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Train: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World--from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief [Kindle Edition]

Tom Zoellner
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
You Save: $8.01 (50%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

An epic and revelatory narrative of the most important transportation technology of the modern world

In his wide-ranging and entertaining new book, Tom Zoellner—coauthor of the New York Times–bestselling An Ordinary Man—travels the globe to tell the story of the sociological and economic impact of the railway technology that transformed the world—and could very well change it again. From the frigid trans-Siberian railroad to the antiquated Indian Railways to the Japanese-style bullet trains, Zoellner offers a stirring story of this most indispensable form of travel. A masterful narrative history, Train also explores the sleek elegance of railroads and their hypnotizing rhythms, and explains how locomotives became living symbols of sex, death, power, and romance.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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. --Carl Hays


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

Product Details

  • File Size: 1744 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 30, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,911 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I LOVE the smell of diesel in the morning." January 30, 2014
If you've ever ridden the train in Europe or Japan or even on one of the few commuter routes in the U.S., you've probably wondered why there aren't more trains in this country. They're convenient and fun to ride. Tom Zoellner rode the trains on four continents to find the answer to that question.

He describes train enthusiasts as "frothers," those who froth at the mouth with enthusiasm for all things having to do with trains. He fits the bill. The project gave him an excuse to ride the train on long distance trips in Great Britain, India, the U.S., Russia, South America, and Spain. He combines old-style travel writing, channeling Paul Theroux and Eric Newby, with thoughtful commentary on transportation policies in various countries. It's a good mix.

I enjoyed learning about the politics and policy of train travel around the world. But the best parts are about the people Zoellner meets and the stories he tells about the history of the rail. He tells the story of how the train spurred the popularity of paperback books. There's Walt Disney, train buff, in his striped engineer's outfit playing with his trains while eating a doughnut dipped in scotch. And the American train baron in South America who tells Zoellner, "I LOVE the smell of diesel in the morning," stirring up memories of the psycho commander in Apocalypse Now.

Zoellner's conclusions about the feasibility of long distance train travel in America are pessimistic. In short, it's too expensive. None of the successful long distance trains in the world is profitable -- it's a trade-off that other countries have made, but that we are unlikely to.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the railfan for every fan. February 15, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
If you are a train nut you will not particularly like this book. It is not so much a history of trains and railroads throughout the world it is more a story of how the trains have impacted world history and how people of impacted the trains. So instead of capacities of engines and routes and history of routes, while there is a little bit of that in there you get more of the personalities of the people involved in making inventions that made the trains or the people who ride the train or the people work the trains. Also the history of the areas that are impacted by the train and how the trains impacted the area. Not your typical train book for your typical railfan but in the end now that I think of it rail fans will like this book too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Journey, In Many Ways March 14, 2014
I highly recommend this fascinating book. I'm reading a section or two before bed every night, and it's like getting the chance to travel to intriguing places all over the world. The writing is very strong and poetic, and I love the way Zoellner's lively personal experiences on the trains prompt thought-provoking side trips into history and science and culture. It's intriguing to read how trains have been such a disruptive technology (to use one of today's big buzzwords). For example, Zoellner notes how people used to live inside circles about 25 miles in diameter, with local businesses providing everything they might need. With the advent of the train, suddenly people could shop and work and meet new people beyond the confines of their own village or town. For better and for worse, the world changed in very dramatic ways. Even if you might think that trains are not your thing, you'll be pleasantly surprised by this interesting and very readable book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author takes us along on his rides of half a dozen world-famous long
distance train trips, in each case providing the historical context of
the railroad's role in that country, the cultural/economic/political
significance of that railroad or of that particular route, and so on.
The result is part travelogue and part history, neither part
comprehensive, but certainly entertaining, especially for fans of rail

Supporting Theroux's assertion that railroads are microcosms of their
countries, part of the interest is that the journeys could not be more
different because of their history and cultural embedding: the
trans-Siberian railway, the new Chinese high-speed line to Tibet, the
Indian Railways, the journey crossing the US from Chicago to LA, etc.
Zoellner pays particular attention to the economic and cultural
significance of these runs.

Without railroads, the extractive industries that drove colonialization
and expansion in the USA, South America, and India would not have been
possible, nor would the efficient movement of millions of prisoners to
concentration camps in Nazi Germany; and the author concludes the
Chinese have similar aspirations to "colonize" Tibet and thereby
permanently end any discussions of its independence. At the same time,
the very trains that were the ultimate symbol of British colonialism in
India now represent unprecedented mobility for its masses, and the
trains that served as symbols of white oppression in the antebellum
American South soon became the vehicles that transported free blacks to
Chicago in search of a new middle-class life.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars so much more than a book about trains!
This is truly a fast paced - sometimes a bit clunky - history of the industrialized world! The "train" is the lens through which we view this history - technical, social,... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Jeff Austin
5.0 out of 5 stars Rail Afficianado's Take
Loved it. The anecdotal, personal experience approach made the narrative come alive.
Published 19 days ago by William H. White
4.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a travelogue-cum-trainride masterpiece.
Zoellner’s latest is a superb job of wordsmithing, beautifully crafted and creating a sense of being there on every page. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Roy Blanchard
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This was a gift.
Published 1 month ago by William A. Pidgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars If you love train travel; you must read!
Love trains and train travel. Love all the story tie ins. Zoellner writes with enthusiasm, thought and freshness.
Published 1 month ago by Joe R. Stines
1.0 out of 5 stars A pathetic author's melancholy expression for an industry in decline.
Thank God I was able to borrow this book from the library and didn't buy it. Reading it made me want to puke. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. Kamp
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read for Train Buffs
Fascinating read. Offers a world tour of trains & their history. Great gift for the train buff in your family!
Published 3 months ago by Erin O'Looney
5.0 out of 5 stars Trains and the Human Psyche in the Development of Civilization
I can see that Tom Zoellner has amassed an impressive number of positive reviews for all of his books available on Amazon: An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography (with and about Rwanda... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lee B Croft
4.0 out of 5 stars Travelogue with a guide on history of trains as you travel
This reads like a travelogue with a knowledgeable guide telling you the history of trains and how they impacted the area as you travel through. Read more
Published 3 months ago by David G
4.0 out of 5 stars I love trains, but I know not everyone does
This book is probably for a limited audience. I love trains, but I know not everyone does.
Published 3 months ago by Samuel Saks
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More About the Author

Tom Zoellner is an American author and journalist. He is the author of popular nonfiction books, described as "genre-defying," which take multidimensional views of their subject and show the descent of an influential object through history. These boosk have been praised as "dazzling" (Entertainment Weekly), "mesmerizing" (Booklist), and "enchanting" (New York Post). He is an Associate Professor of English at Chapman University and lives in downtown Los Angeles.

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