Guidelines for contributors
The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society is the oldest railroad history group in North America and is among the oldest anywhere that’s devoted to the history of technology. A group of New England railroad historians founded it in 1921.
Railroad History is our 128-page flagship journal, published twice a year, in May and November. It began as a 32-page pamphlet in 6×9-inch size titled, simply, The Bulletin. It was edited for 50 years by R&LHS founder Charles E. Fisher. Over time, both the name and format changed; the page size is now 8-1/4 x 10-1/2 inches.
Our readers include railroad-industry professionals (both union and management, both retired and active), academic historians, librarians, and historians and railfans with specialized interests in particular railroads, particular time periods, or particular facets of railroading.
The 16-page Quarterly Newsletter is devoted primarily to R&LHS internal news and columns, but when space permits, we highlight current-day notable examples of historic preservation, and occasionally run historical features.
As a nonprofit, we don’t pay cash for submissions to Railroad History or QNL, but do provide copies of the issue in which an author’s work appears. We’re happy to work with academics seeking publication to satisfy department requirements.
Manuscript format and length
We accept manuscripts in Microsoft Word format, or as plain text pasted into an email. We do not accept Pdf submissions and off-brand word-processing programs, as they create production issues. Hard-copy paper submissions are accepted but not encouraged, because OCR scanning is an imperfect art at best, often producing transcription errors that take time and attention to correct.
For short pieces appearing in front-of-the-book departments like ”Short Takes” or “Print and Image,” footnote documentation is encouraged but optional. These articles run from a couple of hundred words to 2,000 or 3,000 words.
Letters to the editor are published in the “Discussion” column. They should be limited to 300-500 words.
For major features, footnote documentation is required – we use the endnote format, placing all references at the end of the article.
Our major features range from 4,000 to 8,000 words in length. We occasionally publish longer pieces, up to 15,000 words, but because of space limitations these may be subject to delay in publication. Very long pieces may lend themselves to serialization in two or three installments. One of our most popular features was the three-part “Inside EMD,” written by a former employee of the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. It ran in RRH issues 218 through 220 in 2018-2019. Still, the best approach is to keep to the 4,000- to 8,000-word range.
We cover just about any aspect of railroad history. The name of the organization, Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, suggests a focus on locomotives, and we retain some of that emphasis, but not to the extent of the R&LHS’s first 50-75 years. The reason is that from 1921 to the coming of the digital age, printed niche publications were the only source for detailed data. Much of that information is now widely available, both in specialized books and on the internet. Locomotive rosters to illustrate a feature are welcome, but are no longer a staple.
A review of article topics over the last 20 years shows that we touch on issues in these categories: technical, historical, political, financial, personal/personnel, social, labor, design, and graphic arts/photography. We try to balance operational pieces vs. historical narratives, steam vs. diesel, passenger vs. freight, and 19th century vs. 20th century. We attempt to strike a regional balance in story selection. We occasionally run pieces on Canada, and very little on overseas railroading.
Time period stretches from the dawn of railroading in the 1820s to a rolling period that closes 25 years before the date of publication.
Articles offered for publication must be the original work of the author, and not submitted to multiple publications simultaneously. We’re happy to accept adaptations of academic work or book-chapter manuscripts. Unattributed sources are strongly discouraged. First-person diary/reminiscence pieces are welcome.
Our writing tone is shirtsleeve editorial, popularly styled so that it’s reader-friendly. We aim for a 12th-grade reading level, avoiding the extremes of both academic stuffiness and simplistic writing that insults the reader.
Our approach is academic in general form, but not in rigorous detail. In other words, we circulate manuscripts to experts among our members, seeking comment and advice, but there is no formal “peer-review” process with reviewers voting on submissions.
Images and image format
It’s important that authors either supply or suggest illustrations to accompany an article. They must be either high-resolution scans or original prints or transparencies. With our limited staff, we can help track down supporting visuals, but prefer that the author supply most or all of them, or suggest known sources. Besides an author’s own collection, these would include archives and libraries that collaborate with nonprofit historical publications, or photographers who are glad to share their work.
We don’t accept embedded graphics in Word manuscripts or in the text of emails. All photos, diagrams, maps, and charts must be submitted separately as high-resolution files, either as an email attachment or via file transfer protocol site such as WeTransfer (our preferred method) or DropBox. We do accept mailed materials, which we’ll scan and return.
Technical specs for digital illustrations are as follows: For 8×10 prints, they should be scanned at a minimum of 300 dpi and measure at least 6 to 8 MB. Smaller originals are best scanned at 600 dpi, and slides need to be scanned at 4000 dpi for best results. For images that will run full-page size or on the cover, larger file size and/or higher resolution is necessary. IMPORTANT: For technical reasons, 72 dpi scans, including many that are generated by cell phones, or downloaded from internet sites, are discouraged as they rarely are suitable for the print medium.
Authors must ensure that they have secured all necessary permissions for the publication of third-party materials prior to submitting manuscript packages to R&LHS.
The best approach is to send a query note of a half-page to a page, proposing an article idea, outlining its scope and estimated length, and suggesting any illustrations that can be used to support it. R&LHS assumes no responsibility for the return of unsolicited manuscripts.
When published, an article is copyrighted in the name of R&LHS, but the author retains original copyright and the right to adapt or reuse it elsewhere. Five years after publication, Railroad History is archived in the JSTOR.com digital service, where it is available to anyone with a subscription or access to a member library.
Questions, or ready to submit? Contact editor Dan Cupper, 717-756-3116, 4741 Spring Creek Road, Harrisburg, PA 17111-3604, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book Division reviews
Railroad History reviews 20 to 30 titles in each issue, limited to books published in the last three years. Writers offering to review books, or authors seeking to have their books reviewed, should contact Book Review Editor Rich Roberts, email@example.com, 20 Charlston Drive, Annville, PA 17003 or 717-903-0015.