UMSL historian looks back at 20 years of train trips

by | Dec 1, 2009

Never one to sit idle, Carlos Schwantes made good use of his time and the three cameras he packed with him as he traveled tens of thousands of miles by train over the last 20 years. Now the St. Louis Mercantile Library Endowed Professor of Transportation Studies at the University…


With his photography, Schwantes sought to depict the human journey as he captured everything from an ultramodern European terminal to a luxury train’s staff in action.

“I really tried to break the mold as far as train books are concerned, to look at the much bigger picture,” he said of his photos. “I think most books on trains tend to focus on locomotive. But there’s so much more to railroads than that, including the conductors at work, stations and passengers. I’m more interested in the human experience than the mechanical experience.”

In his writing, Schwantes recounted his childhood growing up in Greenfield, Ind., where he would dart out the backdoor of his boyhood home to watch with wonder as trains rumbled down the Pennsylvania Railroad’s double-track main line. He also reflects upon his exploration of Europe by train, fulfilled dream of riding the Pennsy’s Spirit of St. Louis and many trips along legendary American railways as a lecturer aboard the cruise train American Orient Express.

“Just One Restless Rider” is Schwantes’ 20th and by far most personal book

“There’s more of me in this book than any other I’ve done,” he said. “In graduate school, we’re told to keep ourselves out of our work, but I figured at 64, I’ll break the rules and not worry about such things. Besides, it was a lot of fun; it brought back all the memories of the journeys I’ve made.”

Other books by Schwantes include “Going Places: Transportation Redefines the Twentieth-Century West” and “The West the Railroad Made,” which was co-written by James Ronda and released last year in conjunction with a companion traveling exhibit.

“Just one Restless Rider: Reflections on Trains and Travel” was released on Nov. 13 by University of Missouri Press. The book is available for $34.95 at local bookstores, online retailers and

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz