Volume III – No. 2 – June 2006
Executive Committee member and rail historian Jeff Schramm is set to take over the book review editorship of the Journal of Transport History. The Newsletter caught up with him recently to find out about his interests.
1. How did you become interested in railroad history?
My father worked for the railroad when I was young so I was exposed to it and the unique railroad culture from a very tender age. I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in a Chicago, Illinois suburb with the Illinois Central main line literally in my backyard. It seems only natural that something would rub off on me. I was also always interested in history, particularly the history of technology and its social influences and impacts. The two coalesced in college. As I studied history I was constantly struck by the influence of the railroad.
2. Are there any new developments in the field that particularly interest you? If so, which ones and why?
I’m particularly interested in how railroad history in particular and transport history in general have broadened to include almost all aspects of history. The “classic” railroad history was very internally focused on business and economic matters but the “new” railroad history has begun to explore issues of class, race, gender, environment, politics, culture and more. Railroad history is also just beginning to break out of its nationalistic chains into trans-national analysis. Railroads are a perfect vehicle for this comparative history. Transportation in general is such a huge part of people’s lives but hasn’t really gotten the attention it deserves from the historical community.
3. You’ve been quite involved in the development of T2M. Where do you see the organization going in relationship to railroad history?
T2M is a wonderful organization because it brings together scholars with different areas f expertise and of many different modes from many different countries. Yet, we are all connected by the same passion for transport history. To really understand railroads in the United States since 1930 you have to understand road policy and aviation policy as well. Likewise, the experience of American railroads with dieselization can shed light on what the British, French, and Germans did and vice versa. T2M brings us all together. The whole is very much more than the sum of its parts.
4. Taking over the book review editorship for the Journal of Transport History is an exciting prospect. Anything that you are particularly looking forward to? And anything you are not?!!
I’m looking forward to seeing all the books and keeping abreast of all the latest developments in the field. I’m also looking forward to meeting new colleagues by conversing with expert reviewers all over the globe. As a reviewer I’ve been a bit late with some of my reviews from time to time and I’m not looking forward to dealing with people like me!
5. How do you see the review section developing over the next few years?
I want to make sure that we continue to showcase the latest and best books in transport history, including travel and tourism history, but I’d like to begin to branch out to do museum reviews, web site and other media reviews, and some longer review essays. I also think it is important to try to include books from many different countries to keep and enhance the international flavor of T2M and the evolving transport history community.