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(This page printed from UtahRails.net, Copyright 2000-2016 Don Strack)

Railroad Audio

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on August 31, 2015.

With a focus on the sounds of Union Pacific steam locomotives, and other operations in the West, during 2013 I had access to over 80 vinyl LPs and cassettes of railroad sounds, published by several different sources beginning in the mid 1950s, when steam locomotives were being retired. Many, many others have been released since then, up through the mid 1980s with recordings of various locomotives used on special excursion runs. These are formal releases that were available from retail outlets and by mail order.

They are all recordings of locomotives and trains in their working environment. Among the labels, Mobile Fidelity (MF- prefix) is likely the best known. There have been other labels as well, including four releases by Howard Fogg from Owl Records (ORLP- prefix) in Boulder, Colorado, and at least seven from Stan Kistler (SK- prefix) in Pasadena, California. Another active label was Arkay Records (later Arkay Enterprises) (AR- prefix) in San Jose, California.

I listened to a lot of steam sounds over a period of several months, from all eras and from several producers. My preference is the recordings from the 1950s, with engines actually working. I find these recordings far more interesting than the excursion engines whose operation is/was meant solely as crowd-pleasers. All of the crowd-pleasing whistle action kind of gets on my nerves. With an emphasis on western railroads, the best producers were Howard Fogg, Stan Kistler, Fred Ragsdale, and Ed Ripley. Now that's railroading!

Album Art

A collection of images of album covers and LP labels.

Arkay Records

Arkay Custom Records; first ad in Trains magazine in December 1971.

Changed to Arkay Enterprises by October 1973; last ad in Trains magazine in December 1978.

Title Publisher Year Format Notes
Accent on Steam Arkay AR-1052 1978 LP First released as LP in December 1978. (Trains, December 1978, page 14)
A Decade of Steam Vol 2 Arkay AR-4074 1982 Cassette  
Diesel Super Power 1960-1974 Arkay AR-1017 1974 LP First released as LP in October 1974. (Trains, October 1974, page 10)
First Generation Diesels 1939-1959 Arkay AR-1010 1972 LP First released as LP in April 1972. (Trains, April 1972, page 8)
First Generation Diesels 1939-1959 Arkay AR-4010 1978 Cassette  
First Generation Diesels Vol 2 Arkay AR-4055 1980 Cassette  
Journey to Yesterday Vol 1 Arkay AR-4008 1978 Cassette First released as LP in December 1971. (Trains, December 1971, page 14)
Journey to Yesterday Vol 2 Arkay AR- 1973   First released as LP in October 1973. (Trains, October 1973, page 4)
Over The Sierras Arkay AR- 1975 7-inch LP SP 4449; first released in October 1975. (Trains, October 1975, page 9)
Steam Tracks Arkay AR-6085   CD  

Sold to L&K Railsonics (Lee Boudreau and Hal Lewis). First ad in Trains magazine in July 1989; last ad in June 1992.

Later sold to Daylight Sales (David Houston) in the early 2000s, and before March 2003.

Howard Fogg Albums

A company known as Howard Fogg Recordings is shown in an ad in the June 1959 issue of Trains magazine as selling an LP by the name of "all STEAMED UP!". This was a precursor to the Howard Fogg recordings that were released on the Owl label later in 1959. This "all Steamed UP!" LP was reviewed in the September 1959 issue of Trains. This release on LP came very soon after the original recordings, some of which were recorded earlier in 1959.

An ad for Fogg's second LP release, "the big steam...Union Pacific" appears in an ad in the October 1961 issue of Trains, and included a second pressing of "all Steamed Up!" Later LP releases for "Power of the Past" and "The Talking Giants" came in an ad in December 1969 Trains. (I started with Union Pacific in late 1969, and a purchase of all four albums from an ad in Trains magazine followed within a few short months.)

Title Publisher Year Notes
all STEAMED UP! - Fogg Owl Records ORLP-9 (Mono) (1959) First ad in Trains, June 1959, as "Howard Fogg Recordings"
the big steam ... Union Pacific - Fogg Owl Records ORLP-12 (Mono) (1961) First ad in Trains, October 1961
Power of the Past - Fogg Owl Records ORLP-17 (Mono) (1969) Introduction dated September 1969.
The Talking Giants- Fogg Owl Records ORLP-18 (Mono) (1969) Introduction dated October 1969.
Steam Sound Stories Narrated by Howard Fogg OWL-C101   Side 1 is C & S Steam Action; Side 2 is UP Steam during their final years

Audio Fidelity "Railroad Sounds"

Posted by "Sansui Louie" to the AudioKarma.org Home Audio Stereo Discussion Forums on August 4 and 5, 2008:

Amongst my rummage sale finds were two incredibly clean and nice discs of railroad sounds.

One is titled "Railroad Sounds - Steam and Diesel", on Audio Fidelity Records, AFSD 5843. On the back, Audio Fidelity claims that it released the world's first Stereophonic High Fidelity Record (Stereodisc) in November, 1957.

Turns out that AFSD 5843 was indeed the very first stereo record available. It originally came in a 2 disc set, packaged with The Dukes of Dixieland Vol 3 and was given away free as a promotional item to anyone who would send a letter with their industry-related company letterhead on it.

Pretty funny. Obviously before the days of computers, when having company letterhead stationary was a costly gesture and not done in one or two units.

In early 1958, the two discs were available separately.

It's really an amazing piece of vinyl all around. The recording itself is exceptional and the vinyl, although it has some very minor surface scuffs, plays wonderfully and is exceptionally quiet - far quieter than the MFSL recording." ("Sansui Louie", AudioKarma forums, August 5, 2008)

Railroad Record Club

The Railroad Record Club was created and run by a Mr. William Steventon a farmer near Hawkins, Wisconsin. The Club had regular ads in Trains and other magazines for many years.

The following comes from an anonymous message on the CB&Q list:

The records I located were not 10" originals, they were 12" re-issues. The 10" records were produced in the late 1950's and were available until Mr. Steventon ceased operations (for a time) in the late '70's. He then decided to re-release his series, one at a time and if I remember correctly ran some ads to this effect in Railfan and some other publications. He had quite a series of albums including IC, DRGW, NYC, NP (including the last run of 4-8-4 2626 which was actually the famous "Four-Aces" built by Alco in 1930 to showcase the benefits of roller bearing use in steam locomotives), the last run of NKP Berk 779, Canadian Pacific, B&O and a number of traction records.

I ended up contacting him and enjoyed several very nice conversations with both him and his wife. By then they were retired from farming and living in Hawkins. I believe he passed away around 1988. I would VERY much like to know what happened to these recordings!! I feel secure that his wife would not have allowed his beloved collection to be destroyed or cast to the winds assuming she retained good health. I hope a responsible party obtained the originals and stock and has plans to make them available once more.

"Record No. 15 of the Railroad Record Club of Hawkins Wisc.", 10 inch 33 1/3 rpm Side 2 is all 5632, side one is 5144, 4966 (not 4960) and 4983.

Smithsonian Folkways Links

Six albums produced in the 1950s are now available as part of the Smithsonian Folkways series.

Mobile Fidelity Records

From a history of the later Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (source):

Brad Miller (1939-1998), began his career by recording the sounds of steam engine railroad trains as a teenager during the 1950's, releasing LP's on his own Mobile Fidelity Records.

In 1955, Brad recorded the sounds of one of a steam locomotives for the first time. He borrowed his father's Ampro monaural tape recorder along with a crystal microphone, and recorded passing steam trains from the Burbank tower, and at Surf, California where he vacationed with a telegrapher friend. A kind Los Angeles round-house foreman installed a power converter (32 volts DC to 110 AC) so that Brad could make his first cab recording aboard a Southern Pacific #4455 engine.

In the fall of 1957, Brad and a friend named Jim Connella decided to record and release a record album of Southern Pacific steam locomotive sounds. In March, 1958, Mobile Fidelity released album MF-1. They released two more monaural albums before the end of 1958. In September, 1958, Brad traveled through Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, recording locomotives while living on hamburgers and sleeping in his car. He had purchased an Ampex 601-2 tape recorder and a pair of Electro-Voice microphones, a battery and an ATR converter. The trip resulted in Highball, MF-4, Mobile Fidelity Record's first stereo album. High Fidelity Magazine praised the album.

While recording the sounds of steam locomotives, Brad had on occasion captured other outdoor sounds. This inspired Brad's idea of expanding the sound stage to give the listener a more panoramic environmental scene. Mobile Fidelity's MF-8, released in September of 1961, was entitled Steam Railroading Under Thundering Skies. As the title implies, the record featured the sounds of locomotives combined with rainstorms. The album was recognized in Billboard Magazine as their "specialty pick of the week".

