“We travel by plane, oftener than not, and yet the spirit of our country seems to have remained a country of railroads,” wrote John Cheever in his 1969 novel, Bullet Park
. With that quotation begins the introduction to America’s Great Railroad Stations
, a hurtling 235-page tour of depots grand, provincial, abandoned, restored, and repurposed—all stunningly photographed by Roger Straus III. The journey begins at the kiosk of New York’s Grand Central Terminal, below which, nearly 100 years ago, the invention of electricity first made possible a network of subterranean tracks, and above which looms the station’s vaulted Tiffany Blue ceiling, gilded with astrological symbols. From there we glide north along the Hudson River to quieter stops—such the 1914 Hyde Park Railroad Station, where Franklin Roosevelt once caught the train. In coal country, we see the terra-cotta rotunda of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Station propped up by four muscular arches and capped with an ocular skylight behind a swirling Art Nouveau grille; it’s perhaps the world’s most beautiful cabstand. And out west, at San Antonio’s Mission Revival Style Mopac Station, we see a stained-glass window that features not Christ or a rose, but the logo of the Great Northern Railroad. It’s a strange mix of the spiritual and the industrial, and a reminder of what many of these stations were: the cathedrals of capitalism. $40.00; Viking Studio, October 2011.