Train : 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 symbols of sex, death, power and romance. The gifts of the railroad are 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.
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