Booklist Reviews

Despite ebbing enthusiasm for passenger rail travel in the U.S. these days, train companies remain major players in transporting consumer goods from coast to coast. Also, as veteran journalist and unabashed train fanatic Zoellner emphasizes in this exuberant celebration of these mammoth wheeled machines, both commuters and businesses overseas are still heavily dependent on trains, especially in countries like China, where rail service continues to expand almost exponentially. As a convenient excuse for research, Zoellner toured several of the world's most notable rail lines, including a north-to-south trek in Britain, a journey up corkscrewing tracks in the Peruvian Andes, and a jaunt on Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway. In between colorful anecdotes from his travels that include snapshots of contemporary commuters in countries from Scotland to India, Zoellner provides a wealth of fascinating historical details, such as the mood of astonishment that greeted the first trains in nineteenth-century England and the grim duty the railroads undertook during both world wars. An absorbing and lively reflection on an enduring marvel of modern industrial technology. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

Journalist and author Zoellner, who wrote about the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords (A Safeway in Arizona) and "the most powerful element in the world" (Uranium), takes to the rails in seven countries in this book. He looks at the state of this often underrated but essential mode of transportation, in places as different and far apart as Peru, India, Russia, the UK, Spain, China, and the United States. The author mixes his fascination for trains and the conversations he has with his fellow travelers (railway workers and enthusiasts, commuters, and Russian soldiers are just a few of the many people he meets) into a detailed story told with knowledge and enthusiasm. While the train has been used as a political tool in China, where the government has finally brought its massive railway network to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in an attempt to defuse the movement for independence, Spain has become the envy of other modern nations with its fast-growing infrastructure of bullet trains. VERDICT Zoellner's story, rich with history and local color, is a mesmerizing read for anyone interested in the impact of trains on the environment, politics, economics, and daily life around the world today.—Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Author and educator Zoellner may love trains more than any man alive. In his traveler's guide and history of railroading, Zoellner journeys to the world's forgotten locomotive landmarks, riding the rails as much as humanly possible "to see the flickering landscape through their eyes" and brings the reader a unique perspective on the past, present, and future of locomotion. He begins with the earliest European railroads and details the effects trains have had on countries like India—spurred to international prominence through British-built tracks—and the jolting manner in which high-speed trains have evolved in the twenty-first century—applauded in Spain and Japan, hotly debated in the United States. Zoellner's pro-train bias is never unclear as he often launches into rhapsodic prose; passages like "the softest glow in the world…making the horizon smudgy with obscure whites and grays" are common, and the author recounts many experiences with fellow passengers that support his portrayal of trains as a bastion of whirlwind socialization. Perhaps too much attention is paid to this romantic depiction at the expense of solid answers about the usefulness of trains today, but Zoellner still constructs an absorbing history lesson that allows readers to draw their own conclusions. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

PW Annex Reviews

Author and educator Zoellner may love trains more than any man alive. In his traveler's guide and history of railroading, Zoellner journeys to the world's forgotten locomotive landmarks, riding the rails as much as humanly possible "to see the flickering landscape through their eyes" and brings the reader a unique perspective on the past, present, and future of locomotion. He begins with the earliest European railroads and details the effects trains have had on countries like India—spurred to international prominence through British-built tracks—and the jolting manner in which high-speed trains have evolved in the twenty-first century—applauded in Spain and Japan, hotly debated in the United States. Zoellner's pro-train bias is never unclear as he often launches into rhapsodic prose; passages like "the softest glow in the world…making the horizon smudgy with obscure whites and grays" are common, and the author recounts many experiences with fellow passengers that support his portrayal of trains as a bastion of whirlwind socialization. Perhaps too much attention is paid to this romantic depiction at the expense of solid answers about the usefulness of trains today, but Zoellner still constructs an absorbing history lesson that allows readers to draw their own conclusions. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC