Thursday, November 10, 2011

A cover for the e-'Zephyr'

By George, I think I've got it: a suitable cover for the e-book edition of my 1994 book Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America. I'm aiming for early spring 2012 publication, for there's a lot to do.

I found the photograph of Amtrak's latter-day California Zephyr on a keen web site called, where photographers of all skill levels post their favorite shots. This one of a westbound Zephyr in Colorado's majestic Glenwood Canyon is by Scott McClarrinon, who kindly assented to its use for my purposes.

The font used for the title and byline is aptly called Zephyr Gothic, and it is based on the actual font the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy/Denver & Rio Grande Western/Western Pacific railroads used for the train and car name boards on their original stainless-steel Vista-Domed streamliner California Zephyr in 1949. I found the font on another rail-themed site,

Coming up with a cover design for a nonfiction e-book is decidedly easier than for a mystery novel. Nonfiction lends itself to the use of photograph illustration much more easily than fiction. The designer doesn't have to struggle so much to be creative. (It helps to have a chum who's adept with Photoshop, and Tina Davidson helped me with a vexing problem. She'll also be doing the route maps for the e-book.)

Now that the original book and its photographs (plus some new shots from my archives and others from have been scanned into my computer, the next task is to track down all those Amtrak crew members I wrote about 20 years ago and re-interview them for a new Epilogue. I've found some, but quite a few are elusive, for there have been deaths and retirements and changes of career.

Onward, as they say.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Bear with me.

Having finished the scanning of Zephyr, I had some off time today, and decided to spend part of it fooling around with the templates of Google Blogger, which underlies this blog.

Unfortunately I couldn't find my way back to the original blog design, so am stuck with this one for the nonce. It's not bad -- not bad at all -- but I'm not absolutely sure the new nameplate is right for the layout. Might tinker with it a bit more.

That's a male common merganser, by the way. We see them every day in front of our cabin on Lake Superior.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

This one's for the foamers

A "foamer" is railroadese for the intense train buff who drools and bubbles at the lips when discussing his favorite subject. Foamers who get in the way of professional railroaders are called "ferns," short for "fucking rail nuts." They are also sometimes known as "flims," for "fans living with Mother."

Not that I am anything more than your ordinary garden-variety train lover, he said loftily, dabbing his mouth with a hanky.

My latest dispatch as an official TrainWeb Field Reporter, made during the recent train travel photography and writing workshop co-taught with Carl Morrison at La Plata, Missouri, is here.

Think of it (if at all) as a lesson in using photographs to provide the narrative of a travel story.