Book Review of Iron Women

The June 2021 issue of Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine contains a book review I wrote about Iron Women: The Ladies Who Helped Build the Railroad by Chris Enss. Ms. Enss is the current president of Western Writers of America. She has been writing about women in the Old West for more than 28 years. She has made the New York Times bestseller list three times. She is the recipient of numerous writing awards including WWA’s Spur Award and the Will Rogers Medallion Award.

For those of you who not subscribe to Roundup Magazine I reprint my book review here:

Iron Women provides a valuable addition to the history of the building of America’s railroads. Thoroughly researched and wonderfully illustrated, this book describes many unrecognized contributions by women to successes achieved across the iron horse empires. Not surprisingly, women who worked for the railroads had to overcome the traditional prejudices that plagued their struggles to prove their worth in most professions outside the home. From innovations made in telegraphy and engineering, to accomplishments in hospitality and entertainment, the efforts put forth by the featured females is that of frustration overcome by perseverance. This volume also contains interesting biographical vignettes of women who served as railroad presidents, travel journalists, artists, architects, and more. Chris Enss couples her smooth writing style with historical quotations to make an enjoyable read. I learned fascinating new things about the railroads and the women who worked on them.”

There is a minor error in the first line of the book’s Introduction which is repeated on the back cover blurb. The rails laid at Promontory Summit (not Point, as written) were iron (not steel, as written). Several years after the driving of the golden spike, the Union Pacific replaced the original iron rails with steel rails to provide necessary support for heavier locomotives. The Promontory Summit loop around the north end of the Great Salt Lake was abandoned after the turn of the twentieth century when the UP built a causeway straight across the lake. During World War I, the steel rails on the discontinued 44-mile loop were salvaged as part of a nation-wide scrap metal drive to support the war effort. Since this minor error does not detract from Chris’s excellent book, I did not mention it in the review. It is something only a railroad aficionado would notice.

Iron Women is published by TwoDot Books in paperback for $19.95 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

A subscription to Roundup Magazine may be obtained for $40 per year, payable by personal check or money order made out to Western Writers of America. The payment with your address information should be sent to: Candy Moulton, Executive Director Western Writers of America, 271 CR 219 Encampment, WY 82325.

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On Being a Republican

I am the only Republican in my family. Technically, I am currently registered as an Independent. I did that to stop being pestered by political telephone calls. I still favor the Republican Party.

In the late 1950s, while earning a bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Oklahoma, I learned that Republican policies were more favorable to the success of businesses and the economy. During my decades of working, I personally discovered that to be true.

On January 6, 2021, I watched television in amazement as President Donald Trump addressed a rally of his supporters outside the White House in Washington, D.C. He was espousing the delusional idea that he had won the recent presidential election by a landslide even though his numerous lawsuits and challenges to that effect had been refuted by the courts. I believe numerous illegal votes are cast in every election, but not to the extent he was claiming. Nevada’s voting system is particularly susceptible to large-scale abuse.

At the conclusion of Trump’s lengthy tirade, I heard him incite his supporters to march on the Capitol Building to protest Congress’s actions in certifying the electoral college votes that would make Joe Biden the next President of the United States. I continued to watch the unfolding events escalate into a full-fledged riot. The so-called protestors became a mob of domestic terrorists bent on destroying the sanctity of the great symbol of our democracy. The thugs did not accomplish what Trump had encouraged them to do. They did make fools and criminals of themselves.

Throughout his presidency, I approved of President Trump’s economic policies and his handling of foreign affairs. I disapproved of his tweets. It is an unacceptable way to communicate with the country. I particularly disliked the way he publicly abused individuals who earned his displeasure. Such actions were petty and selfish.

President Donald Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, have not only soiled the reputation of real Republicans but they have destroyed his own legacy. I voted for Trump twice, not because I particularly liked him, but because I did not trust his opponent in either of the two elections. My choice in both elections was to select the lesser of two evils. Neither primary political party in the United States has recently advanced sterling candidates for the office of President.

