Books - Books - Books

Discussion related to Baldwin Locomotive Works, Lima Locomotive Works, Lima-Hamilton Corporation, and Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton.

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Books - Books - Books

Postby hankadam » Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:10 pm

For years we have talked about John F. Kirkland's trilogy = DAWN OF THE DIESEL AGE; #2 re Lima-Hamilton; and # 3 re BALDWIN. eBay has been scarce, or not at all, but I just found a rare book dealer (who deals with other independent and Canadian sellers) and found several of these rare copies, at "reasonable" prices. This is not an ad, but a point of information: check out: alibris. All the best, Hank Rentschler
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Postby Allen Hazen » Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:59 pm

Good that Kirkland's books are in some sense available!

For those who don't know, John S. Kirkland was an engineer who worked in the diesel locomotive business for most of his career, which coincided with the "zeroeth" and first and second generations of American dieselization: one of his first jobs after graduation was as a test engineer for the New York Central's Putnam Division diesel prototypes at the end of the 1920s; I assume Hankadam got to know him later when he worked for Baldwin. His for books are, if affordably priced, well worth having if you're a diesel locomotive enthusiast:
"Dawn of the Diesel Age," covering American diesel locomotive development up to about 1937, with lots of background-- which very few railfans know about-- on the stationary diesel engine business, etc
"The Diesel Builders":
--vol. I, on Lima-Hamilton and Fairbanks-Morse diesels
--vol II, on Alco ditto
--vol III, on Baldwin ditto: this (as might be expected given that the later phase of his career was spent working for Baldwin) is the most complete and polished of the three volumes.

I think I saw somewhere that, at the time of his death, Kirkland was working on a fourth volume of "The Diesel Builders," devoted to (*my own personal favorite!) General Electric. Hankadam, I believe you knew him. Do you know if he left any manuscripts that an editor might be able to bring into publishable form?
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Postby hankadam » Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:19 am

Great summary - - - thanks. Yes, I knew John Kirkland well, going back to when I was in the Marketing Department of BLH, (1962-1965) before I was moved out to the shops. And even in my shop job, we were always dealing with Kirkland, who bragged that there were more Baldwin locomotives in the "eleven Western States" (his territory) in the '60's, than when BLH was actually manufacturing diesels. And he was right! Anytime one of his customers was adding motive power, and they did often, Kirkland would scurry around and pick up, always at a good price, a similar, or identical loco from the East. His customers loved it since it greatly simplified their maintenance situation. (and of course generated Renewal Parts!). When BLH was closed, and John was retired, we (Baldwin-Hamilton Company) asked him to come and work for us. We set up a small office in South San Francisco (with a public stenographer) and John went in every day; he knew the customers so well that he could keep in touch by telephone or by mail, making the lengthy sales tour about twice a year. (It would take him 2/3 weeks just to cover major customers, given the geography of the eleven States). As our business declined, we needed to cut our expenses, so John started to work out of his home, eliminating office rent and his salary, with the understanding that we would pay for his travel expenses and much-needed tours, once or twice a year. It was a wonderful relationship! Yes, at that time he was working on other books (EMD, etc.) but I don't know where his notes might be, or if he was far enough along for anyone to pick up the pieces. After his wife, Dorothy died, John went downhill and became very "forgetful." Later his eyesight failed and with other physical problems his daughter, Ruth K. Chesarek, had to move him into a nursing home. While he was able he followed our business (Baldwin-Hamilton) carefully along with limited correspondence with Al Hoefer and Matt Gray , but as he aged that became impossible. Yes, John Kirkland was a very unusual person with meticulous research into all his books (and often added personal insight). A stern, but gracious, District Manager, expert in his dealings with customers, and a great friend. I arranged to have much of his personal correspondence, particularly with Al Hoefer, donated to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, after meeting with Hoefer's widow. End of story.
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Postby mxdata » Sat Mar 24, 2007 3:43 pm


I had heard that John Kirkland was one of the very few people from the locomotive building industry who occasionally did history and technical talks at events held by railroad historical groups.

Are you aware either of any transcripts or recordings of such appearances that have been preserved?

Thanks - MXDATA
"We Repair No Locomotive Before Its Time"
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Postby hankadam » Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:00 pm

I wish I did, but all his personal papers were given to the RR Museum of California. And I've lost touch with his daughter. We lost a great historian when he passed away because John K. actually and directly experienced almost all of the Diesel Age from the '30's when it really got started until his final retirement. I had a great tour of the GE facilities, Erie, PA a few years back and John K. could not believe what GE is doing, by satellite towards the diagnosis and maintenance of their most-modern locos. Take care, Hank R.
Henry A. Rentschler
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Postby rfederle » Fri Aug 31, 2007 9:21 pm

Not to butt in but there are a couple other dealers of old books that I have found very useful and they are Barnes and Noble Used and Out of Print Books (searchable). Just click the Used and Out of Print tab at the top of the main page on their site.

Another is called Bookmine. They have a great deal of books on several topics includeing a very large selection of rail books.

Robert Federle

Re: Books - Books - Books

Postby herbert » Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:14 am

I have a copy of Kirkland's vol 3 in excellent cond from my late father's famous colection. I'd be willing to sell for a fair price (no dealers). I also have some other BLW pubs and pics left, but most have been sold or donated to institutions. Note- I use a library cmptr so resonses are often delayed, em address should be listed.

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