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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A memorable trip into the past three hundred years, November 8, 2013
By 
J. Chambers (Georgia, United States) – See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Railroads Of King of Prussia, PA: The Past Leads To The Future (Paperback)
I was a railroad kid in the 1940s and 1950s. My dad worked all his life for the Georgia Railroad, and our family traveled for free on passenger trains all over the Southeastern US. By the end of the 1950s, rail passenger services were dying out as highways and commercial air travel became the favored travel modes for Americans. But to this day, I’ve remained a bit of a railroad buff, so when author Michael Shaw asked if I would review his book, I was glad to accept.

It’s a marvelous book, telling the story of the rise of King of Prussia and the major role that the railroads played in the city’s development. In the 1830s and 1840s, the recently invented steam locomotive led to an explosion of railroad services in King of Prussia and elsewhere in the eastern part of the country. The railroads were invaluable for transporting the town’s mining products (limestone and iron ore) to where they were needed. Passenger services soon followed, and the town grew rapidly into a regional center of industry and commerce.

The book is a treasure trove of information not only for railroad buffs, but for anyone interested in the history of King of Prussia and, in a broader sense, the United States, since the railroads had a huge impact everywhere they were built. I spent hours perusing the book’s old maps, railroad timetables, newspaper clippings, correspondence, historic photographs showing the railroads in their heyday, and modern photographs showing some of the old abandoned roadbeds, sidings, and overpasses. It’s not just a cut-and-dried history, either. There are plenty of personal stories and anecdotes that add a human touch to the history.

Kudos to Michael Shaw for such a fascinating and memorable look into the past.

A review copy of the book was provided by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Loco Motive Not Needed to Read and Enjoy, November 5, 2013
By 
Spudman (Pasadena, MD United States) – See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Railroads Of King of Prussia, PA: The Past Leads To The Future (Paperback)
In the Baltimore Sun there was an article about a maglev train connecting Baltimore and Washington that could make possible a 15 minute trip between the cities. The cost would be about ten billion dollars. Is such a train in King of Prussia’s future? It’s unlikely, but Michael Shaw considers the possibilities of renewed conventional passenger service through Upper Marion Township and thinks such a viable outcome would revitalize the region.

These musings are at the conclusion of his amazing back to the future book, a dedicated work of love detailing the history of the railroad in the township King of Prussia. This detail rich book is not just about railroads, but traces the history of commerce, development, canals, and industry in the region. I learned that the majority of PA railroads were built between 1860-1890 and that the Reading Railroad is not just a space on the monopoly board.

The train aficionado will enjoy the numerous photographs uncovered by the author, the railroad paraphernalia, the maps, schedules, tickets, and letters. It’s a book even one with a casual railroading interest found fascinating. Someone who lives in the area and has a more serious interest in railroad history might be spellbound by this incredible piece of work – a book for those who sneeze with an achoo-choo.

Note – On the bottom of each page encircling the page number is a piece of locomotive lore that I learned is a called a cow catcher.
it’s a nice touch.
Note2- Serious readers might want to keep a magnifying glass handy to read the smallish print on some of the train schedules and other documents.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An American Community and its Railroads, November 3, 2013
By 
Robin Friedman (Washington, D.C. United States) – See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Railroads Of King of Prussia, PA: The Past Leads To The Future (Paperback)
The study of history includes not only learning about large scale national or international events of the past. Good historical work often is local in character. An example of a local history is this new book, "The Railroads of King of Prussia, PA: the Past Leads to the Future" (2013) by a local historian, Michael S. Shaw. Published by the King of Prussia Historical Society, the book commemorates the Tricentennial of Upper Merion Township, founded in 1713. The book also celebrates the 175th anniversary of the first railroad entering the township in 1838. Shaw became interested in railroading history when he found some hidden, abandoned tracks in King of Prussia. He became curious and wanted to explore their history with this book as the result. The author kindly sent me a copy of this book to read and review.

It is important to pinpoint King of Prussia and Upper Merion for readers who may be unfamiliar. Upper Merion is a township in Montgomery County, Pensylvania about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. King of Prussia is a census-designated community in Upper Merion Township. It is unincorporated and has no formal borders or governmental structure but has been expanding its reach with industry and people. The community is best known for its famous old inn, the King of Prussia Inn, which has been moved from its original location but which still stands as a National Historic Lanmark. As Shaw explains, King of Prussia was a rural, sparsely populated area for most of its history. Beginning in the early 1950s, the area experienced expansion and rapid growth with the building of expressways and the coming of industrialization. In 1965, the largest mall in the United States, the King of Prussia Mall, opened in the community. Today the community is a heavily populated, prosperous suburb of Philadelphia. As do many suburban communities, it has a large traffic problem.

Shaw discusses the history of King of Prussia through its railroads which reached the community by 1838. He relates the railroad history to the earlier transportation history of the region, involving the building of canals, to its changing economic character, and to its people. Railroads are a relatively small presence in today’s King of Prussia. The book shows how they rails once predominated in the area and were instrumental in its development.

Much of the book tells the story of two large former major railroads that served the area, the Reading Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad, and competed for its development. Both roads ultimately went bankrupt with their properties assumed by other carriers. As Shaw tells it, King of Prussia became active in its capacity as a carrier for coal from further north in Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. It developed a large freight yard, the Abrams Yard, which is still in use. Railroads also carried the limestone and iron mined in areas adjacent to King of Prussia. Many subsidiary lines developed over the years to service industrial growth at various points. Railroad traffic peaked in the late 1920s and then went into gradual decline with the development of the highway system.

Shaw is particularly interested in passenger railroading. He shows that King of Prussia offered active passenger service up to about 1900 which continued in reduced form through the 1920s. Phiadelphia was the hub, but service also took place between small local communities. With the increased density of King of Prussia and the attendant traffic congestion, Shaw argues that passenger rail service should be restored to King of Prussia. Steps leading towards this goal are apparently under way.

Shaw has done an able job in finding information and in telling a story which otherwise might be lost. The book includes many old maps, photographs, timetables, railroad guides, engines, stations, bridges, and other memorabilia documenting his story of railroading. It also includes color photographs, many taken by the author, documenting the continued presence of the rails. With persistence, Shaw took photgraphs of old abandoned lines in the area, sometimes covered over with vegetation and hard to see, and followed his story.

Shaw recounts a valuable story about a small American community and its railroads which has since burgeoned into a large suburb. The book is a fitting gift to a community celebrating its 300th anniversary and reflecting on its past and its future. The book will have strongest appeal to a regional audience and will also be of interest to railfans.

Robin Friedman
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, November 15, 2013
By 
John B. Goode "JBG" (Earth) – See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Railroads Of King of Prussia, PA: The Past Leads To The Future (Paperback)
This is a book on the history of the King of Prussia’s railroads.

The book is very well written and put together. The writing is easy to read and follow. The chapters follow each other logically starting with a history, then the development, then the various railway companies and charters up to contemporary times.

It is very well researched and references are listed at the end of every chapter. It is also profusely illustrated with photographs, prints, correspondence, blueprints, maps, guides, timetables and anything else you can think of. I can’t imagine how much time the author must have spent planning, researching and putting this book together. It’s one of the most informative and detailed books I’ve seen in any subject.

This is a niche book in a niche subject but this son of the King of Prussia has done the city proud. I enjoyed the book not just as a railroad enthusiast but as a fan of Americana, American industry and good writing.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in trains and how railroads have evolved over time in the industrial heartland. Highly recommended. Note: I received a copy for review purposes.