Primary Research


These primary resources are available from various Internet sites (mainly from Internet Archives), which allow the reader to view the book in its entirety (free of charge) online, by downloading a .pdf file, in a textual format (book readers) or in an open format.

Front cover image of Thurston's Route Book published in 1863



Online Collections

Library and Archives

Image of the Market Street Subway entrance at 23rd Street in Philadelphia

Image of the Market Street Subway entrance at 23rd Street from the roof of the passenger platform at 24th Street Station in Philadelphia, Fall of 1920. Courtesy of the PA State Archives; MG 219; Series 1-0904, Box 25, Image V5023



Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania houses one of the most significant collections of historic railroad artifacts in the world, plus priceless art work, books, photographs and corporate railroad material. The museum's books and serials database lists nearly seven thousand entries. The listings range from rare early 19th Century treatises on early railroads to contemporary magazines and corporate histories of the 20th century. The range of library holdings includes rare books, books, folios, annual reports, and periodicals. Serials are listed by title; individual issues held are given in the Holdings field; articles are not cataloged. Technical publications and materials related to or published by railroads and companies operating in Pennsylvania are especially well represented, while other materials range from general public interest to foreign railroads. Titles cover historical, political, cultural, social, economic and technological subjects relating to the railroad industry.

The Archives, Ephemera and Individual Collections, Pictorials database includes a wide array of materials, including postcards, annual passes, public and employee timetables, promotional brochures, blotters, forms, charters and diagrams, rule books, operating and mechanical manuals, menus, and tickets. Ephemera items such as these materials were created by the railroads for short-term use. This also now includes over 7,000 Baldwin Locomotive Works photo specification cards issued by the company at their Philadelphia and Eddystone plants from 1880 until about 1940. Also known as "photo pasters," the cards include a builder's photograph of finished locomotives on the front side and a summary of mechanical specifications on the reverse side. Also included are pictorial collections including film negatives, glass plate negatives, and photographs of various types (silver gelatine prints, cyanotypes, and woodburytypes). These range from rare original prints to copy photographs. Included are roster views of steam, diesel, electric locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, employees, structures, wrecks, right-of-way views and various other subjects of various North American, Foreign and Pennsylvania-based common carriers. Major emphasis is on railroads operating in Pennsylvania, equipment built here; also views of logging, mining, industrial and short line railroads. Other images represent official railroad portraits and builder's images, as well as period images captured on film by railroad historians and enthusiasts deemed of historic value. The general collection negatives total over 43,000 entries. The Broadbelt Baldwin collection totals about 18,500 images. The Budd Company collection is about 13,000 images. The Kline Collection includes 4,555 negatives.

Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania State Archives holds thousands of cubic feet of records relating to the railroad industry. These include Manuscript Groups and Record Groups devoted to particular transportation companies such as the Gettysburg Railroad, Columbia & Philadelphia Railroad, Allegheny Portage Railroad, Bear Creek Railroad, Pennsylvania Petroleum Railroad Company, the Pennsylvania Railroad and others; manufacturing companies including the Baldwin Locomotive Works, William Sellers & Co., and Pullman Standard Manufacturing Company of Butler. As well as state government agency documents relating to railroad regulation which include Records of the Public Utility Commission, Records of the Department of Commerce, and Records of the Department of Transportation.

PA State Archives Railroad Records page has links for detailed information on specific records

Other collections that might have information include:

Image of a Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company certificate
Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company Five Dollar Certificate. Courtesy of the PA State Archives, Harrisburg; MG 311, Lehigh Navigation & Coal Company History; E4310

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

The railroad valuation records of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) at U.S. National Archives and Records Administration provide information regarding railroads in the United States from their conception to the 1960s. "Most valuation records were created between 1915 and 1920 by the ICC and railroad engineers who undertook a massive project to inventory almost every aspect of the U. S. railroad system for the purpose of determining a net worth for each railroad. This value was then used to calculate passenger and freight rates."

View the listing of "Records of the Interstate Commerce Commission."

See David A. Pfeiffer's "Riding the Rails Up Paper Mountain - Researching Railroad Records in the National Archives."



Amtrak map from 1974. Courtesy of National Archives
Intercity Rail Passenger Routes (Amtrak) map from 1974. Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration ARC
Identifier 556704