Southern Methodist University

Richard C. Overton collection on railroad history:

A Guide

Collection Summary

Creator: Overton, Richard C. (Richard Cleghorn), 1907-1988
Title: Richard C. Overton collection on railroad history
Dates: 1928-1964
Abstract: Richard Cleghorn Overton was an American railroad historian and author from Montclair, New Jersey. This collection contains Richard Overton's typescript speeches and articles, collection of locomotive photographs, railroad subject files, and Great Northern blueprint locomotive drawings.
Identification: MSS 118
Quantity: 6 Boxes (2 linear feet)
Language: English
Repository: DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Sketch

Richard Cleghorn Overton was an American railroad historian and author from Montclair, New Jersey. Ten years after receiving a Master’s degree in economics from Williams College in 1929, he earned his PhD in history from Harvard University. Throughout his college career, Overton held various business and teaching positions. He began his academic career teaching business history at Northwestern University (1945-1954), and later taught at the University of Western Ontario (1961-1973) until his retirement. Overton also worked as an assistant to the President of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, and served as Director of the Central Vermont Railway.

Major works by Overton include Burlington West: A Colonization History of the Burlington Railroad (1941), Gulf to Rockies: The Heritage of the Fort Worth and Denver-Colorado and Southern Railways (1953), and Burlington Route: A History of the Burlington Lines (1965). Overton also helped found The Lexington Group, an informal education organization focused on transportation history. The organization continues to honor Overton’s scholarship with their annual Richard C. Overton Research Fellowship open to transportation researchers.


Grant, H. Roger, ed. Richard C. Overton: Railroad Historian. Lexington, Kentucky: The Lexington Group, 1998.

The Lexington Group. Accessed October 21, 2016.

Scope and Contents Note

This collection contains Richard Overton's typescript speeches and articles, locomotive photographs, railroad subject files, Great Northern blueprint locomotive drawings, and a letter written to S.R. Wood from “FRR” with photographs of the Illinois Central Railroad. Photographs of various railroads are placed at the end of the collection, and some are attributed to S.R. Wood. Five Boxes contain his 3x5 inch notecard catalog of his former personal library of books and clippings.

Overton's extensive railroad history library is cataloged, and can be found by searching the online catalog with the search string "Part of the Richard C. Overton collection."

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 3 series:
Series 1: Writings, 1928-1959
Series 2: Railroad subject files, 1946-1960
Series 3: Photographs, undated-1964


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library. It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Subjects (Persons)
Overton, Richard C. (Richard Cleghorn), 1907-1988.
Wood, Sylvan R. (Sylvan Rupert), 1895-1969.
Railroads -- History.
Locomotives -- Photographs.
Historians -- United States.
Document Types
Manuscripts for publication.

Related Material

To view a list of titles given by Richard C. Overton to DeGolyer Library, search the SMU library catalog with the exact phrase “part of the Richard C. Overton collection.”

Richard C. Overton papers, Northwestern University Archives

Lexington Group records, Northwestern University Archives

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Richard C. Overton collection on railroad history, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Gift, Richard C. Overton, 1969.

Processing Information

Clippings were removed from the collection, and books were cataloged and transferred to DeGolyer Library stacks. Since much of the clippings and books were arranged alphabetically by railroad line, the archivist placed Overton’s collection in acid free Folders, and arranged subject files alphabetically by railroad.

The collection was processed and encoded by Cynthia Franco, 2016.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Writings, 1928-1959
16 Folders

This series primarily contains typescripts of Richard C. Overton’s college papers, articles, and speeches about railroad history. The last two Folders include letters to Richard C. Overton and his 1945 datebook.
Box Folder
1 1 Congress and the Railways: 1850-1855, 1928
2 Five American Railway Builders, 1928
3 Valuation of Railroads for Combination, M.A. thesis, 1934
4 The Movement of Petroleum, with comment by Ralph Budd, 1942
5 Chicago, Burlington and Quincy memorandum, 1944
6 Railroad Records and Local History: a Talk before the American Association of State and Local History, 1944
7 Chicago Becomes the Nation’s Railway Capital of the Nation, 1944
8 Philosophy of Railroading, 1944
9 Scholars Get Access to Burlington Records, 1944 Railway Age [clipping]
10 Comment on “Theodore Roosevelt and the Legislative Process: Tariff Revision and Railroad Regulation,” 1951
11 Colorado Railway History with Special Emphasis on Colorado Springs, 1953
12 Recognizing and Implementing the Inherent Advantages of the Railways, 1953
13 Recognizing and Implementing the Inherent Advantages of the Railways, 1954
14 Speech and correspondence, 1949
15 Letters to Richard C. Overton, 1935-1959
16 American Locomotive Company 1947 datebook

Series 2: Railroad subject files, 1946-1960
6 Boxes

These files are arranged alphabetically by railroad line or type of locomotive. Photographs of Russian decapods can be found in series 3. Researchers should note that Sylvan R. Wood was a railroad historian who wrote several books on Oklahoma railroads.
Box Folder
1 17 Chicago and North Western Railway Company press kit with photographs, 1960
18 Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Relief Department job instruction manual [typescript]
19 21 Great Northern Railroad locomotive drawings
20 Letters to Sylvan R. Wood regarding Russian decapods, 1951-1959
21 Southern Railway pupil’s railroad kit, [1945?]
22 Southern Railway press releases, 1946
2-6 Catalog of Richard C. Overton personal library on 3x5 inch cards

Series 3: Photographs, undated-1964
15 Folders

This series contains mostly undated photographs of locomotives. Files are arranged alphabetically by railroad.
Box Folder
1 23 Atlantic Coast Line Railroad
24 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
25 Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
26 Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway
27 Christmas card with Erie Railroad wreck photographs
28 Fort Smith and Western Railway
29 Letter to Silvan R. Wood from “FRR” with photographs of Illinois Central Railroad, 1957
30 Kirby Lumber Company Railroad
31 Kodachrome slides of Klondike Mining Railway #1-3, with letter to S.R. wood from Harold Berry, 1964
32 Louisiana and Arkansas Railway
33 Manchester, Dorset and Granville Railroad
34 Russian decapods
35 St. Louis-San Francisco Railway
36 Union Pacific Railroad
37 Photographs of locomotive paintings by Whitney F. Hoyt