The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society awards the 2020 George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award to the late William L. Withuhn for his work American Steam Locomotives: Design and Development, 1880-1960, published by the Indiana University Press with the financial support of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.


Withuhn’s work is a comprehensive engineering study of the steam locomotive between 1880 and the end of steam locomotives in general service.  Building upon the work of John H. White, Jr.’s seminal American Locomotives: An Engineering History, 1830-1880, Withuhn brings the study of steam locomotive technology into the mid-twentieth century, placing special emphasis on improvements in overall locomotive design in response to changing operating requirements and technological improvements to increase locomotive performance.  The book is carefully researched and supported by voluminous data collected from both public and private sources.


Mr. Withuhn, who succeeded John White as Transportation Curator at the Smithsonian Institution, dedicated most of his working life to researching and writing American Steam Locomotives, often submitting portions of the manuscript to partially fulfill the scholarship requirement on his annual performance evaluation.  Mr. Withuhn was also a licensed locomotive engineer, qualifying on the Pennsylvania railroad in 1966 and operating a number of steam locomotives throughout his career.  Throughout the pages of American Steam Locomotives, he combines his operational understanding of steam locomotives with his formidable research skills to create an informative and at times highly technical, yet accessible manuscript.


Without question, American Locomotives: An Engineering History, 1830-1880 ranks as the definitive work on the history of post-1880 steam locomotives and steam locomotive technology.  Although it is organized chronologically, it is also a valuable reference tool, featuring a detailed index, hundreds of photos and diagrams and extensive footnoting directing the reader to additional primary and secondary sources.


Mr. Withuhn died in 2017 before the book was ready for publication.  Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Withuhn’s widow Gail, and the careful editing by the late Peter A. Hansen,  Mr. Withuhn’s  magnum opus is available for us to enjoy.


This book clearly exceeds the expectations for the award of the George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award.