Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: Color Guides to Freight and Passenger Equipment, Morning Sun Books

Morning Sun is a publisher of high-quality, color railroad photography books. I first came across them when I got back into the O gauge hobby in the mid-1990s. They were pricey even then. I bought one on the Lackawanna railroad and a couple for the Erie Lackawanna. The quality of materials and photography and printing were first-rate.

Back in the 1990s, there were not many railroad pictorial resources on the Internet. Pictures from the Net opened at excruciating slow speeds. For the railroad fan, books were the way to go. Several publishers served the hobby. Railroad Avenue Enterprises produced mainly black-and-white photo books of Northeastern railroads. Carsten’s and Quadrant offered both black-and-white and color books. Morning Sun published hardcover books with excellent color photography. Other publishers added to the field.

 One series of Morning Sun books is its Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment. Each guide is devoted to a specific railroad or railroads. Each has color photographs of passenger cars, freight rolling stock, cabooses, non-revenue and maintenance-of-way cars. The color pictures cover cars in use in the 20th century. Some of the cars still running in the 1960s and 1970s had been built decades earlier. (The books I have cover railroads which were absorbed into Conrail in 1976, hence no 21st Century rolling stock.)

The Color Guides I have cover the Erie-Lackawanna (1960 - 1976), New York Central (up to 1968), Lackawanna and Erie (up to 1960), and Jersey Central and Lehigh Valley (up to 1976). The pictures are clear and crisp. They cover most, if not all, types of rolling stock and the various paint schemes used when these cars were photographed. They are a handy reference for the railfan and model railroader. I am impressed how the publisher tried to get as many variations of paint schemes and rolling stock as possible. Considering that the books were published years after the actual railroads disappeared, it is a noteworthy achievement.

The New York Central Color Guide is my most recent acquisition. It was published in 1994. The book covers the common variety of New York Central rolling stock prior to the Penn Central Merger. Most of it is post-1940. Some of the cabooses that were still in use were built in the late 1800s. They are included. This is a good, basic book of the Central’s rolling stock. I understand that other volumes had been added. (For my purposes, this one is enough.)

I have been told that some of the Color Guides may be missing a few elements, such as the steel-sided Reading streamliner cars. Be that as it may, the Color Guides are still an excellent resource. Be aware that like all of Morning Sun’s books, they are expensive. Current book prices for all of Morning Sun’s inventory ranges from $44 to $59. They average about 100 to 135 pages


For my kind of railroad interests, the color guides of my favorite roads are a useful asset.  They contain enough information and imagery to satisfy my interests. Scale modelers might use them to supplement the more detailed car books with blueprints. O / O27 operators like myself will find the color guides more than adequate, at least for those who are interested in the prototypes as well as the models.


Morning Sun aims mainly at the aficionado of railroad photography. Its books each contain hundreds of color images, each devoted to a specific railroad or theme. They average about 128 - 130 pages. Of course, these books cover railroads in operation since color photography was available. A railfan interested in roads from the 1940s to the present can usually find his favorites. Some roads get more coverage than others. For instance, there is a LOT of material on the Erie-Lackawanna. One series on that railroad is up to at least Volume 9. Books like these are for the serious rail photography buff.

Here is a link to Morning Sun