Last month, I visited the Great American Train Expo at the Empire State Plaza. The train show features working models and layouts of various train sets. For hobbyists, there are also train ephemera and memorabilia from popular lines, so you can really have fun at these events.
As I arrived at the train show, I saw a hardcover book on one of the display tables. It was a book entitled A Handbook of Railway Photography, authored by Roger Siviter, and it expressed several techniques and options on getting that awesome locomotive photo. You know … more than just a click and a shoot.
Yeah, five minutes into the train show and I’m already pulling my wallet out. “I’d like to purchase this,” I said to the vendor.
“It’s not for sale, sir.”
Wait, the one item in the entire expo that isn’t for sale and it’s a 35-year-old book that I want to buy?
“It’s part of a raffle, sir. If you buy raffle tickets, they’ll pull names and numbers throughout the show and you could win the book.”
Yeah, not with my luck. Trust me, I couldn’t pick the winner in a one-horse race.
But I had an idea.
Every book has an ISBN number, the International Standard Book Number. it’s an alphanumeric reference code that helps to organize books by publisher and author and title. I took a picture of the 10-digit ISBN number, walked around the train expo for a few hours, then went home.
Now where in the name of A. Philip Randolph am I going to find this book? (By the way, A. Philip Randolph was the organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, one of the first union organizations for men of color.)
Just for the hell of it, I punched in the ISBN number in my Amazon webpage. By the way, trivia buffs, a 10-digit ISBN number means that the book was issued before 2007, when the current 13-digit ISBN format was established.
So … apparently way back in the day, before Amazon Prime and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Alexas and whatnot, Amazon used to sell books. I think they still do sell books, but …
So I ordered the book, and a couple of weeks later, it arrived at my doorstep.
So next year, whether it’s the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train or some woodland steam-powered tourist locomotive, I’m going to use this book to help me get an awesome train photo.
Amazing what you can find on Amazon these days … so long as you have an ISBN number.