UNION PACIFIC AND ITS PREDECESSORS is a new book from KALMBACH MEDIA CO. This is a 208-pages of in-depth exploration of the Union Pacific and how it came to become the second-largest U.S. railroad.


Union Pacific and Its Predecessors is a new title about this iconic railroad from Kalmbach Media Co.   This 8.25" X 10.75" 208-page softcover is authored by Brian Solomon, and is catalogued as Item #01319 with Kalmbach, and with ISBN9781627009263.

Union Pacific (UP) is not only an industry powerhouse, it is a publicity giant, too.  It's legend is burnished by running some of the largest locomotives used operationally, and polished by its steam program which uses restored steam locomotives to haul revenue trains and goodwill trips.  To the disbelief and ecstasy of supplicating railfans, a legendary "Big Boy" steam locomotive was restored to operation and participated in the 150th anniversary completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.  UP also became somewhat of a public pariah at times due to scandals during its construction, and the antics of some Rail Barons of the nineteenth century.   Jay Gould - "I don’t build railroads: I buy them.” - was one.  But as the decades rolled on, UP became linked with America's westward expansion, and the focus of the 1939 film Union Pacific.  In 2011, the television series Hell On Wheels aired as a dramatic - er, soap opera-esque - telling of the story, historical warts and all.

Kalmbach writes of this book;

The Union Pacific, formed in 1862, was part of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad and has been operating continually under that name for more than 160 years. Over the years the railroad has merged or acquired many other major railroads, which makes it the second-largest railroad in the U.S. today.

Union Pacific and Its Predecessors takes a look at the railroad as it is now and how it came to be, with a look at predecessor railroads and historical routes, equipment, and other features.

This book on the very popular Union Pacific railroad features:

  • An examination of the building of the original Union Pacific.
  • Major railroads UP has acquired/merged, with brief histories and operational summaries and maps for each.
  • An up-to-date look at the modern UP.
  • Chapters on UP freight traffic, steam locomotive development, unique turbine-electric locomotives, and UP diesels.
  • And much more!

This history is told with detailed text and a gallery of wonderful photos.


Union Pacific and Its Predecessors is told through 208 pages:


Chapter 1 - History

Chapter 2 - Predecessor Railroads

Chapter 3 - Passenger Trains

Chapter 4 - Freight Operations

Chapter 5 - Steam Locomotives

Chapter 6 - Turbines

Chapter 7 - Diesel Locomotives


Not a complaint but some of the titles in my book are not as listed on the website (above).  This book is smartly laid out and easily read and digested.  Several insets and call-out boxes emphasize topics apart from the general narrative (i.e., Jay Gould).   Several maps enhance the reader's situational awareness.  The book opens with a fun reminiscence by the author of chasing UP's 4-8-4 hauling a freight train across the prairies, setting thee mood for why UP is such an iconic railroad.

Chapter 1, History, begins with the Pacific Railroad Act of July 2, 1862 and the need to unify the country with a railroad connecting the eastern railroads with the Pacific Ocean.  UP was chartered on October 29, 1863.  After the Civil War, construction began.  We are introduced to key players of the enterprise, including the vilified Thomas Durant, the scandalous Cre'dit Mobilier, Jay Gould, E.H. Harriman, and other rail barons.  Their impact and expansion of the UP is discussed, as is attempts to combine UP with other railroads.  The rest of this 37-page chapter explores UP history and the stories of its predecessors.  Finally, we learn how UP fared through economic booms, busts, regulatory periods, and into the deregulation era.  The development of the railroad is covered as well as changes in traffic and procedures.  While the book covers successes, one thing the book does not mention (except for mention of "a rough patch") is the system meltdown after the 1990s merger with Southern Pacific.

While the above is riveting in its own right, Predecessor Railroads is also amazing, even if you do not care about UP.  It recounts the unique histories of specific railroads from charter to entering the realm of UP.   Railroad histories can be convoluted and complex.  Several of the railroads are worthy of historical titles themselves; like a family growing through births, marriages and adoptions, most railroads eventually built or acquired complimentary or subsidiary railroads, e.g., Southern Pacific and the Cotton Belt, Chicago & North Western and the Minneapolis & St. Louis.   Each sub-chapter is enhanced with large detailed system maps of the parent railroad, some including insets of what is left of it today verses what it looked like in an earlier time.   This chapter introduces us to these railroads and their relationship to UP:

  • Chicago & North Western
  • Denver & Rio Grande Western
  • Missouri-Kansas-Texas
  • Missouri Pacific
  • Southern Pacific
  • Western Pacific.

Page 74 begins an iconic subject chronicled in several Kalmbach products, Passenger Trains.    Not only did passenger trains bring people to settle the western U.S., shrinking time and space with speeds undreamt of a generation before, a railroad's "varnish" was its rolling ambassador, often the counterpoint to a railroad's negative public perception brought on by unhappy freight shippers.  For generations the passenger train, like the luxury ocean liner, was the epitome of travel.   Streamliners became a celebration of modern comfort and industrial design.  They also boasted legendary dining experiences and some of the latest technology such as electric lights, telephones, and air conditioning.   If passenger trains were the ambassadors, passenger stations were the embassies.   UP's Overland Limited passenger train was their flagship; it and other notable passenger trains are described in the text, along with their train numbers.   Owing to their status, new technologies were hallmarks of passenger trains, i.e., General Motors Aerotrain.  The chapter explores specific locomotive types and manufacturers, car types, and streamlining.  Feats of speed and schedules are noted, as well as the design factors.  Each of the main UP passenger trains are discussed.  In and of itself, I think this is a good passenger primer.

