Make tracks to library for train books

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday time. Trains seem to be in the news a lot recently. The awful wreck of the brand new Seattle to Portland train on its maiden voyage was a real shocker. Closer to home, Nashville planners and politicians are frequently found to be discussing mass rail transit in both the metropolitan and outlying "bedroom" communities. Railroads have always been a part of my life although I haven't ridden on many trains.

According to various sources, American railroads started in about 1720 when we began building wooden ones, which were referred to as "wagonways." Experimentation with various types of tramways meant to help carry goods and men up steep terrain continued into the early 1800s along with a try at having an animal-powered railroad.

Between 1810 and 1850 during the Industrial Revolution, trains became the desired method of transport for people and goods. The Civil War, of course, put the trains of America to heavy use on both sides of the conflict. If you would like to read a little history of trains, your library has a great selection of books to choose from under the Dewey decimal number 385 in both the adult and children's nonfiction collections. I like "The illustrated directory of trains of the world," by Brian Hollingsworth, or "Railroads: the great American adventure," by Charlton Ogburn. There are all kinds of trains to investigate: freight trains, passenger trains, coal trains, logging trains, model trains. The list goes on and on.

If you know a youngster who likes trains, the library has the topic well-covered from the earliest readers on up to our most senior citizens. Many kids start a lifelong friendship with books by finding the series of picture books featuring Thomas, the Tank Engine and his friends. We have plenty of these. And yes, for those of us who remember "I think I can!" we do have "The Little Engine That Could." Remember "The Boxcar Children?" Personally, I think all children should read that series. It is just delightful.

The role that the railroads played in the opening of the western United States is mammoth. Towns used to spring up because that was where the railroad would be. Speculators would purchase land that they hoped or knew would be in the path of the railroad and then sell to the railroad representatives for a hefty profit. In my longtime home, Kalispell, Montana, about four or five miles from the present city, the town of Demersville was built prior to the arrival of the railroad. The railroad "missed" the town, so the town picked up houses and businesses and moved everything to where the railroad was. The old town was so stripped of all its buildings that it is only visible from an airplane by depressions on the ground showing where streets had been. I think this was true to a greater or lesser degree with many of the places along the railroad lines. If you want to read more about this, pick up "The Iron Road: an illustrated history of the railroad," by Christian Wolmar. Another good choice is "Trains of the Old West," by Brian Solomon.

Trains and railroads pop up all over the fiction spectrum. For a good long read about a dystopian future, try "Atlas Shrugged," by Ayn Rand. If you are looking for intrigue on a train, try Clive Cussler's, "The Spy," or "The Wrecker." And don't forget the time-tested classic mystery by Agatha Christie, "Murder on the Orient Express." Some other novels worth your time include: "Orphan train," by Christina Baker Kline, "Girl on the Train," by Paula Hawkins, and "Ruler of the Night," by David Morrell. And remember that you can choose your own reading "track" at your library!

* Rita Allen is director of the Shelbyville-Bedford County Public Library.

Map of pertinent addresses

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