Price: $ 60.00 Quantity:

Steam Days in Dunsmuir

Featuring Dick Murdock's Smoke in the Canyon

by Robert J. Church


Stm Days jacket

This book features fascinating personal stories by Southern Pacific railroaders who worked out of Dunsmuir, California in the heyday of big-time steam railroading. The unique mountain railroad town, established in 1886, was the headquarters for Southern Pacific's Shasta Division and a helper point where locomotives were added to assist trains in the climb out of the canyon of the Sacramento River.

Three sections of the book contain stories written by railroaders that reveal just how it was to work in engine and train crew service. The first is a complete reprint of SP engineer Dick Murdock's 1986 book, Smoke in the Canyon, that recalls his years of working on the SP and living in Dunsmuir. The second is by Don Olsen, who worked two years out of Dunsmuir before steam operations ended. The third, "Incident at Morley," written by conductor Bill Reid, a brakeman at the time, explains train operating and track occupancy rules and recounts a tragic accident that was a result of rules not strictly followed. Shasta Division history and sections written from interviews of Dunsmuir crewmen by Bob Church complete the book.

The stories are illustrated with historic photos, most never before published, to depict the town, the railroad, the trains and locations on the Shasta Division. Thoroughly researched captions give the reader informative insight about the railroaders and people of Dunsmuir and Siskiyou County up to the mid-1950s when SP dieselization was complete.

Author Bob Church has collected interviews from several people and unpublished historic photos from numerous sources to illustrate the work. Comprising 264 pages, the book contains over 415 photos, along with maps and graphics, and has both a bibliography and an index.

The book will be especially appreciated by SP fans, but those who like mountain railroading will also find much to like. Steam railroading enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates living history of a bygone era are certain to enjoy this book.


"Having lived and worked in Dunsmuir for 34 years, I found the book Steam Days in Dunsmuir by Robert J. Church most refreshing. Not only is there a wealth of previously unpublished photographs of this old Southern Pacific division point town included within its covers, but they are augmented with the personal stories and adventures of the railroad men that worked here, many of whom I knew. Highly recommended."

--John R. Signor, author and retired SP conductor

Also available: the Table of Contents.


Particulars: Steam Days in Dunsmuir by Robert J. Church
List Price: $60     Size: 264 pages, 8.5" x 11"; 418 photos; appendices, bibliography, index
ISBN: 978-1-930013-30-8     Publication date: May 2, 2011
Distribution: Western Star Distributors, Lompoc, CA; or direct from publisher.