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Wednesday, September 25, 2013


As a girl, one of the thrills of the warm weather months was riding the train in Marathon Park near my home. The open-air cars were just the right size for two small people, and they were pulled by an engineer in his engine. The train made two loops around a shallow pool, and my loved ones always waited at the depot and waved as we cruised by on the first lap. Years later, my sons rode that same train, and it is still running today.

My fascination with trains, sparked 40+ years ago, settled in comfortably with Brian Floca's new book Locomotive. Beginning with a road of rails, the book takes readers on the journey of how the road was built - with all sorts of onomatopoeic sounds along the route - and then follows a family from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California. As they travel, bits of information about explain everything from the duties of the many workers who make the trip possible to the detailed workings of the engine. The illustrations vary from close-ups of the rods and pistons to small glimpses of things like "the convenience" (which, it is noted, should only be used when "the train is rolling, running, lurching, leaning left and right") and the sites viewed from the train windows. The actual route is that one which was completed in 1869 by the joint efforts of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. 

The end papers are filled with information about the transcontinental railroad, steam power (and a hand-drawn timetable). Though it would make an excellent read-aloud selection, I know readers will enjoy poring over the details in the artwork, making connections with the family's experiences and railroad history.

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