Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #6, The Phantom Brakeman and Other Railroad Stories

  • Title: The Phantom Brakeman and Other Railroad Stories
  • Author: Freeman Hubbard (1894-1981)
  • Illustrator: Jerry Robinson (1922-2011)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Ninth printing, April 1973
  • Excerpt:
    "The midnight train ground to a stop. Sparks flew from the wheels where the brake shoes clamped against them. The engineer, a big man, swung down from his cab and strode over to the station agent. He didn't like to be stopped at a small village like this.

    "'What's up?' he demanded.

    "'Honey Creek bridge is washed out!' said the agent 'That girl saved your train. She brought me the news. How she got here, I don't know.'

    "The engineer couldn't find anything to say."
  • Notes: This groovy 91-page Scholastic paperback is an abridgement of Hubbard's 1952 book titled The Train That Never Came Back, and Other Railroad Stories, which was published by Whittlesey House. ... The tales in this Scholastic version are:
    • The Phantom Brakeman
    • The Train That Never Came Back
    • The Broken Lantern
    • Casey Jones and the Cannonball Express
    • Signal-Tower Decision
    • A Depot Rescue
    According to the back cover, "each one of these incredible adventures really happened!" That's certainly true with the Casey Jones tale and "The Broken Lantern," which is excerpted above and relates the heroic story of Kate Shelley. ... Author Freeman Henry Hubbard wrote a great deal about railroad history and legends during his lifetime. He was, for many years, editor of of Railroad Magazine, and his other books included Great Trains of All Time and The Roundhouse Cat and Other Railroad Animals. Here are some additional (and unconfirmed) tidbits about Hubbard gleaned from a 2004 discussion on the Railway Preservation News message board:
    • "Hubbard also was a kind of benefactor in his own right. I remember one issue in which he took personal affront to the fact that Casey Jones grave had no marker, and personally saw that one was provided."
    • "I believe Railroad magazine, toward the end, was mostly a one-man operation, a dying magazine about what was then considered a dying industry. Freeman Hubbard was probably lucky to keep it going as long as he did."
    • "An extensive article on Hubbard by the late Tom Jacklin appeared in 'Railroad History #185' (Autumn 2001). ('RR History' is the twice-a-year journal of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.)"
    ... Meanwhile, changing gears, there is marvelous website,, devoted to the life and works of Jerry Robinson, who illustrated this Scholastic volume. His work included book illustrations, comic books, photography and much more. He was once the president and editorial director of CartoonArts International and Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate. ... Some of the other Scholastic titles that he illustrated include Hurricane Luck and True Classroom Flubs & Fluffs. You can see a selection of his other titles here. (I particularly like 1962's Let's Go Logging.) ...

    Most importantly, however, (and my daughter Sarah will love this), Jerry Robinson was a co-creator — and perhaps the primary creator — of the Joker, of Batman fame. ... Wikipedia has an in-depth look at the super-villain's creation that begins with this sentence: "Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane are credited with creating the Joker, but each man had their own version of the character's conception and their role in it." It's interesting reading and a good launching pad, I'm sure, for reading more about Batman's fascinating history. ... But while the Joker is a lasting part of our popular culture, another important historical contribution Robinson made was authoring The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art, which was first published in 1974.

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