"Here your trip begins,
at the depot, on the platform.
The people here, the passengers,
have packed and shipped and sold their things,
all their things, everything.
They have their tickets for a trip of a week,
through days and nights,
across the wide country,
down to the sea.
Look for the train
that will take you,
the first train of the trip.
Listen for the engine,
for the mighty locomotive."
It is the summer of 1869. The first, newly-built American railroad awaits the locomotives, which set off from city to city, across wide plains, past vast mountains and oceans.
We follow a family: a mother, a girl and a boy on this train journey.
We learn about the crew, the smells, and the hard work required to make this steam engine race.
We hear the conductor holler "All aboard!"
And the "butch" -- a boy who walks the aisle and sells books, newspapers and candies, scream out the headlines from yesterday's papers.
We learn about the engineer's job, the fireman's work, and the switchman's risk (You can tell that one is new to the job if he still has all his fingers).
We learn about the hiss, the bang, the click, the clack, the huff, and the chug.
Days and nights, the train goes on strong, an iron horse with tireless hooves.
Chug-chug, chug-chug. Till passengers reach their destinations. Till families reunite.
What can I say about this picture book? The details of how a steam engine runs are rich, and the watercolour paintings grand and beautiful. This book is packed full of information on train parts and work done by the crew (and as such, I wouldn't recommend it for beginning readers). I am biased towards books about locomotives because I've long held a fascination with them and the Old West. (Don't know why. Must be something that filtered through from a past life!)
Some children love airplanes, some ships, and some buses or bikes. For me, it has always been the steam trains. What about you?