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Now Available: The Military Railroad Journey Of Chicago & Northwestern Locomotive Engineer Frank Pelletier 1942 to 1945 and Beyond

It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is finally over. 

Don Pelletier's inaugural work, The Military Railroad Journey Of Chicago & Northwestern Locomotive Engineer Frank Pelletier 1942 To 1945 And Beyond, the latest title from American Railroad Historian Don Pelletier. Order your copy today.

About The Military Railroad Journey of Chicago & Northwestern Locomotive Engineer Frank Pelletier 1942 To 1945 And Beyond

There aren’t many, if any, personal histories of combined railroad military training and railroad operations in wartime told by the person who lived the experiences between 1942 and 1945 on the Chicago & Northwestern, the Santa Fe and the White Pass & Yukon Railroads.


This book does just that and more via the thoughtful and witty pen and photos Frank Pelletier left us. It is a collation and presentation of his historic original diaries, letters, photos and even an original poem by a multitalented railroad engineer, held, preserved and now presented by his nephew.  


There are many stunning photos of the hazards and dangerous operating conditions during winter operations on the White Pass that have never been seen before.  Due to the uniqueness of Frank's experiences and how he artfully presents his most creative thoughts in writing, this book has proven to be exceptional reading even for those not interested in railroads.

Military Railroad Journey of Chicago & Northwestern Locomotive Engineer Frank Pelletier Book Cover
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What Readers are Saying About The Military Railroad Journey Of Chicago & Northwestern Locomotive Engineer Frank Pelletier 1942 To 1945 And Beyond

Editor, "Railfan & Railroad"

The Military Railroad Journey of Chicago & Northwestern Locomotive Engineer Frank Pelletier: 1942 to 1945 and Beyond by Donald M. Pelletier Jr.  This slim book is chock-full of interesting stories. The primary focus is on one man, Frank Pelletier-the author's uncle-and his adventures working on White Pass & Yukon during World War Two.  And while nephew Donald gives some introductory text to set the scene, the rich stories in the book come from letters and a diary Frank wrote during his military time.  White Pass & Yukon isn't the only railroad covered. The book starts the story in Clovis, N.M., on the Santa Fe.  Photos taken by Frank show various Santa Fe steam locomotives including a cool roundhouse scene from Amarillo, Texas.  Not all the photos are of trains, but all add to the story.  Some run small, but there are plenty of large photos as well. Then we get to Alaska on the WP&Y - in winter, no less. Newspaper clippings from the time set the scene, and it's off on adventures that include rotary snow-plows, train wrecks, and more, all captured by Frank's camera and described in his letters home. This section is a valuable historical document of the times. Finally, Frank is redeployed to Louisiana and then the Philippines.  His diary provides a look at life overseas. Finally, he returns to civilian life, working for the Chicago & North Western. This compact book packs a lot of neat stuff in a small package. If you are a fan of the WP&Y, this book shouldn't be missed.

STEVE BARRY "©2023 White River Productions, used with permission" 

Reviewed by: Steve Barry from New Jersey. on 5/30/2023

Phillip A. Weibler, Railroad Photographer, Retired C&NW Galena Division Engineer, West Chicago, IL

The author-son of a C&NW engineer I knew-has skillfully woven together U.S. Army documents, newspaper accounts, railroad and union papers, and letters-home-to-Mom to tell the story of his uncle's adventures as a locomotive engineer in the Army. The military took over the White Pass & Yukon line out of Skagway, Alaska, during WWII and was determined to operate it year 'round. Frank Pelletier was right in the midst of all this - snow slides, wash-outs, derailments and wrecks- and took photos to send home as proof. This is a very readable book and the photos are unique. I can recommend it without reservations. 

Donna Basik, School Principal:  

I am fascinated by your Uncle Frank and the history in this book.  My husband, Bob, was very impressed and his positive reaction spurred me to get moving.  No reading matter has held his attention this much in quite awhile....Honestly, since I wasn't really turned on by the subject matter, it surprised me that Frank's journey engaged me to the degree that it did.  You did an excellent job compiling so much information and making it worth reading, even to a non family member or unaffiliated reader.  I hope that those who read this are inspired to read the preview and check out your book.  They will not be disappointed. Congratulations on finishing  this excellent piece of work. 

Lois Seijo, Teacher: 

I loved it, and definitely will be purchasing one for my grandson... thought it was well put together.  What a treasure your family has--from your uncle's letters to your grandma and all the photos he took and kept, documenting his story.  Someone had to know he was a special person when they sent him to Alaska for that challenging goal of keeping a '6 month RR' running all year long. 

Rory Peterson, Retired, Union Pacific/Chicago & NorthWestern Galena Division engineer:

The matter of fact way he related the hellish conditions on the White Pass, and the primitive, pre-radio methods for operating with multiple crews says mountains about the grade of professionals those guys were.  I enjoyed reading about their trials-would not have wanted to live them....I got a kick out of the incident he mentioned, still current today, of naming a switch or piece of track for any rail having had an incident there.  And the names once given seem immortal and perpetual.  Your uncle brims with pride over what you created! 


John Euler, Alaska Traveler, Palatine, IL

I rode this stretch of track out of Skagway, Alaska in 2007 and was impressed with it as an engineering feat. This book covers the exciting history and effort it took to maintain and operate this railroad, especially in winter.  I recommend that Alaska bound travelers read this before heading there for a trip.

Tom Hayes, Lisle, IL

If you are a fan of the American military and American railroads, you should find this book quite interesting.  A real insight into another era!

Pat Flynn, Lena, IL

Great book!  I really enjoyed learning about the railroads during the World War II era and Mr. Pelletier's part in it.  If you like railroads and World War II history, this book is for you.

Thomas Reyman, Railroad Enthusiast, Scottsdale, Arizona

History is built on on the writings and photos of people like Frank who are aware of the importance of what they are experiencing and leave us with such treasures...I thought the side-by-side event listing in the front of the book was a stroke of genius on your part.  I referred to it often to keep things straight.

As a railroad fan and a stamp collector (including envelopes from Alaska and Yukon Territory), I could readily relate to the White Pass and Yukon photos and Frank's description of the winter events. I have read books about the bush pilots and their hardships dealing with the snow and cold (Minus 70 degrees F!!!!) in the Northwest Territories and Yukon.  The difference is that they did not need to shovel the snow or plow through it.  What an ordeal to have to deal with the snow drifts and being frozen in place.  Frank's letters sure give a sense of the hardships. 

I was glad to read that the military "brass" saw fit to commend the WP&Y crews for their efforts and service.  I I am sure that those commendations were very meaningful to the crews....Throughout, great photos. 

I read the last letter (page 90) three times because it was so full of information and emotion.  Frank certainly had a way with words and images in his writing.  I could sense the feelings of the returning soldiers who had been through the horrors of war and now wondering if they could adjust to a new life different than the one they left - uncertainty, fitting back into society, things changed at home when they were gone.  All of that was good reason to be quiet and somber on the way back.  Frank captured it all.  What a great piece of writing!  Thank you for sharing this wonderful book. 

Meet Don Pelletier

Author, American Railroad Historian & Founder of Iron Horse Image

A retired logistics executive, Donald M. Pelletier, Jr., was trained to research

and write history in college.  He is from a multi-generation railroad family, has

taught US Railroad History at the college level and has written, prepared and presented US railroad and Chicago area railroad history at various forums

including library programs and historical societies.

Don photo

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