Northern Illinois University Press


Brownie the Boomer

The Life of Charles P. Brown, an American Railroader

Edited by H. Roger Grant

"A fine portrait of working conditions in the early years of the century.... A colorful bit of Americana."
Publishers Weekly

"A firsthand account of the life of an itinerant blue-collar working man of 90 years ago.... A document of unique significance."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A fireman on a coal burning engine stands a pretty slim chance of getting out in case of a wreck or a head-on collision, for the most of the time he is standing down on the deck behind the boiler head where he can't see out ahead, and besides he is so busy shoveling coal into the fire box especially on a fast run, that he has not got time to think about anything else, for his business is to keep the old mill hot so that the engineer can make the time." —from Brownie the Boomer

Charles P. Brown—"a boomer railroad man"—offers in this exceptional autobiography an unusually vivid portrayal of everyday life as a trainman for some of the country's greatest rail lines.

An itinerant railroad worker, or "boomer," Brown hopscotched across America between 1900 and 1913 seeking employment wherever opportunities arose. His wanderlust led him into a variety of jobs—including fireman, brakeman, switchman—for such railroads as the Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Wabash, and New York Central until he was disabled at age thirty-four in a railroad accident. In this sometimes tragic, frequently funny, behind-the-scenes account of railroading, Brownie reveals the reality of working conditions for the railroad laborer at the turn of the century as he relates his many adventures and misadventures.

(1991) 279 pp., 20 illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-146-9
cloth $26.50

Table of Contents

Introduction by H. Roger Grant
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Appendix
Notes
Index

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-146-9
cloth $26.50