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Digital Railroad Materials, Part 1


The New York Public Library offers a tremendous amount of material in e-format. We have been purchasing e-books for years including e-text, e-audio, e-music, and e-video.  E-books include both fiction and non-fiction. Among the latter is Christian Wolmar's The Great Railroad Revolution.

Incidentally, among e-music that we offer there is a recording of The Railway/Le chemin de fer, a programmatic étude for piano performed by Laurent Martin and Bernard Ringeissen. It was composed by Charles-Valentin Alkan in 1844 and is often referred to as the first musical representation of a railway.

We have online exhibitions, digital projects, and Digital Collections with some 800,000 images and videos digitized from our vast collections (yes, also pictures of railroads, trains, and, sadly, also of railroad disasters).

NYPL Labs has created imaginative tools, apps and experiences around library content and services, often engaging the public directly in the work of improving, organizing or remixing library data. See for example this 3D image from our stereograph collection: Frankenstein Trestle and Train, P. & O.R.R., Crawford Notch, N.H. [ca. 1872].

We also offer access to more than 700 databases (some accessible from home with your library card) and thousands of periodicals in e-format (many also available from home with your library card).  Among the databases available at SIBL is Compendex Historical Archive (1884-1969) in which one can find bibliographic citations and abstracts of 10,513 articles dealing with locomotives, 3,280 about railroad cars, 2,390 about electric locomotives, and 2,374 about railroads. As Charles Barkley once put it: "Anything less would be uncivilized."

With the NYPL as its founding partner, The Digital Public Library of America was launched in 2013.  The idea has been discussed in a number of our blogs. The goal is to have a catalog record and a link to all resources that have been digitized in America no matter where the actual scans reside. Included here is 6,965 NYPL e-objects  that deal with railroads.

From: The Official Guide of the Railways and Steam Navigation Lines of the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Cuba, July 1869

The NYPL has also partnered with Google to digitize our historical holdings that are out of copyright. For Amrican imprints these include materials published before 1923, if their copyright was not renewed. We have had almost 300,000 volumes scanned. Individual bibliographic records in our catalog link to scan volumes which reside on the Hathi Trust website (a partnership of academic and research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world). In 2013 materials scanned from the New York Public Library's collection that reside on Hathi Trust website received 5.6 million page views!

We also link via records in our catalog to nearly 200,000 more volumes which reside on Hathi Trust but were not scanned from our collection. We do have either print or microfilm copies of these out-of-copyright volumes but make scanned copies available to our readers for their convenience. One example of such title is Transport world, also issued as Tramway and Railway World or simply Railway world.

Railroads on Parade - Coronation Scot. New York Worlds Fair (1939-1940)



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