Auto-Train: Book Signing

Auto-train book cover

Bell, Book and Candle, Ashland, VAThe book Auto-Train by Ashlander Doug Riddell has just been published (224 pages with over 400 color and black and white illustrations).

Doug will be hosting a book signing on Train Day, November 5th 2016 at the Bell, Book and Candle book store (106 1/2 South Railroad Avenue, Ashland, VA 23005). Stop by and pick up your signed copy.

Ordering information is provided by the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad Historical Society.

The following information about the book has been provided by Doug.

Auto-Train, by Doug Riddell, is underwritten by the RF&P RR Historical Society, published by Outer Station Projects, 2016.

While it is a history of the original private auto ferry service between the Washington suburbs and central Florida inaugurated by attorney Eugene Garfield, the story is told largely in the words of, and through the eyes of it’s youthful workforce that at one time numbered over 700 employees. The rise and decline of its stock was meteoric, beginning in 1971 until the under-under capitalized railroad crashed into bankruptcy ten years later following a series of costly derailments and an unwise attempt to expand operations to the Midwest. The avant-garde train, decorated in red white and purple, traded traditional blue uniforms worn by elder railroaders, for yellow red and purple maxi and mini skirts and tunic donned by smiling youthful crews who looked as though they’d answered a Hollywood casting call. Travelers were feted to lobster and beef Wellington accompanied by complimentary wine and deserts.

In the end Garfield attempted to save his company by seeking financing from a seamy Las Vegas hotel/casino cartel, and was very nearly the unwitting victim of con artists purportedly fronting for a Swiss bank. After near two years absence, Amtrak acquired the rights and with its vast resources resurrected the service in 1983 and has since operated it as its flagship train.

Shirts Blanton Autotrain book
Shirts Blanton

The Town of Ashland was placed in the national spotlight by Parade Magazine, on its December 24, 1972 cover, featured the Auto-Train, stopped at the home of Lewis “Shirts” Blanton, who befriended passengers and crews of passing trains at the front door of his home from his wheelchair. Crews halted the train briefly to give him gifts and sing carols.




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