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Lagniappe Collections

Railroad Timetables

As small railways grew into systems and long distance travel became more customary, the need for a timetable to display more information soon exhausted the limitations of a single sheet of paper. To facilitate this distribution and the presentation of timetables from various companies in an organized fashion, printers settled on a standard dimension of four inches wide by nine inches tall for most timetables intended for the public. First in the form of folded large sheets and later in the form of a double folded, stapled booklet, these timetables presented the offerings of the various railways to the public. Many were highly ornate and reflected the very latest in printing technology of their era.

National Association of Timetable Collectors

The mainline timetables shown here are entirely the collection of John Hawkins. Most were procured during his personal, business, and railfan travels from the late 1940s up through the 1970s and the advent of Amtrak service. A few were secured through railroad enthusiast friends and family relations.

My father had an irresistible penchant for collecting railroad timetables. He would say it was because the price of each one was too good to pass up, but I imagine it had more to do with the convergence of several of his interests under one stapled wrapper: schedule minutia, maps, and passenger trains. The timetables shown here he collected during his travels, and they account for his ability to recall the names, routes, and even schedules of every major passenger movement in the Deep South even decades after southern roads had dropped the service of travel. Their colors and artistry: testimonies to an era now gone.

I confess to my own early interest in timetables. Often in the summers my mom would take me to Hammond, Louisiana, to catch the northbound City of New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi. The prospect of riding Amtrak all by myself was almost more than I could stand, and what seemed like hours of waiting in the dingy passenger room at the old IC Hammond depot was made more bearable by securing a few timetables of my own. By them I counted off the sleepy Mississippi towns on each run up to the Mid-America to see my grandmother. I own them still.

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