Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949

Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949

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by John W. Orr
     
 

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Set Up Running tells the story of a Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive engineer, Oscar P. Orr, who operated steam-powered freight and passenger trains throughout central Pennsylvania and south-central New York. From 1904 to 1949, Orr sat at the controls of many famous steam locomotives; moved trains loaded with coal, perishables, and other freight; and

Overview

Set Up Running tells the story of a Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive engineer, Oscar P. Orr, who operated steam-powered freight and passenger trains throughout central Pennsylvania and south-central New York. From 1904 to 1949, Orr sat at the controls of many famous steam locomotives; moved trains loaded with coal, perishables, and other freight; and encountered virtually every situation a locomotive engineer of that era could expect to see.

John W. (Jack) Orr, Oscar’s son, tells his father’s story, which begins at the Central Steam Heating Plant in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Oscar operated nearly every kind of steam locomotive the Pennsylvania Railroad owned, working from the bottom of the roster to the top position (number one in seniority). Orr has an ear for detail and a vivid memory. He tells about his father’s first encounter with an automobile along the right-of-way, about what it was like to operate a train in a blizzard, and about the difficulties railroadmen encountered in stopping a trainload of tank cars loaded with oil in order to take on water and coal—and many other stories.

This compelling railroad history will enthrall not only everyone in the railroad community but also the general reader interested in railroads and trains, past and present.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An engaging book, one likely to become a railroad classic. The major strength of Set Up Running is detail, particularly when it involves locomotives, train movements, and patterns of operation. Especially enjoyable are the depictions of Orr as a loyal Pennsylvania Railroad employee and of his overall pride of workmanship.”

—H. Roger Grant, Clemson University

“One of my earliest recollections involves the railroad, a plaintive whistle, and my mother stating that my father would soon be home. And it wasn’t long before that large man, clad in blue overalls, came through the door with his travel bag, which he promptly set on the kitchen floor so he could pick me up. There was a strange smell on his overclothes, but it was not offensive, and it was one that I later learned belonged to a steam engine. So from very early in my life I developed an avid interest in the steam engine.”

—John W. (Jack) Orr, Exerpt

Set Up Running is a book well worth reading even if you are not a railroad enthusiast. It helps to illuminate a part of the vanishing past when Williamsport was a major rail hub. The book is a major contribution to an important aspect of the social history of the area. There are plenty of references to local towns and spots to make it interesting to area readers. But, perhaps more importantly, it’s just a good story written with love and respect for a man and a time by his son.”

—Lou Hunsinger Jr., Williamsport Sun-Gazette

“Rather than a glamorized, rosy look at the days of steam, the accounts of O.P. and John reveal railroading as seen through the eyes of those who handled and lived with the railroad day after day. . . . Set Up Running is a must-read for the Pennsy fan, and a truly rare treasure for those wanting to know the lives of the men who truly kept American steam locomotives running.”

—Alexander D. Mitchell IV, Railfan and Railroad

“Through true-life experiences, the reader gets an idea what it was like to work on a railroad in general and a steam engine specifically.”

—John Beague, Harrisburg Patriot News

“[Q]uite simply one of the liveliest and most informative works of railroad history to come along in many years.”

—Michael Bezilla, Pennsylvania History

Set Up Running describes life in engine service as seldom told before. You will like it. The good and the bad, the long, long nights, broken knuckles, pulled couplers, firemen that don’t know how to fire and don’t want to learn, derailments, engines that won’t steam, washouts —it’s all here. Not only is this an unvarnished story of what engine service was really like but it is also a valuable sociological portrait of railroading seldom explored in this detail. This was a difficult book for me to lay aside. . . . You will enjoy riding with engineer O.P. Orr in this true story of running an engine in the days of steam.”

—Robert E. McMillan, Lexington Quarterly

“For students of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Orr provides an interesting perspective with his view from the cab. . . . the level of detail is incredible as Orr successfully tempers the romance with the reality of an engineman’s life.”

—Robert M. Blackson, Railroad History

“Still the book is an amazing document of a fufilling life in industrial America. It is a good read, even though there are no plot twists or shattering climaxes. One comes away with a deepened sense that the bargain between capitalist and worker was arms-length but genuine, that hard work paid and a working life was rewarding.”

—Richard Saunders, Labor History

“The cumulative effect is an extended meditation on a lost world of rugged, single-minded men—almost monkish in their devotion to their job and ‘the company,’—who once thread[ed] their engines along river banks and down grades to deliver carloads of coal and lumber and merchandise to larger towns, where the freight was reshuffled into other trains and delivered to virtually every point on the continent.”

—Mark Reutter, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

“My first impression is that this is a first rate account of ‘railroading in the raw’ during the first half of the twentieth century.”

—Bill Howes, Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, Inc. Quarterly Newsletter

Set Up Running is a must-read for the Pennsy fan, and a truly rare treasure for those wanting to know the lives of the men who truly kept American steam locomotives running.”

