Farrington Books

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This page was last updated on January 4, 2023.

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In mid 2014 a series of books was discovered that do a great job of describing railroading in the mid- and late-1940s. They were written by S. Kip Farrington, who apparently rode trains from 1923 (at age 18) through to about 1950. His writing style is very easy to read, and he packed a lot of information into each book.

Of course, my interest is that he included so much information about Union Pacific operations, notably the importance of CTC on the LA&SL, and its impact on the overall war effort (see Railroads at War). I was also interested in his writings about D&RGW.

The following comes from Eugene Huddleston's "Uncle Sam's Locomotives":

Luckily, though, S. Kip Farrington, in Railroading Coast to Coast (1976), recorded his preferences for the main wheel arrangements built in America based on his experiences in riding locomotive cabs from 1923 to 1950. A Wall Streeter inheriting his dad's position, Farrington had the time, money and "pull" to ride cabs of locomotives, both freight and passenger, over some of the most famous trackage in the United States. Farrington logged, in a personal notebook, over 200 trips.

In a section of his book titled "The Author's Favorite Locomotives," Farrington covers twenty-four common wheel arrangements.

Unraveling, for comparative purposes, all the tangled statistical data available on these locomotives would be a useful test of Farrington's judgments, but sorting out the information with accuracy and clarity would (as noted above) require a manuscript of book length. Therefore, Farrington's rankings will not be questioned. If for nothing else, the ratings serve to illustrate the continuing design proliferation that occurred after the USRA tried to curb it. We can ask, however, what Farrington took into account in his ratings. About all he says on this is that he was not influenced by the cab's comfort or lack of it.

Farrington most certainly was an intelligent observer, and he likely asked the most important questions, such as: Did the engine slip?; How easy was it for the fireman to keep up steam?; How well did it ride?: What did the men who ran it and fired it think of it?; and finally, Did it hold back in building up speed, or did it accelerate with some pep?

S. (Selwyn) Kip Farrington Jr. died on February 7, 1983 at age 78. He wrote 21 books, and served as saltwater editor of Field & Stream magazine from 1937 to 1972. Over seven decades, Mr. Farrington rode thousands of miles on trains in the United States and 39 foreign countries, wrote 10 books on railroading, and never tired of impressing his friends with his knowledge of railroad timetables. (New York Times, February 8, 1983)

The List

Here is a list of his railroading books:

1. -- Railroading from the Head End (1943)
2. -- Railroads at War (1944)
3. -- Giants of the Rails (Illustrated by Glen Thomas) (1944) (Illustrations in full color and descriptions of modern locomotives)
4. -- Railroading from the Rear End (1946)
5. -- Railroads of Today (1949)
6. -- Railroading the Modern Way (1951)
7. -- Railroading Around the World (1955)
8. -- Railroads of the Hour (1958)
9. -- The Santa Fe's Big Three: The Life Story of a Trio of the World's Greatest Locomotives (1972)
10. -- Railroading Coast to Coast: Riding the Locomotive Cabs, Steam, Electric and Diesel, 1923-1950 (1982)

His books are readily available from many used book sellers, including eBay and Amazon, in a wide variety of prices and condition.

Selected Chapters

1944, CTC on Union Pacific's LA&SL

1944, EMD Diesels

1944, Giants of the Rails (illustrated book about locomotives)

1949, EMD Diesels

1949, Union Switch & Signal (CTC)

1949, Union Pacific chapters

1951, D&RGW chapters

1951, EMD Diesels

1951, Western Pacific

1958, Union Switch & Signal (CTC)

1958, Union Pacific chapters


Railroads of the 1950s -- A photo album of 559 scanned images from the Farrington books. The album is made up almost entirely of publicity photographs furnished by the railroads, giving an excellent snapshot of American railroads in the 1940s and 1950s. All are either full page (5-1/2 x 8-1/4), or half page, and were scanned at 300 dpi.