Railroad Noir: The American West at the End of the Twentieth Century

Overview

Culled from the 20 years she spent traveling the American West as a freight brakeman and conductor, Linda Grant Niemann's Railroad Noir delves into the darker side of railroading. The 1990s were a time of crisis for workers caught in the breakup of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Niemann's tales of exhaustion, alcoholism, homelessness, and corporate blundering present a revelatory account of railroading life. Photographer Joel Jensen realizes Niemann’s vision of the working West with images of cowboy bars, blue ...

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Overview

Culled from the 20 years she spent traveling the American West as a freight brakeman and conductor, Linda Grant Niemann's Railroad Noir delves into the darker side of railroading. The 1990s were a time of crisis for workers caught in the breakup of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Niemann's tales of exhaustion, alcoholism, homelessness, and corporate blundering present a revelatory account of railroading life. Photographer Joel Jensen realizes Niemann’s vision of the working West with images of cowboy bars, blue motels, and railroaders working in electrical storms, white-outs, and desert heat waves. The result is an honest, gritty, and striking collaboration.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

www.mrzine.monthlyreview.org
"[T]his is a real coffee table book, with beautiful photos by Joel Jensen interspersed between Linda's stories.... I'ts a book that should be read by a bigger public than the world of rail." —mrzine.monthlyreview.org, May 2010
Railfan & Railroad

"When you open this book, prepare to be challenged. Get involved in the words, linger over the photos and when you're done you'll come away with a far greater appreciation of what life on the railroad is all about." —Railfan & Railroad

Grand Prairie Union News

"There are tons of railroad books, pictorial volumes of raging locomotives and corporate histories. There are very few books like Railroad Noir. Linda not only captures working on the railroad, but simply working." —Grand Prairie Union News, Vol. 31, no. 3, July 2010

www.doryadams.com

"Railroad Noir is a complex and beautiful book—part memoir as told in a series of essays, part coffee table photography book with pictures that tell a visual narrative of their own. Long after you close this book, the stories and images will linger in your brain like an afterimage and may even haunt your dreams." —www.doryadams.com, September 2010

High Country News

"Niemann dispenses with the romanticized mythology of railroad life, and evokes the kind of beauty that only reality, warts and all, can beget." —High Country News, August 16, 2010

The Lexington Quarterly

"[Niemann] offers an important glimpse into the workaday life of railroaders in the operating crafts as the industry, especially Southern Pacific, shuddered through greatly changed and changing times during the late twentieth century. And her perspective is drawn through a feminine lens—a distinct scarcity in the literature." —The Lexington Quarterly, January 2011

NMRA Magazine

"Niemann's tales of exhaustion, alcoholism, homelessness, and corporate oversight—subjects often omitted in railroad literature—present a revelatory account of life on the rails. Photographer Joel Jensen realizes Niemann's vision of the working West with images of cowboy bars, blue motels, and railroaders working in electrical storms, white-outs and desert heat waves. The result is an honest, gritty, and striking collaboration." —NMRA Magazine, April 2011

Technology and Culture

"Scholars who seek to understand the realities of skilled industrial labor and the lived experience of workers in the world of deregulation, Title IX, union-busting, and head-spinning corporate mergers will be nothing but pleased with this book. It should simultaneously disabuse almost anyone from seeking out this line of work while leaving them yearning for its odd poetic beauty." —Technology and Culture, July 2011, Vol. 52

Doryadams.com
"Railroad Noir is a complex and beautiful book—part memoir as told in a series of essays, part coffee table photography book with pictures that tell a visual narrative of their own. Long after you close this book, the stories and images will linger in your brain like an afterimage and may even haunt your dreams." —doryadams.com, September 2010
mrzine.monthlyreview.org

"[T]his is a real coffee table book, with beautiful photos by Joel Jensen interspersed between Linda's stories.... I'ts a book that should be read by a bigger public than the world of rail." —mrzine.monthlyreview.org, May 2010

William D. Middleton

"Niemann's... writing style is excellent and it leads the reader to want to read on.... She has clearly conveyed her experiences as a railroad worker." —William D. Middleton, co-editor of The Encyclopedia of North American Railroads

Mitch Markovitz

"I've read many books on railroading and none of them have moved me in the way this book has. The photography is stunning, along the lines of Delano's work of the ’30s and ’40s." —Mitch Markovitz, veteran railroader, illustrator

From the Publisher
"There are tons of railroad books, pictorial volumes of raging locomotives and corporate histories. There are very few books like Railroad Noir. Linda not only captures working on the railroad, but simply working." —Grand Prairie Union News, Vol. 31, no. 3, July 2010
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253354464
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 5/11/2010
  • Series: Railroads Past and Present Series
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Grant Niemann teaches creative nonfiction at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. She is author of Boomer: Railroad Memoirs and Railroad Voices.

Joel Jensen is a freelance photographer whose work has been featured in various publications.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1 Boomer In A Boom Town 3

2 Breaking-In Blues 11

3 Blues For Ron 17

4 Beet Inspector 25

5 The Blue Motel 31

6 The Big Four Bar 35

7 Learning Spanish 41

8 Organized Booming 47

9 The Border 53

10 On The Road Again 57

Gallery 61

11 A Starry Night 85

12 Train To The Underworld 87

13 Back To Work 93

14 The Hospital Yard 99

15 The Hopper At Granite Rock 107

16 The Lawrence Switcher 111

17 The Lord Of The Night 117

18 Midnight Train To Georgia 127

19 The Spiritual Beauty Of The Rails 133

20 Old Head, New Hire 137

Glossary 149

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 30, 2010

    Highly Recommended

    Linda Niemann takes the reader on a sweeping journey of the demanding and exhilarating life working on the railroad. Terrific prose brings portrays fascinating real-life characters, insightful political realities and the author's deep love of the West. The strikingly evocative photographs make this not only a great read, but a book worth prominently displaying on the coffee-table.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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