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Edward H. Weber collection of railroad timetables

1856-2009 Majority of material found within 1930-1976
 Collection
Accession: 2573

Abstract

The major portion of a collection of railroad public and employee timetables amassed by railroad enthusiast and historian Edward H. Weber (1934-), best known for his systematic photography of railroad stations and structures. Although the oldest date from the nineteenth century, most cover the period of decline and restructuring of North American passenger service that began in the Depression and accelerated in the years after World War II.

Dates

  • 1856-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1976

Creator

Extent

3.75 Linear Feet

Physical Description

A few employee timetables were used in train service and are heavily soiled. Some public timetables have cracked on folds or have loose pages as the result of repeated use. Most are in relatively good condition.

Biographical Note

Edward H. Weber (1934-), a railroad enthusiast and historian, best known for his systematic photography of railroad stations and structures. Weber was born in West Point Pleasant, New Jersey in 1934. The family soon moved to Toms River, New Jersey, where he lived until about the age of ten. At that point, his father was transferred by AT&T to New York Ctiy, and the family moved to Chatham, New Jersey Edward Weber spent his professional life as an engineer in the steel industry. Like many small boys with developing technical interests in that period, he was drawn to watching the railroad trains that passed through his hometown from about the age of six. At Chatham, he could watch the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, which remained relatively prosperous and operated a large commuter business out of Hoboken with both steam and electric traction. Weber was also fortunate in that Madison, the next major stop up the line, was the home of Thomas T. Taber (1899-1975), a member of the first generation to develop quasi-amateur railroad history into a serious, organized hobby, and he became friends with Thomas T. Taber III (1929- ). These men and boys, largely from white-collar and professional families, were motivated to preserve evidence of those aspects of railroad operations and railroad-oriented life that they saw succumbing to rapid change and restructuring in the industry.

Weber began collecting and studying railroad timetables by about age ten, public timetables with their advertisements and colorful graphics, and the timetables issued to employees containing data on aspects of operation not seen by the general public. For a schoolboy in the pre-television age, they provided an extended geography lesson and vicarious travel experience, as well as an introductory education on the extent and structure of the North American railroad industry. Like many collectors, Weber seems to have been motivated to collect at least one timetable for each railroad, and he apparently began his collection with mailed requests to as many companies as he could think of for free samples. The foundation of the collection was apparently formed in this way between about 1946 and 1950. Many other timetables were picked up in the course of travels, and others were purchased from fellow hobbyists or solicited from friendly station agents and other employees. Timetable collecting eventually became a distinct hobby with its own association, newletters, dealers, and regional sales meetings.

Weber began photographing locomotives and trains in 1948 and acquired his own camera two years later. However, he would become widely known in the railroad enthusiast community for his extensive and systematic photo-documentation of railroad stations and other lineside structures, a process he began in his teens. He traveled to sites, first on foot, by bicycle or by train, and eventually by automobile. Weber began his work just as railroad passenger service entered a period of severe contraction under competition from other modes of transport, especially the private automobile, and when passenger stations, once the focal point of many communities, were being closed and demolished. Weber's photographs often became unique documents and have appeared in many books of railroad history and photography, and he was an early member of the Railroad Station Historical Society.

Weber's timetable collection was an important adjunct to his larger photographic projects, assisting him in identifying and traveling to specific sites and in providing what would now be called metadata for his individual photographs.

As of 2014, Edward H. Weber is living in retirement with his family in Kentucky.

Scope and Content

The Edward H. Weber collection of railroad timetables provides a representative sample of both public and employee timetables, many from companies for which Hagley holds important archival materials or annual reports. They cover most of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba and Central America and demonstrate the evolution of the form from the 1850s to the early twenty-first century. They illustrate both the high tide of railroad passenger services before 1930, their catastrophic collapse after 1945, and their post-1960 restructuring into government-subsidized operations by Amtrak on the national scale and by commuter authorities in metropolitan areas. The public timetables in particular illustrate the changes in advertising and graphics styles over the same period.

Some portions of the collection have been placed elsewhere. Important omissions include the four major U.S. transcontinentals, the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Union Pacific and Southern Pacific. Weber appears to have been particularly careful to collect from the many short line railroads around the country, which have now almost entirely disappeared, but which were of especially interest to railroad hobbyists between the 1930s and 1950s because of their reliance on obsolete equipment and operating practices. Most railroads are represented by one or two pieces, with more extensive coverage for those railroads, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, that were Weber's favorites, over which he traveled frequently, or whose lines he most explored on his photographic expeditions.

The public timetables of major railroads feature advertising panels touting their luxury trains or major tourist destinations. A 1911 Lackawanna timetable includes one of the famous Phoebe Snow advertising jingles. The timetables of roads serving farm, industrial or commuting territory and naturally more utilitarian. Timetables from the World War II years contain patriotic messages and admonitions to accept fewer and more crowded trains as a sacrifice for the war effort. In the postwar years, initial optimism gives way to ever-simpler graphics and a shrinking number of trains. The Amtrak timetables run from the first bare-bones issues of May 1, 1971, to the slick, tourist-oriented brochures of the early twenty-first century.

As their name indicates, employee timetables were meant to be carried by employees in the performance of their duties. As such, they contain more detailed schedules, including for trains not carrying revenue passengers, along with mileage tables, lists of interlocking and block stations controlling train movements, weight and speed limits, specific operating instructions, and often the names of doctors providing emergency services. Those of extraordinarily busy railroads, such as the New York Division of the Pennsylvania, are books of hundreds of pages, while those of short lines operating only one train may be simple mimeographed sheets. They are therefore most useful in understanding the specifics of a given railroad's infrastructure and operating practices.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Material

Reading Company Records (Accession 1520), Manuscripts and Archives, Hagley Museum and Library, contains examples of public and employee timetables of the Reading Railroad, the Central Railroad of New Jersey and other associated lines.

Pennsylvania Railroad Company Records (Accession 1807/1810), Manuscripts and Archives, Hagley Museum and Library, contains a much larger sample of the company's public and employee timetables.

Penn Central Transportation Company records (MG-86), Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA, includes file copies of most Pennsylvania Railroad public timetables between circa 1920 and 1961.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Strasburg, PA, has an extensive collection of public and employee timetables of railroads operating in whole or part within the state of Pennsylvania.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Separated Materials

Weber donated employee timetables of the New York Central Railroad Company and predecessors to the New York Central Historical Society; Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad employee timetables to the RF&P Historical Society; and North Carolina related items to the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Edward H. Weber collection of railroad timetables
Status:
Author:
Christopher T. Baer
Date:
2013
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Laurie Sather

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400