One night in 1964, a San Francisco disc jockey - Ernie McDaniel of KFOG-FM - played Steam Railroading Under Thundering Skies on one turntable and some music on his other turntable, and broadcast both simultaneously. Listeners responded very favorably, as the station's phones lit up and hundreds of requests to hear the combination flooded the radio station. McDaniel relayed his actions to Brad Miller, and Miller spent three months creating One Stormy Night, the first album of the Mystic Moods Orchestra. Among many other productions with the highly successful Mystic Moods Orchestra, Brad Miller also made two solo "sound-effects" albums in the late 70's and early 80's. The Power and the Majesty and The Power and the Majesty Volume 2 which were both released on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. A history of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab would be incomplete without tribute and credence to its founding father Brad Miller.

In 1965, he founded the Mystic Moods Orchestra (a.k.a. Nature's Mystic Moods), which mixed the sounds of machines and/or the environment with orchestral music. In 1977, he founded the renowned audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. He produced music projects through the companies Mobile Fidelity Productions and Mobile Fidelity International Productions.

An outgrowth of the innovations from Mobile Fidelity Sounds Labs was the introduction of the half-speed mastered Original Master Recording (tm) LP. At least four 2-disc sets were produced under the OMR label: "4449!" and "8444!", then "614!" and "765!"

Brad Miller died September 9, 1998.

From the Gemm web site (source):

Brad Miller. Producer and recording engineer. Founded Mobile Fidelity Records in 1958 as a specialty label to release his field recordings, and Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs in 1977 to license and issue audiophile-quality pressings of existing releases. An audiophile and the creator of The Mystic Moods Orchestra, Brad was devoted to capturing sound as accurately as possible. Mobile Fidelity went out of business in 1999, just a year after Miller's own demise.

In 1977, Mobile Fidelity Records released its first Original Master Recording LP, using half-speed mastering and vinyl production that used JVC's Super Vinyl. The combination greatly enhanced the quality of music coming from a vinyl LP, and was an immediate success in the high-end collector's market.

In 1979, Mobile Fidelity Records was split into two business units due to the success of re-mastering of existing music releases, under the Original Master Recording name. The improved sound quality of music drew the attention of Herb Belkin, who purchased the music side of the business from Miller. Brad Miller retained the Mobile Fidelity Records name, but the music business was re-organized as Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Belkin retired in 1994 and sold the company to its employees. It was purchased by Music Direct in 1999 after the employee-owned company was forced into bankruptcy by events beyond its control. Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs ("MoFi") remains in business today [2013] selling high-end vinyl LPs and digital music to collectors and audiophiles. MoFi owns the "Original Master Recording" trademark.

After the split in 1979, Brad Miller continued to sell LPs, cassettes and 8-track tapes using the Mobile Fidelity Records name. Based on a mention of the company in a news item in the October 1984 issue of Trains magazine, about 4449 going to the 1984 World's fair, the company's name had been changed to Mobile Fidelity Productions of Nevada, and the business was moved to Incline Village, Nevada, along with a separate company known as Miller Nevada, Ltd. (Mobile Fidelity ran a small "Record of the Month" ad in Trains magazine from the March 1964 issue to the January 1981 issue.)

By December 1987, and continuing through 1991, Brad Miller's Mobile Fidelity Productions of Nevada (MFPN), under the label of Bainbridge Records of Van Nuys, California, produced four CDs originally recorded digitally. They used a prototype recording hardware system known as Colossus. These CDs were sold as "The Sounds of Trains" volumes 1 through 4, BCD 6270, 6271. (Information about the Colossus system.)

On these four "Sounds of Trains" CDs, in what Miller called "Special Combinations," he used creative license to combine certain scenes that were recorded at different times and perhaps different places.

After Brad Miller's death in 1998, the Mobile Fidelity catalog was in limbo until it was picked up by the CBuJ label, which was formed in 2001 by John and Calina Burns of Nashville. Mobile Fidelity CDs, but apparently not the vinyl LPs, cassettes or 8-track tapes, were distributed by CBuJ, through a sub-distribution deal made with Bayside Entertainment Distribution, the distribution side of Tower Records. When Tower Records declared bankruptcy in August 2006, and was liquidated in October 2006, its assets included all the assets and inventory of both Tower Records, and its Bayside Entertainment distribution subsidiary, including the stock owned by CBuJ, which apparently included the few remaining Mobile Fidelity LPs, cassettes and CDs. CBuJ moved it business to Nashville, but itself declared bankruptcy in July 2009.