I want the record to show where I stand in this matter. The attack on the Capitol Building is not acceptable. The performance of Donald Trump is not presidential. Let us hope that some real leaders will emerge from the chaos that has been created by both political parties in recent years.

Posted in The Iron Horse Chronicles | 1 Comment

Model Locomotive Completed

I have completed the assembly of the model locomotive and tender that I received as a Christmas gift. As I pointed out in my last post, I had not built a model since I was a teenager back in the middle of the last century. There are eighteen separate steps in the assembly process, and it took me an hour or more for each step. In total, I completed the project in about thirty hours. The kit is manufactured in China by Rokr. The parts are cardboard-thin, fine-grained plywood. I broke a couple of the fragile laser-cut pieces in the process, but was able to glue them back together satisfactorily. The instructions are excellent, with detailed illustrations for each step.

Although the packaging claims the model is an 1860s locomotive, it is not. The 2-6-2 wheel configuration (two small leading, six large driving, and two small trailing wheels) identifies the locomotive as a “Prairie” model. Such locomotives did not appear in the United States until 1900. Eventually, more than a thousand “Prairie” locomotives ran on US rails. As I assembled the kit it became obvious  the primary design of the model was European. The addition of a diamond smokestack gives the impression it is a wood-burning locomotive. The “Prairie” had a straight stack because it was a coal-burning engine. Another addition is a cowcatcher. A cowcatcher was seldom used in Europe because they did not have to push free-ranging cattle or roaming buffalo off their tracks.

Great fun! But now I must get back to writing. The locomotive sits on my bookcase right above my computer–a fitting tribute to my trilogy The Iron Horse Chronicles.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Eagle Talons - Book One, Geography, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Model 1860s Locomotive Project

My daughter Beth gave me a wooden model 1860s locomotive kit for Christmas this year. I haven’t built a model since I was a teenager–back in the early 1950s. The instructions are divided into eighteen steps. Here I am working on step five. Some of the pieces are so tiny I have to handle them with tweezers. It takes me about an hour to complete a step. In the beginning, the pieces fell apart about as fast as I put them together. I’m getting the hang of it now. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Check back in a couple of weeks, and hopefully I can display the completed project.

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Where Were You on Nine-Eleven?

I flew to Kuwait City on September 10, 2001, and checked into the Sheraton Kuwait Hotel. Our joint venture, Combat Support Associates, had successfully completed the first of a five-year contract to maintain the Army’s tanks and weapons systems staged at Camp Doha, Kuwait. We employed a couple thousand Indian and Filipino mechanics and technicians, supervised by a few hundred Americans and Brits. The board members, of which I was the chairman, had come to Kuwait to celebrate with our employees.

Before traveling to the worksite on the morning of September 11, I met with the hotel’s catering manager to confirm our plans for a banquet to be held the next evening, September 12. We had reserved the hotel’s grand ballroom for the board of directors to present achievement awards to dozens of well-deserving managers and employees.

The government of Kuwait leased Camp Doha, a former duty-free warehouse complex, to the United States Army for use as a maintenance facility. In less than two years, an American armored division would take the tanks from Camp Doha and storm across the nearby border into Iraq to commence the Second Gulf War.

After paying a courtesy call on Camp Doha’s commander, an Army colonel, the board members toured the numerous maintenance shops. It was mid-afternoon before our meeting commenced. As a result of the late start, the meeting dragged on into the early evening. Sandwiches were brought in, and the board members and supporting staff adjourned to a break area where a television was running in the background. International businessmen relied on CNN while traveling to stay informed about world-wide developments. While we enjoyed our catered meal, we turned the volume up on CNN’s news coverage.

We paid little attention to the the TV until a Breaking News announcement flashed across the screen at 7:00 PM Kuwait time. We watched the replay of an airplane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers. It had occurred a few minutes earlier at 8:46 AM New York time. I reminded the other board members that a WWII bomber had crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945, and the world’s tallest building at that time was repaired and never exhibited any long-term ill effects. We agreed we had witnessed a terrible accident and expressed sorrow for those who would have died.

