The Shay Locomotive: An Illustrated History Book Review

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The Shay locomotive was a geared steam locomotive widely used in North America, built to the patents of Ephraim Shay, who is credited with popularizing the concept of the geared steam locomotive. Early Shay locomotives differed from later ones, but there is a clear line of development that runs through all Shays. Shays were particularly suited to forestry, mining and industrial operations and could operate successfully on steep or poor quality tracks. Mention of Shays conjures up visions of geared locomotives on steep, winding rails winding through swamps and woods, or servicing mining camps in the mountains.

In this comprehensive 640-page book, readers will find just about everything they ever wanted to know about these distinctive engines, which revolutionized the logging and mining industries. Chapters include Lima Legacy, Basics of the Shay, Mishaps, Dealer Sales and Marketing, Shay Copies, Shay Survivors in the 21st Century, a Shay Gallery of Photos, Lima Shop Numbers, Owners/Operators list, Geographical list and technical data such as like Shay patents, and statistical and technical data. The book is filled with color, but mostly large black and white photos, drawings and sketches. There are page after page of beautiful photos – many that I have never seen before – and informative captions. As an example, there is a nice side shot of William Ritter Lumber Co. 19 with a tall cone-shaped chimney on page 227 under the section titled “Old Time Shays”, and a color shot of Pickering Lumber Corp . 6 (formerly Hetch Hetchy Railroad 6) in color on display at the El Portal Transportation Museum.

Along with detailed historical aspects of the Shay locomotive and the many photos of different Shays produced over the years, the owners and operators list of Shays is a boon to their enthusiasts, with over 10,000 entries in this list. There’s even a section on Shays that have been saved; of the 2,768 Shay locomotives produced, just over 100 survive today, some are on static display and others are operational, representing 4% of the initial number of engines produced.

For the Shay locomotive fan, or someone who wants to learn more about these unique locomotives, this is a superb and comprehensive book, well worth having in your library.

White River Productions, PO Box 48, Bucklin, MO 64631. Price: $99.95. Written by Richard A. Henderson, John C. Benson, George R. Kadelak and Steve Hauff.

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