The ownership or copyright status of the catalog of Mobile Fidelity of Nevada, or Bainbridge Records is not known as of August 2013.

In 1978, 1981, and 1984, Mobile Fidelity Sounds Labs released six high quality LPs, and later CDs under the "Original Master Recording" label. These LPs were notable because they were recorded from original tape masters, and pressed into JVC's SuperVinyl. The packaging was also more robust to better support the vinyl discs and prevent warping.

Although not affiliated with Brad Miller's company by that time, in November 1999 Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MFSL) was forced into bankruptcy, following the bankruptcy of its major distributor, M. S. Distributing in September 1999. A large part, if not all, of MFSL's inventory was lost when all assets of M. S. Distributing were attached by the bankruptcy court. (more information)

In early 2002, the sounds of NKP 765 were released on CD by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society. The recordings had been made by the late Brad S. Miller, but he passed away before they could be released commercially. (Trains, April 2002, page 81)

Mobile Fidelity Records Discography

Number Publisher Title Year Notes
(MF-1) Mobile Fidelity Memories In Steam 1958 (Southern Pacific steam locomotives) (first ad in July 1958 Trains)
(MF-2) Mobile Fidelity Steam In Colorado 1958 (first ad in October 1958 Trains; review in November)
(MF-3) Mobile Fidelity Great Moments of Steam Railroading Vol III 1958 (first ad in October 1958 Trains; review in November)
MF-4 Mobile Fidelity Highball 1959 First stereo album
MF-5/M Mobile Fidelity Remember When? 1960  
MF-6 Mobile Fidelity Whistling Thru Dixie 1961  
MF-7 Mobile Fidelity Interurban Memories 1961 (Pacific Electric)
MF-8 Mobile Fidelity Steam Railroading Under Thundering Skies 1961 (edited to combine trains and storms)
MF-9 Mobile Fidelity Sunday Only 1962  
MF-10 Mobile Fidelity Ghost Train 1962 (first ad in November 1963 Trains) (re-released in 1972)
MF-11 Mobile Fidelity Mister D's Machine 1963 Later released by Daylight Sales, 7-3001
MF-12 Mobile Fidelity Hear That Whistle Blow 1963  
MF-13 Mobile Fidelity Twilight of Steam, Vol. 1 1963  
MF-14/2 Mobile Fidelity Steam Locomotives of Mexico 1964 "Valle del Locomotoro de Vapor"
MF-15 Mobile Fidelity Twilight of Steam, Vol. 2 1965  
MF-16 Mobile Fidelity Twilight of Steam, Vol. 3 1966  
MF-17 Mobile Fidelity Twilight of Steam, Vol. 4 1966  
MF-18 Mobile Fidelity Steam in the '60s, Vol. 1 1967 (first ad in October 1967 Trains)
MF-19 Mobile Fidelity Steam in the '60s, Vol. 2 1967 (first ad in October 1967 Trains)
SB 4502 Mobile Fidelity Green Board South, Southern Railway 1972 (first ad in December 1972 Trains)
SB 4503 Mobile Fidelity Last Train To Waterloo, Reader Railroad 1972 (first ad in December 1972 Trains)
SB 4504 Mobile Fidelity A Royal Hudson 1975 (CP on British Columbia Ry.) (Sep 1975)
SB 4505 Mobile Fidelity Steel Rails Under Thundering Skys (Skies) 1975 Soundbird on label (Sep 1975)
SB 4506 Mobile Fidelity American Freedom Train 1976 Soundbird on label; Sutton-Miller Ltd. (first ad in May 1976 Trains)
SB 4507 Mobile Fidelity Extra 4449 North "X4449N" 1976 (Oct 1976) (recorded on August 26-28, 1976) (first ad in November 1976 Trains)
MFSL 004 Mobile Fidelity The Power and the Majesty 1978 (edited to combine trains and storms)
MFSL 2-614 Mobile Fidelity 614! 1981 2 disc set (April 1981)
MFSL 2-765 Mobile Fidelity 765! 1981 2 disc set (April 1981)
MFSL 2-4449 Mobile Fidelity 4449! 1981 2 disc set
MFSL 2-8444 Mobile Fidelity 8444! 1981 2 disc set
MFCD 812/
BCD 6292
Mobile Fidelity/
Bainbridge
The Power and the Majesty Vol II 1984/
1992
(edited to combine trains and storms)
BCD 6270 Bainbridge Sounds Of Trains Volume 1 1987 Recorded 1985-1986; published November 1987; copyright registered September 1988 by Mobile Fidelity of Nevada
BCD 6271 Bainbridge Sounds Of Trains Volume 2 1987 Recorded 1985-1986; published November 1987; copyright registered September 1988 by Mobile Fidelity of Nevada
BCD 6286 Bainbridge Sounds Of Trains Volume 3 1991 Published in March 1991; copyright registered March 1991 by Miller Nevada, Ltd.
BCD 6287 Bainbridge Sounds Of Trains Volume 4 1991 Published in March 1991; copyright registered March 1991 by Miller Nevada, Ltd.
BCD 6242 Bainbridge Sunday Only/Steam Railroading Under Thundering Skies 1990/
1992
Two LPs combined on one CD; released in October 1990
BTC-6243/
BCD6243
Bainbridge Steel Rails Under Thundering Skys 1972/
1983/
1992
Cassette released in 1972; CD released in 1983 and 1992; CD later released by Daylight Sales, 7-3007
BCD 6295 Bainbridge 4449 Pinnacle! 1993 2 disc set; original CD release by Miller Nevada, 1993;
CD re-released by Daylight Sales in 2007
BCD 6297 Bainbridge Mr. D's Machine / Interurban Memories 1994 Two LPs combined on one CD; (May 1994)

Custom Steam Productions / Marc Balkin

Mark I Video web site

Mark I Video was founded in 1983 by Marc Balkin as a natural outgrowth of Custom Steam Productions, a well-established producer of railroad audio recordings. None of the Custom Steam Productions cassette tapes carry any date of release or copyright.

High Fidelity Recording Company

Steam Locomotive Rail Sounds, October 1958, R/SR-901

High Fidelity Recording Company (HiFi) -- includes Arvee and Life Recordings

HiFi/Arvee/Life Album Discographies

By David Edwards and Mike Callahan

Last update: December 31, 2007

The High Fidelity Recording Company was established in 1956 in Hollywood, California. "Hi-fi" was a popular slang term in the 1950s meaning both the quality of sound, and also the phonograph system used to play records. Referring to the system as a "hi-fi" was gradually replaced by referring to it as a "stereo" system in the 1960s, and "hi-fi" became somewhat out-of-style and sounded "old." Today, of course, even the term "stereo" when used to denote equipment sounds hopelessly out-of-date.

The president of the company was Richard Vaughn. They issued recordings on three different labels, HiFi, Arvee and Orbit, and also "the Life Series" on HiFi, which is usually mistakenly called the "Life" label due to the large logo. The HiFi Label recorded popular, jazz, gospel, sound effects and spoken word, although the albums released on HiFi were primarily jazz and popular with a heavy emphasis on organ records by George Wright and Hawaiian music by Arthur Lyman.

HiFi was into stereo fairly early, and put out several stereo singles in 1959 on both the HiFi and the Orbit labels. Stereo on all albums is designated by an S before the initial prefix, for example R-411 is monaural, SR-411 is stereo.

The HiFi labels were sold by 1965 to the Everest label (best known for Gloria Lynne's catalog and a raft of grocery-store budget albums), and today remain part of "the Everest Group." Everest continued issuing albums after they acquired HiFi, and did quite well reissuing the Arthur Lyman catalog for several decades.

The following comes from a message thread on Trainorders.com, on December 17, 2010:

There have been at least two releases of this material on LP. The easiest to find was released by an outfit called High Fidelity Recordings, Inc. (HiFiRecord). It's called "Steam Locomotive Rail Sounds" and, for no discernable reason, features Nevada Northern 40 on the front of the record jacket (no sounds of #40 are on the LP). Unfortunately, this version has a lot of artificial reverb added in the studio "to simulate HiFi stereo," and makes the engine sound like it's running inside an oil drum.

It was also used to make the soundtrack for the VHS tape and DVD being discussed, the Video Rails/Pentrex program "Santa Fe 3759 - Final Run Over Cajon Pass," which was based on J. Allen Hawkins' original (silent) film of the excursion.