A few moments later, at 7:03 PM Kuwait time, we watched in horror as a second airplane crashed into the second tower. A stillness settled over the room as it became apparent we were not witnessing an accident. We did not reconvene our meeting, We concentrated on following the developing crises as a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, another plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania, and the towers collapsed in New York.

I telephoned the Sheraton Hotel and canceled our celebration banquet.

The next morning, the Kuwait Arab Times, was delivered to my hotel room. I never opened the newspaper, but wrapped it in plastic (which accounts for the photo’s wrinkled appearance). The newspaper is complete, containing all its advertising inserts.


Posted in Army, Geography, The Iron Horse Chronicles | 2 Comments

Annual South Point Book Signing in Jeopardy

My wife, Barbara, wearing a face shield, is discussing a dilemma with Benny Binion and his horse in the hallway leading to the event arena at South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. I took this picture on August 31, 2020, from the position where my book signing table usually stands during the annual National Finals Rodeo each December.

Recent articles in the Las Vegas Review Journal reveal concerns about whether the great rodeo event will be held this year because of the Corona virus pandemic. If such happens, it may create a gap in what so-far has been a five-year run of fantastic book signings for readers of my trilogy, The Iron Horse Chronicles.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Book Signing, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stirrup Award Finalist

My article “Races Within a Race: The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad” that appeared in the April 2019 issue of Roundup Magazine has been selected, by the membership of Western Writers of America, as a finalist for the Stirrup Award as one of the best articles published in the magazine in 2019.

A certificate documenting the award will be presented by Johnny D. Boggs, Editor, Roundup Magazine, during the 2020 Western Writers of America Convention in Rapid City, South Dakota, scheduled for June 17-20, 2020. Hopefully, the present problems created by the Corona virus will not disrupt this planned, annual event.

I wrote about the Roundup article in a blog posted to this website on April 10, 2019. In that blog there is a link that allows you to read the article online. Go to the sidebar of this website and select April 2019 from the drop-down list that appears under Archives.

My congratulations to Michael F. Blake, who won the Stirrup Award this year, and to David Morrell, fellow finalist.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Book Awards, Central Pacific, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Union Pacific, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

One-Eyed Jacks

Quite by chance, while surfing the television channels last evening, I caught the start of the movie One-Eyed Jacks. I had never seen this 1961 film starring and directed by Marlon Brando until last night, but I feel a personal connection with the film. The movie received mixed reviews even though it was nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography. When the movie was released, I was stationed with the Army in France. The Army and Air Force Motion Picture Service brought movies to Europe for the service men and women, but I do not recall this being one. Charles Neider was the author of the novel, The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, on which the movie script, One-Eyed Jacks, was based. Neider is named in the movie’s credits as one of the screenwriters.

I met Charlie in January 1977 when he was in Antarctica on a grant from the National Science Foundation to write a book about the frozen continent. That book, Beyond Cape Horn—Travels in the Antarctic, was published by Sierra Club Books in 1980. Charlie mentions me in the book when he describes our travels together from McMurdo Station to Palmer Station on board the USCGC Burton Island. I parted company with Charles when I departed Palmer Station onboard the RV Hero for my first journey across the Drake Passage. We never met again.

Robert Murphy onboard Burton Island. Photo by Charles Neider.

Neider was born in Russia in 1915 and died at Princeton, New Jersey, in 2001. He was a noted Mark Twain scholar as well as being the author of several books on Antarctica.

Charles Neider onboard Burton Island. Photo by Robert Murphy

RV Hero and USCGC Burton Island in Arthur Harbor, Palmer Station, Antarctica, 1977.

Posted in Geography, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Facebook Connection Problem

Facebook has not been posting my blog to my Facebook Page recently. This is a post directed specifically to Facebook.

Check out my new trade paperback versions of The Iron Horse Chronicles.

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New Kindle Versions of The Iron Horse Chronicles

Recently I had to replace the Kindle versions of all three volumes of The Iron Horse Chronicles. If you purchased a Kindle version created by Five Star Publishing, they appear to still work fine. You can access the new versions by clicking on Robert Lee Murphy at Amazon in the sidebar of this website. Here is the cover for Eagle Talons: Book One.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment