A newly donated 700-book collection tracing California railroads from the 19th to 21st centuries has made the Henry Madden Library at California State University, Fresno one of the nation’s key repositories of railroad historical material.

“This is a significant gift that provides us with an instant research collection on railroading in California and the West,” said David Tyckoson, the Madden Library’s director of public services of the gift from the family of J.L. “Jack” Krieger.

The Krieger collection contains virtually every book about California railroads published in the past 50 years and also a strong representation from railroads of the Western United States and Canada. Many of the books were published in very small print runs and are quite rare.

The largest library of American rail history is part of the Railroad Museum of Pennyslvania, which has thousands of volumes and other material. But the Krieger books, hundreds of magazines magazines and assorted memorabilia are important for scholars because of the special emphasis on California railroading, Tyckoson said.

Krieger, a Fresno State alumnus, traveled widely, collecting books and artifacts and filling a 1,000 square-foot building with 0-scale (1/48th actual size) model railroads. He also worked briefly for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway between high school and Fresno State College and as a train order dispatcher after retirement from a 25-year career teaching math and science in elementary and junior high schools. Krieger died in 2004.

Krieger was an expert on the Santa Fe (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) in the San Joaquin Valley, writing the definitive book on the subject, “Valley Division Vignettes” (1983). The book traces the rail line from its origins as an independent trying to secure cheaper freight rates for Valley shippers than those offered by Southern Pacific,

Krieger’s wife, Elaine, also a Fresno State graduate, and their children, Karen and John, donated the collection. “The family knew that this was a very good collection and did not want to break it up,” said Tyckoson. “They also wanted it to go somewhere people could use it.”

The collection may be seen by appointment by contacting Marcie Morrison, library development officer, by phone (559.278.4051), fax (559.278.6952) or e-mail (marcia_morrison@csufresno.edu).