The 2019 David P. Morgan Article Award is given to Gregory P. Ames for “Mother Hubbards’ Bone of Contention: In Search of the ICC ‘Ban’ on Mother Hubbard Locomotives,” published in Railroad History No. 219, (Fall-Winter 2018).
Railroad history, like other areas of the discipline, is replete with myths, one of the most persistent of which Gregory P. Ames demolishes in this well-researched and elegantly written article. This is railroad history scholarship at its best, written by a practitioner who knows both the history and technology and has a unique ability to unpack the facts and show how misinformation has pervaded the field for too long. Ames set out to find evidence for the oft-mentioned but never documented Interstate Commerce Commission ban on the use of Camelback-type steam locomotives. The author painstakingly uses primary sources in a logical and persuasive way to destroy the myth. As he argues, there were no ICC rulings or orders banning the locomotives. Though controversial, the practice of physically separating engineer from fireman to accommodate a wide firebox was never actually banned at the national level. As Ames indicated, the persistence of the myth of a ban indicates the longevity of disputes over the safety of Mother Hubbards.