An automobile is just a mobile box, airliners isolating metal tubes whizzing through space. But a train is its own world with great character: mysterious, romantic, and, yes, also ordinary but where commonplace actions can gain a new perspective. When we travel by rail the train itself, unlike the car, bus, or airplane, plays a major role. For these reasons, and more, travel writers have been drawn to writing about their train adventures. After Paul Theroux’s very successful The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), others followed:
…”The Big Red Train Ride: A Ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway,” by Eric Newby (1978): Newby and wife Wanda rock and sway 5,900 miles across the former Soviet Union, from Moscow to Nakhodka, at that time on the only continuous land route from Western Europe to the USSR’S Pacific coast.
…”Whistle Stop: A Journey Across Canada,” by George Galt (1987): from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Galt reports it all, including spotted railroad graffiti (“The Right Train of Thought Can Take You To A Better Station In Life”).
…”Making Tracks: An American Rail Odysssey” (1991) in which Pindell traveled 30,000 miles on each of Amtrak’s 31 train lines through all but three of the Lower 48 states.
…”Yesterday’s Train: A Rail Odyssey Through Mexican History,” (1997), Pindell traveling the length and breath of the country intertwining history with observations of current life.
…”Last Train To Toronto: A Canadian Rail Odyssey” (1993), Pindell riding “the steel of Canada” almost 20,000 miles during one year.
Finally, “Zephyr: Tracking A Dream Across America,” by Henry Kisor (1995), in which the former book editor of the Chicago Sun-Times takes a fabled American train from Chicago to Oakland, interviewing engineers, conductors, and many fellow travelers that comprise a train’s unique moving community.