—Alexander D. Mitchell IV, Railroadiana

Set Up Running describes life in engine service as seldom told before. You will like it. The good and the bad, the long, long nights, broken knuckles, pulled couplers, firemen that don’t know how to fire and don’t want to learn, derailments, engines that won’t steam, washouts—it’s all here. Not only is this an unvarnished story of what engine service was really like but it is also a valuable sociological portrait of railroading seldom explored in this detail. This was a difficult book for me to lay aside. . . . You will enjoy riding with engineer O. P. Orr in this true story of running an engine in the days of steam.”

—Robert E. McMillan, Lexington Quarterly

“The cumulative effect is an extended meditation on a lost world of rugged, single-minded men—almost monkish in their devotion to their job and ‘the company’—who once threaded their engines along river banks and down grades to deliver carloads of coal and lumber and merchandise to larger towns, where the freight was reshuffled into other trains and delivered to virtually every point on the continent.”

—Mark Reutter, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Booknews
A Penn State graduate relates the story of his father, who operated steam-powered trains throughout Central Pennsylvania and South Central New York in the first half of the 20th century. Orr chronicles his first encounter with an auto along the right-of-way; operation of a train in a blizzard; and changes through the roaring 1920s, Depression, and war years. Includes several period photos and a glossary of railroad jargon. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Set Up Running: The Life Of A Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949 is the personal story of Oscar P. Orr, who operated steam-powered freight and passenger trains throughout Central Pennsylvania and South Central New York. For forty-five years, Oscar sat at the controls of many famous stem locomotives; moved trains loaded with all manner of freight from coal to perishables, and encountered virtually every situation a locomotive engineer confronting railroad transportation in the first half of the twentieth century. Biographer John Orr is Oscar's son and tells his father's life as a railroad engineer with candor and attention to detail (including his father's first encounter with an automobile along the right-of-way) that weaves anecdote with compelling railroad history. Set Up Running is a "must read" for every dedicated railroad buff!

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780271027418
Publisher:
Penn State University Press
Publication date:
09/28/2005
Series:
A Keystone Book ?
Pages:
392
Sales rank:
410,169
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.13(d)

Meet the Author

John W. Orr graduated from Penn State in 1949. Recently deceased, he resided in Ralston, Pennsylvania.

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Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most railroad books appeal to the rail enthusiast by showing lots of pictures of trains, locomotives and related material, along with accompanying descriptions and occasionally, some historical background.  This book, however, shows what daily life was like on a big railroad in the first half of the 20th century.  The author's amazingly detailed account  brings to life all those pictures you see in the other books.  The reader rides with Oscar Orr as he handles most of the different classes of steam locomotives employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad.  His opinions of them are recorded, and suddenly all those pictures in the other books take on new meaning.  The reader is in the cab of Oscar's locomotive when he first encounters an automobile and, more tragically, when his train hits one.  The reader will also learn what the daily grind for an engineer was like; what happened when things went wrong, for example, or what had to be done when snowdrifts blocked the line.  There is some technical jargon so if you aren't interested in railroads, you probably won't find this book worth your while.  However, if you're interested in railroad history and the Pennsylvania Railroad in particular, this book is pure gold.  You won't be able to put it down. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most books about railroad history are heavy on pictures and descriptions of steam locomotives and the trains they hauled. After you've seen a few of them, they all seem alike. This one is different. If you want to know what it was like to work on a railroad as an engineer, or why things were done a certain way, or what happened when they weren't done properly, and how the railroad was run on a daily basis, then this is your book. If your favorite railroad is the Pennsylvania, as mine is, then it's an absolute must-buy. Anyone interested in the heyday of railroads will find this book entertaining and full of interesting facts and observations. My only regret is that it had to end. I can't wait to read it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Students of the Pennsylvania Railroad, or any railroad for that matter, will find this book both entertaining and highly informative. The author provides a wealth of detail and an unusually keen level of observation to show the railroad in microcosm. The reader will learn what it was like to work on a large railroad in good times and bad. Vignettes of daily railroad life: how rules were bent, accidents avoided (or not), how an engineman tried to strike a balance between work and family, all lend a human and sometimes amusing touch. Those interested in the operation of steam locomotives will find an enormous amount of unusual information. A 'must-read' for any serious railroad buff.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jack Orr tells his fathers story and what a fine job he has done.You 'feel the steam' with every word of this book. A must read for every railfan and student of the great generation alike.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you liked 'Brownie the Boomer' or 'Life on a Locomotive', you will enjoy 'Set Up Running'. This book is written by the son of Oscar Orr, a Pennsylvania Railroad engineer, who worked from 1904 to 1949. It is amazing that Orr's son has collected so much detail about his father's work, including specifics about various runs and the locomotives operated by his father. The book goes into great detail telling about Orr's experiences as an engineer, and unlike some other books, actually mentions some of the times rules were stretched or broken, including a violation of Rule G (no drinking) by crew members hauling whiskey, working virtually around the clock with a crew trying to make extra money, and mistakes made by inexperienced crew members. The book gives a lot of information about train movements and operations, but also tells about the people with whom Orr worked. It describes the different classes of locomotives on which Orr worked, and the characteristics of each locomotive. An unusual book filled with a great deal of information about what it was like to be a locomotive engineer.