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Book Review: Baltimore & Ohio Facilities in Color Vol. 3
#1
This summer I purchased Baltimore & Ohio Facilities in Color Volume 3, Western
Region
by Bob Withers (Morning Sun Books, 2010). As an Ohio railfan I can't help
but love the B&O. Therefore I was very excited to see Morning Sun produce a
series of books covering the railroad's infrastructure in the bye-gone era.
Well, I was excited anyway.

I'll start with what's good. Simply put, there are some great photos in this
volume. From the Chessie era at Chillicothe, Ohio (pgs. 6-7) to the expanse of
the Cambridge, Ohio yard scene (pgs. 40-41) to Toledo's Central Union Terminal
(pgs. 82-82) there are some great images in this book. The best coverage is of
the Toledo area, fourteen pages in all covering B&O's Rossford Yard and the New
York Central-owned Central Union Terminal. Yes, history is alive and well in
these pages.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the book quickly waned once I looked beyond the
local rail scene. Other photos chosen for this book leave me scratching my head
in confusion. A large portion of the Cincinnati coverage is of equipment found
at Cincinnati Union Terminal, not of the station and yard facilities promised in
the title (pgs. 15-25). This continues with the gross over representation of
North Vernon, Indiana with twenty-six pages in total (pgs. 90-115), most are
gratuitous steam photos, not photos of the railroad facilities as promised in
the title. This kind of photo selection just reeks of
"we-need-to-fill-more-pages" writing and editing.

Some of the locations represented are only done so with blurred photos taken
from passing trains at speed. The worst example of this is a train order station
in Dayton which is just a blur as Withers rode by on #54. (Why it's relevant to
include the train number in a book that's supposedly about facilities is a
mystery to me.)

The disappointment continues with the photo captions. The train order office at
Erie Junction in Lima, Ohio is shown (p. 65), along with a passing Erie
Lackawanna train (with Southern Pacific power), but no mention of the location
or the crossing railroad is made. Readers familiar with Lima will know right
where it's at, but people who purchased the book to learn more about the
railroad will still be left wondering what is shown in the image. A few pages
later the the station at Ottawa, Ohio is shown (p. 67) and mention is made of
the structure's corner bay window. What is not mentioned, however, is the reason
for the bay window, the station is the former crossing of the long-abandoned
Findlay, Fort Wayne & Western and was at one time a joint facility. A
well-researched volume by a qualified author would have included such
information. Unfortunately, readers of this book are left guessing.

Disappointment by omission is also part of this book. One photo of Dayton, Ohio
is included, shot from the vestibule of a train approaching the station.
Regrettably, all that is seen is the train stretching around a retaining wall as
it approaches the station. In Indiana the the station at Washington is shown and
the caption mentions division offices and car shops are present in town, but
photographic evidence is not included.

So what we're left with is a photographic record of author Withers' travels with
a few photos from the Morning Sun collection thrown in to fill pages. This book
would have benefited most from a new title. "Trackside on the Baltimore & Ohio
with Bob Withers and Some Other Guys" would have been much more appropriate than
what the publisher chose. After this purchase I will not buy another Morning Sun
book without first thoroughly reviewing it. I'm afraid the price of admission
was not worth a few shots of Toledo and a bunch of wasted pages.
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