Class By Itself

Expanding Dad’s Legacy

The move from steam-based locomotives to diesel-electrics revolutionized the railroad industry, most notably in freight service. Wallace W. Abbey, my father, was fascinated with dieselization, especially with the late 1930’s locomotive that Electro-Motive called its Model F. My dad was never able to finish his book on the topic. I inherited his source material and draft manuscript, and it’s been a dream of mine to pick up where he left off.

IMG_0538.jpegA Passion for Railroading

My father, known by his friends as Wally, grew up with two passions: the train and the camera. He combined them in a successful railroading career of journalism, public relations, writing, photography, and consulting. After retiring, he wrote and published The Little Jewel: Soo Line Railroad and the Locomotives that Made it Go.

Heartened by the success of his first book, he began another, Class By Itself, sharing his deep knowledge of the locomotives that drove freight dieselization. Twenty years ago, Dad had researched and written a substantial first draft of Class By Itself. He had file folders and lists of his illustrations, many his own photos. He had a publishing contract. But he couldn’t finish the book and had to bow out. Perhaps his Alzheimer’s disease began to impact him far earlier than his family knew.

“Sounding quite like a railfan, I want to declare that if there’s an all-time classic diesel-electric locomotive, it was the Santa Fe’s 100-class FT. The FTs deserve to be memorialized, even though much time has passed.”

Wallace W. Abbey, 1999


Though Dad passed away in January 2014, there’s railroading lore and perspective in Class By Itself that

many railroaders feel is timeless. Former Trains magazine editor and noted railroad writer Kevin P. Keefe is lending his vast knowledge to help me—an expert daughter but a novice railroader—complete Dad’s book.

The journey has just begun.