Book Review: Rockford Area Railroads–a trip through time

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

Mike Schafer and Brian Landis have teamed up to produce a gem of a book for the series Images of Rail from Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S.C. (ISBN: 978-0-7385-8390-7)

Railroad buffs and students of local history, as well as those who are curious about developments in technology and how they affect our lives, will find this book a pleasure. Look at the many historical photos, recall the stories from your parents’ and grandparents’ time, and take a trip down memory lane.

Railroads were crucial to Rockford’s rise as a thriving manufacturing and commercial center, serving a basic need until the declining years of the 1970s. Four major railroads were prominent in Rockford’s history, all of which were Class I carriers: the Chicago & North Western; Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy; the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (the Milwaukee Road); and Illinois Central.

For nearly a century, they served the stateline area, carrying the bulk of freight and passengers arriving and departing Rockford, Loves Park and Davis Junction. Two other smaller railways, the Chicago, Milwaukee & Gary and the Rockford and Interurban, also contributed to Rockford’s past.

Rockford Area Railroads describes the economic effects of World War I and the Great Depression as railroads came and went. Soldiers quartered at Camp Grant were transported by rail. The camp was dismantled in 1921 after WWI ended, then was rebuilt in 1940 as World War II approached. The author states, “According to the U.S. War Department’s Chicago Ordnance District during that period, Rockford was considered one of the most important cities for national defense, not only because of its industrial muscle but also because of the revived Camp Grant. A constant parade of troop trains converged on the facility…”

As the back-cover synopsis states: “Author and Rockford native Mike Schafer is a transportation historian and photographer who has spent most of his life observing and documenting the North American railroad scene. Assisting in the preparation of this book is Brian Landis, a Machesney Park resident and longtime aficionado of Rockford region railroading.”

Together, these men worked on assembling hundreds of photographs, mainly from the archives of two other photographers, now deceased, for scenes recorded from 1940-1960, and some from the late Roy Peterson collection, plus a few others, some uncredited.

The book is available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888) 313-2665. Retail price is $21.99.

If you’re a railroad fan, get down to the (book) station and catch this one! All aboard!

From the Nov. 3-9, 2010 issue

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