The original LP release by Seymour F. Johnson Enterprises entitled "Farewell to Steam" is harder to find. The edits are a little rougher, but it features 3759 on the jacket, and has the same content as the HiFiRecord LP without the HiFi "treatment."

The following comes from a message thread on Trainorders.com, on September 16, 2012:

The "original" release by Seymour F. Johnson Enterprises, which actually featured 3759 on the record jacket, didn't have all the bogus reverb. The rights were eventually sold to High Fidelity Recordings (HiFiRecord), who remastered and "doctored" it in an effort to make it sound Hi-Fi (a lot of that sort of nonsense befell other perfectly good recordings in the late 50's).

For comparison, this is a sample of 3759 departing Pasadena, CA that someone recorded off the HiFiRecord LP, the mass-produced record that has Nevada Northern 40 on the front of the record jacket (and also the version that Amazon is selling on CD):

(Sample of the "enhanced" version; MP3)

The attached "movie" is the same sample off the original Seymour F. Johnson LP release.

(Trainorders.com discussion in September 2012, includes sample from original recording) (Subscription site)

Cook Laboratories

Emory Cook

(Wikipedia article about Cook Labs)

Produced records from 1952 to 1966; started in 1952 with the "Sounds of Our Times" series, of which Rail Dynamics was one of the first, being recorded in fall 1950.

Rail Dynamics - Cook 1070 (10-inch) and Cook 1270 (12-inch)

Fred Ragsdale

One of the more active sound recorders of steam locomotives was Fred H. Ragsdale, freelance photographer who first had photographs published in Arizona Highways, and in Trains magazine as early as 1947. During the late 1950s he was affiliated with the Free Lance Photographers Guild, Inc. During the mid 1950s to early 1960s, he and his wife Arlene were living in Boulder, Colorado. In 1956, he wrote to Trains magazine about a railfanning trip of 60 miles roundtrip that he and Howard Fogg had taken recently to watch Union Pacific 3700-class Challengers, and wondered if they would have taken a similar trip to watch a UP diesel.

He contributed recordings to the two R&LHS, Southern California Chapter LP projects (Whistles West and Steam Echoes) in 1958, as well as Howard Fogg's Union Pacific LP and Mobile Fidelity's Great Moments LP of the same period. At about the same time, he produced his own LP (plus maybe a later cassette) with the sounds of Union Pacific steam locomotives.

Stan Kistler

Stan Kistler first began offering photographic prints of Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and other western railroads as early as the August 1948 issue of Trains magazine. The earliest example of his photos being published in Trains was the April 1949 issue. He ran a small classified ad, selling negatives and prints throughout the early 1950s, and in the December 1957 issue, there was an ad for his "Farewell To Steam" LP that included on side 1, a recording of a Santa Fe 4-8-4 running between Los Angeles and Barstow on February 6, 1955. Side 2 included SP 4-8-4s and Cab Forwards running through Glendale.

His Union Pacific "Big Boy" LP was first offered in October 1958, and his later "Freight Service Only" and "Whistles In The Woods" were first offered in October 1959. In December 1959, he offered for sale a 16mm color film, "Along The Union Pacific," showing Union Pacific steam locomotives in service in 1956 on the Wasatch and Sherman Hill grades. His first article in Trains magazine was "Loggers and Lokeys" in the April 1960 issue, covering the logging operations on Washington state's Olympic peninsula. In the December 1960 issue, his article "How Much Steam is Left on the NdeM," covering the remaining steam locomotives in service south of the border. A second article about railroads in Mexico, "Mexicano!," was published in the April 1961 issue of Trains.

The LP "Night Freight" was released in late 1962, and was a sort of generic trip in the cab a steam locomotive on a freight train. Stan Kistler recently wrote that it "was recorded in October 1960 mainly from the cab of NdeM 4-8-4 No. 3040. I rode from Valle de Mexico yard to Celaya on the engine, all night. One of the meets was dubbed in and is an NdeM, ex-NKP Mike. Voices were dubbed as were some noises. The small cab was crowded. I was on the engineer's seat close behind him much of the time. I had to bring a battery, a converter and my Ampex recorder and mike. I was on the engine for about 9 hours. The crew shared their "meal" with me -  tortillas warmed on the firebox door."

