Menu Contact/Location

Fairbanks Feature: A New Train of Thought––On the Lighter Side

James D. Van Trump Library | Frank B. Fairbanks Transportation Archive | Fairbanks Features

Showcasing a variety of materials located in the Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive

No. 14 Presentation

Fairbanks Feature: A New Train of Thought—On the Lighter Side

Most of the information in the Fairbanks Archive is in straight, printed text form. However, a small selection of material is presented in the form of questions and answers––or even poetry, song, and humor. In most cases, these presentations are not used by the serious researcher, but there is merit in perusing these forms, especially in recalling the days when railroads were one of the most important industries in our country.

The “quiz” booklets are full of information about the railroad industry at its peak. After seeing how valuable, efficient, and practical railroads were for people in their daily lives, one really wishes to bring back this wonderful era of transportation. Most of the booklets shown below were printed in the 1940s and early 1950s. Reading through the pages, nostalgia and respect for this time period comes through loud and clear.

For those who are interested in “looking back,” come to the Archive any Wednesday and enjoy the “lighter side” of our collection. Here are some of the items you’ll find.

  •  According to the Wikipedia, Gandy dancer is a slang term used for early railroad workers who laid and maintained railroad tracks in the years before the work was done by machines. The term also refers to the movements (the dance) by the workers as they used the heavy levers to keep the tracks aligned. The swinging movement was necessary as the men worked in concert at this hard, physical work. Tracks had to be constantly realigned due to the roadbed shifting.
  •  A fun (but authentic in sound) old-time train whistle.
  •  Two “serious” quiz booklets.
  •  The songs are great, but the jokes . . .
  •  These booklets will steep you in nostalgia for the recent past.

The Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive is open by appointment on Mondays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Use of the archive is free to PHLF members (one of the benefits!); non-members are assessed a $10 use fee.

The Archive is located on the fourth floor of The Landmarks Building at Station Square, in the offices of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

To schedule an appointment, email the Librarian James Halttunen:

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633