In the early development of locomotives, few photographs exist prior to the 1860s. Ravages of time and the fragile nature of glass negatives eliminated many photographs and some only exist today as third generation copy negatives, devoid of most details. However, through the collection of Mr. William A. Rogers' builder photographs, we can witness the details of the original locomotives as they rolled of the production line. Historically, builder photographs are important because the photos documents the locomotive "as built" by the locomotive manufacturer. Because almost all locomotives were altered during their lifetimes with the addition of equipment or the repair of equipment with parts from other locomotives, these builder photos represent a snapshot of the original configuration of the manufacturer.
The Rogers collection illustrated in "American Locomotives" are "builder portraits." Customarily, one engine from an order was selected as the "official portrait" and was usually a side view or a partial view of the front showing the driving rods in a lowered position and no escaping stream or smoke. According to the author, almost all official portraits were taken in low light or on cloudy days. "American Locomotives" presents both old and rare locomotive builder portraits from the Rogers collection as well as later versions of locomotives that ran in the 1940s and 1950s. The author has managed to research the locomotives illustrated in the book and add a short note describing each locomotive. The one short coming of this book is that the reader is often left begging for additional information about particular locomotives, but that is what the reference section of libraries are for. Overall, the book "American Locomotives" is an outstanding addition to any train buff's collection.