Freight Operations is the bread and butter of railroading.   A long time ago PBS hosted a program about "The Salad Bowl Express"; I don't recall it focused on UP although UP was, and is, a very important part of bringing produce from the west coast to the eastern US.   Like the passenger chapter, I think this one is a good - if not better - subject primer.  It covers in fine detail the aspects of UP freight operations over its 150-year history.   Eighteen individual sub-chapters fill these 35 pages and each contains further topics.  A sampling of subjects covered that explains the why, what, where and how of freight operations are:

  • Directional flow of traffic
  • Changes in traffic directional flow for livestock, perishables/non-perishables and commodities
  • Shifting markets (especially post-Second World War)
  • Track routes and improvements
  • Sidings
  • Yards types (e.g., classification, traditional, hump, and intermodal)
  • Location or siting of yards by UP and other railroads (e.g., North Platte, yards in Texas, California, etc., Pacific Northwest Yards)
  • Dispatching
  • Signaling and CTC (Centralized Train Control)
  • Cab signaling and Positive Train Control
  • Technical improvements for motive power (i.e., AC power, distributed power)

Whether you are interested in history, operations, or modeling, this chapter is very informational.

Eight Decades of UP Steam is a gift to steam aficionados.  UP rostered some unique and awe-springing locomotives, e.g., 4-12-2 Union Pacific type and the 4-8-8-4 Big Boy.  They had a "family appearance", both home-grown and "common standard" plans of the Harriman era.  The book describes those locomotives and where they operated.  The author describes technical improvement such as mechanical stokers, roller bearings, needle bearing valves. 

General Electric Turbines presents those unique howling beasts, including a coal turbine.  The author explains the concept behind them, how they operated, and why they went away.  That shortest of the chapters opens up to Diesel Locomotives, those flashy yellow machines that UP is known for.  We learn about diesels for passenger operations, freight trains, road switchers, and double diesels.  Sub-chapters explore several of the most significant types like the GP38-2, GP40X, SD60 and SD60M, Dash 9, etc.; other subjects present the microprocessor units with advanced electronics, safety cabs, and 6,000-hp diesels, Gensets and locos that burn liquefied natural gas.   A call out discusses distributed power.  We learn of locomotives called "convertibles" and "upgradeables," and engines that comply with specific EPA rules.   The author discusses the heritage-scheme program, and"classic-era diesels and switchers".   Finally, we learn of locos acquired in mergers, and UP's eyes on a future fleet.

Again, a good amount of detail for modelers primarily interested in motive power.

Photographs, Art and Graphics

A strength of Kalmbach books is their photographic content. This book is full of professional high-quality full-color photographs.   Those are supported with call outs and sidebars.  With 160 years of photographic development, some show degradation but there is not a photo in the book I consider to be bad.  The photos show trains, often with detailed close-ups, railroad workers, physical plant and tracks.  All photos feature captions of varying size and thoroughness.  The images effectively support the text.  Many of the images were shot by the railroad engineering and public relations departments, some were probably taken by insurance companies, and many by people who just love trains.  The quality of the images are a benefit top modelers researching - you name it - trains, scenery, weathering.


As mentioned, maps enhance the subjects.  They are in color and several include topographical detail.

1. Union Pacific in Utah: a full page map showing UP and several other lines.

2. Union Pacific Showing Predecessor Lines: from Chicago and Superior, Wisconsin, to New Orleans, Seattle, and Los Angeles; color-coded showing 17 railroads.

3. Predecessor Railroads with color-coded railroads and key to initials:

  • Chicago & North Western: with three insets
  • Missouri-Kansas-Texas
  • Missouri Pacific System
  • Southern Pacific Lines.

4. Key Passenger Trains 1950-1970, Union Pacific and competing railroads (including future merger partners) with tables of primary trains, tracing the routes of:

  • Southern Pacific's Daylights
  • Santa Fe's Chiefs
  • Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Zephyrs
  • Rock Island's Rockets
  • Milwaukee Road's Hiawathas
  • Chicago & North Western's 400s
  • Union Pacific's City Trains
  • Missouri Pacific's Eagles.

5. UP Trains per Day: 2001: keyed to lines carrying from 70+ trains per day, to less than 6.

6. Expansion of UP's Core Powder River Basin Coal Routes


Union Pacific and Its Predecessors is an exceptional book for students and modelers of this legendary railroad.  Kalmbach has created a professional and quality product full of information backed up with exceptional images.  While not comprehensive - that would require thousands of pages - it delivers a wealth of knowledge and detail.  Several of the chapters are marvelous primers in and of themselves.

Modelers who desire an affordable resource for the UP should find this book to be valuable.  I definitely do and recommend it.

Please remember to mention to Kalmbach and retailers that you saw this product here - on RailRoad Modeling.



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