Title Publisher Year Notes
Farewell To Steam Stan Kistler 1957 (ad in December 1957 Trains)
Big Boy Stan Kistler SK-101/SK-102 1958 (ad in October 1958 Trains)
Freight Service Only Stan Kistler SK-103/SK-104 1959 (ad in October 1959 Trains)
Whistles In The Woods Stan Kistler SK-105/SK-106 1959 (ad in October 1959 Trains)
Steam's Last Stand in North America Stan Kistler SK-107/SK-108 1960 Side 1 Canada; Side 2 Mexico (ad in October 1960 Trains)
Night Freight Stan Kistler SK-109 1962 (ad in October 1962 Trains)
Sounds of the Last of the Big Red Cars Stan Kistler SK-110 1962
1964
7-inch, 33-1/3rpm (reviewed in February 1962 Trains)
Sounds of Union Pacific Steam Stan Kistler SK-111 1964 7-inch, 33-1/3rpm
Sounds of Steam in Canada Stan Kistler SK-112 1964 7-inch, 33-1/3rpm
Sounds of Steam on the Iron Range Stan Kistler SK-113 1964 7-inch, 33-1/3rpm

Peter Hanford

British and European steam recordings.

(Peter Handford & Transacord Records)

Roundhouse Records

Roundhouse Records of Royal Oak, Michigan, released an LP in 1960 titled "Detroit Division, An Anthology of Grand Truck Western Steam Locomotives."

Semaphore Records

Semaphore Records released several LPs of mostly eastern railroads' steam locomotives. The company is still in business.

(Semaphore Records full discography)

Railroad Audio at UtahRails

(This information was first published in the UtahRails.net blog on October 25, 2013)

Beginning in late July, and continuing through late September, I became deeply immersed in the world of what I call "Railroad Audio." This is a loose description for the enjoyment of recordings of the sounds of railroads, but mostly the sounds of working steam locomotives during their regular careers, and later pulling special excursion trains.

Some of the earliest recordings were released as the early 1950s, and of course were monaural recordings. The market started growing and there were several advertisements and product reviews in railfan and audiophile magazines. The making of sound recordings in the field, using large battery-powered reel-to-reel tape recorders became the subject of new processes and techniques, and of people sharing them within the small community. More reliable power, usually from large car batteries, and better microphones became the preferred method. By the mid 1950s, several long-playing, vinyl recordings were offered for sale. Known as LPs, these recordings were produced at the standard 33-1/3 RPM speed.

In 1957, what is now known as the very first vinyl LP produced in full stereo, was a recording of Illinois Central trains near New Orleans. This was Audio Fidelity's LP no. AFSD 5843, and was first distributed as a free demonstration LP, then later re-released at least twice due to its popularity.

At the same time, America's railroads were bringing their use of steam locomotives in regular service to an end. The impending end of the use of steam locomotives was a tremendous motivator for most of the recordists to capture the sounds of steam locomotives, then selling LPs to those who also wanted to hear a steam locomotive before they were all gone.

Although not a major part of my interest in trains and railroads, at various times over the past 30-35 years I purchased about 10 LPs and cassettes of not just steam locomotives, but also diesel locomotives. These included the four Howard Fogg LPs in 1970, and some of the Arkay Recording LPs and cassettes in the mid 1980s.

In May 2012, at a gathering in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I met a fellow Union Pacific fan from Colorado who shared a similar interest in railroad audio. We had earlier, in mid 2001, corresponded on a different subject, at which time I mentioned that I had digitized some of my own collection and created audio CDs from these LPs and cassettes. He had already gathered several LPs and cassettes, and sent them to me to convert to digital CDs. It was a fun project and I learned a lot. In 2012, after buying additional recordings on eBay, he asked if maybe I could convert some additional recordings in his collection to make more CDs for his own personal use. I agreed, and in May 2013, he sent these recordings to me.

I got caught up in the excitement and purchased a few low-priced LPs on eBay. Within about two months, between the two of us, we (mostly him) gathered together a total of over 80 LPs, cassettes and CDs. The subjects varied from steam locomotives working in the mid and late 1950s, all the way to modern diesel locomotives. But most were steam locomotives, with about half of the number being recordings of special excursion runs.

The result was a set of digital files, created as uncompressed files that were used to create audio CDs for his own personal use. About half of them are sounds that I like to listen to, and I took the time to produce MP3 files for playing on my iPod and on my computer. Of course, I also created a web page, to gather what I have learned.

More Information

Tech Talk - Audio -- Information about how I capture and convert audio.

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