Research Library

The railway preservation and research library is comprised of many collections of railroad documents, artifacts, and railway pictures.

Research Library

The National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) Library supports the Society’s mission to promote railway preservation and educate its members and the public about rail transportation, its history, heritage and impact, with a focus on North America. 

The railway preservation and research library is comprised of many collections of railroad documents, artifacts, and railway pictures including:

  • Complete NRHS Bulletin collection
  • Newsletters from NRHS Chapters
  • Over 4,000 books
  • Over 300 maps
  • Timetables and other ephemera from 500 railroads
  • Many serial publications (e.g. Jane’s) and periodicals (e.g. Trains)
  • Photograph and negative collections featuring historic photos of trains and steam locomotives and other railway pictures
  • Film, video and audio collections

The library contents are in archival storage, in several locations in the Eastern United States and as a result the collections are available only by special arrangement. In cases of specific requests, library staff can perform limited research, or identify material for loan or reproduction. Items that are particularly rare or valuable, or limited editions, may be subject to use only in a specialist reading room under supervision. Library items may be copied in accordance with copyright law. Individuals can also request items or reproductions from the library’s collections by contacting our National Office.

How You Can Help the Library Support Rail Preservation and Education

Library staff is currently searching for a new permanent home for the collections. Serious inquiries or suggestions may be sent to our research staff at or by contacting our National Office.

Donations that enhance the collections further the cause of rail preservation and education are welcomed. Non-duplicate materials are retained if they make a reasonably substantial contribution to research in a subject area of actual or potential interest to users of the Library, such as railroad history and railway preservation.

When collections are offered for purchase they are considered on their merits and are normally acquired on the understanding that unwanted material can be de-accessioned. Occasionally the specialist nature of a collection is such that its purchase enhances the holdings significantly, but collections are not purchased unless they contain a substantial proportion of material which is not held and which the library would wish to acquire in accordance with its normal criteria.