In 1908, Samuel Dunning was working for the Texas & Pacific Railway as the General Inspector of Locomotives.  While based in Texas, he kept a book of blotter paper in which he would press his correspondence, thereby preserving copies of his letters.

His book of letters has survived in the care of the Dunning family.  Reproduced above is a portion of the inside of the front cover.

Samuel Dunning’s business letters concern the mechanical condition of locomotives, and they illustrate the great depth of knowledge he possessed about the complicated steam locomotives of his time.  His writing style is businesslike but hardly bland, and while his grammar is not always perfect, he always expresses himself with great clarity.

At times he expresses disappointment at the condition of the locomotives he has inspected, and one senses how deeply he cares about the enormous machines in his care.  He always uses a feminine pronoun to designate a locomotive, such as in one of the letters reproduced below, in which he writes, “It is a wonder she did not derail herself long before now.”

Below are two examples of Samuel Dunning’s letters written in Texas in the summer of 1908.

From an office in El Paso, Samuel Dunning writes to the Texas & Pacific’s Master Mechanic, who is located at the other end of Texas.  He needs locomotive parts and does not want to be kept waiting.

Samuel Dunning’s blotter book contains several letters relating to locomotive derailments and the search for their cause.  In this letter he explains to a colleague that he has taken a close look at a locomotive from below --  he writes “beg to advise you that we have this Engine over the drop pit” -- and he believes he has located the cause of the problem.

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Samuel Dunning’s photographs.