Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World--from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief

Book - 2014
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In his brilliant new book, Tom Zoellner travels the globe to tell the story of the most indispensable form of transportation our modern society has ever known- the railroad.

Zoellner rides from the birthplace of the locomotive in England, crosses Russia on the Trans-Siberian, crests the Andes in a rattling coal train, jams with blues musicians across America, ascends to the Tibetan plateau on the world's highest line, speeds across India on its antiquated yet magnificent trains and sips cocktails in the club car with passengers and trainmen all along the way.

Train explores the history of railroads and their hypnotizing rhythms. It explains how locomotives became living sysmbols of sex, death, power and romance. The gifts of the railroad and everywhere- seasonal food, highway routes, the beat of rock music, huge corporations, mechanistic warfare, pleasant leafy suburbs, the very shapes of our cities, the foundations of cinema, coal-fired electricity, our continental sense of time and space and our connections with people who may live at a distance but are still neighbors.

We may think of trains as antiques, but they never really went away. In an economy tied more than ever to the rapid movement of people and goods, new iron spikes are being hammered in unlikely places around the globe. China has spent more than $300 billion on a crash program to unite its provinces with railroads. Developing countries are revitalizing tracks first laid in the nineteenth century. And the United States is experiencing a stupendous boom in cargo rail, while the argument still rages about the very first high-speed rail line in California that threatens the dominance of airlines. In a future full of doubt about petroleum supplies, there may be a train calling on your city once again.

An entertaining journey around the world by train as well as a masterful narrative history, Tom Zoellner's extraordinary book is a call to reembrace the train not just as an old friend, but as a weapon against global headaches over trade, traffic and energy. Climb aboard.

Praise for Tom Zoellner

'Tom Zoellner's writing is never less than engaging; in Train he has made himself a veritable Walt Whitman of rail travel. It's a great read.' Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

' Train is such a pleasure to read, elegant, deeply informed and smart, full of knowledge-bearing sentences, and prose so companionable and rich in insight that it is as if its author were at your shoulder, taking you along with him. What an enjoyable journey. I will never hear the far-off moan of a train in the night without thinking of it, and I know of no higher praise one can give a book. Tom Zoellner is quickly making himself a reputation as a man of wide and eclectic interests, and oh, my! Can he write!' Richard Bausch, Author of Peace

'His lively prose carries the reader through physics and history lessons . . . Policymakers and citizens alike need to read Uranium .' he Washington Post

'Crazy fascinating.' Jon Stewart on Uranium

Publisher: New York : Viking, c2014
ISBN: 9780670025282
Branch Call Number: 385.09 Zoe
Characteristics: xx, 346 p


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Oct 11, 2015

I liked this a lot. I wouldn't call myself a train aficionado, but this was interesting all the way through. But if you either know too much or too little about train travel, this may not be for you.

Jul 06, 2015

This seemed like a good book until I got to the chapter about Peru, which I know something about. The point being that all Peruvians, lots of Americans, and any train buffs interested in that insane set of tracks know that La Oroya is over the summit, past Galera Tunnel, and the only climb from there is to CdeP itself.
This man is an professor of English, someone who should understand professionally why this kind of falseness and carelessness matter.

kdka Jul 08, 2014

Kinda dull. Stopped after a chapter or two.

Jul 02, 2014

Travelogue books can be rather like family vacation movies: Either you love'em or you hate 'em. I can say that
Tom Zoeller's book falls into the love 'em category. It's engaging and informative, and it's nice to learn about how train systems developed in other
countries. The best section is an extended essay where Zoeller is on a
westbound Amtrak across the U.S. This section brings to mind all those great American train songs, and I keep expecting The Gambler to ask me for a smoke!

LaughingOne May 29, 2014

More a story about the history of trains over certain periods of times, including the places trains traveled to. I wanted to read more about (and see photos of) the actual trains themselves.

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