy Jacobson; W. W. Norton; 200 pages.

When it comes to books about long-distance train travel, a degree of romantic yearning is a given; the question is, How well is it handled? Very well, it turns out, in this lush, new large-format volume.

The text by Timothy Jacobson, editor of the Chicago Times Magazine , and color photographs by Dudley Witney pace each other as they take turns telling the story of this country’s great trains. Each run of serviceable text traces the history of the lines, the routes, and the famously named trains, coming right up to date with the Amtrak fleet. The chapters about the trunk lines east of Chicago, the luxurious transcontinental trains, and the northsouth trains of the West Coast are each followed by portfolios filled with the thrust and dazzle of Witney’s full- and double-page color photos. He gives us, of course, today’s trains as well as views from the windows and the splendor of stations large and small. Evocative archival pictures are spotted throughout the text.

All this serves—as if that were necessary—to whet one’s appetite for train travel. This is perhaps the book’s greatest value. Armed with the solid history it imparts and guided by its clear-eyed view of the present-day realities of train travel, readers can rise from their chairs, call an 800 number, and soon be on their way to the quintessential American journey.

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