Tag Archives: trains

Riding the Boundless

22 Sep

Donald Smith drove in the ceremonial last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) on November 7, 1885, at Craigellachie, British Columbia.


The Boundless  by Kenneth Oppel begins at this event, memorialized forever in the picture above, and turns history on its head.

hi res cover

The young boy behind Donald Smith (the man holding the sledgehammer) is the main character of this new version of the story of a trip across Canada that includes sasquatches, muskeg hags, a circus troupe and murder!

The eponymous Boundless is an 11-kilometer long train on its maiden voyage across Canada. Oppel pulls from all kinds of Canadian mythology making this an especially enjoyable read for me, but it shouldn’t be off-putting to non-Canadians. Oppel did extensive research about the history of trains and you can read some of it and see pictures that inspired his descriptions on Oppel’s blog.

The main character, Will Everett is the son of a railroad laborer. When his father saves the life of Cornelius Van Horne, president of the CPR, their lives change forever. Van Horne promotes Mr. Everett and when we meet them again, his dad is in charge of the Boundless’ maiden voyage and they are on their way to British Columbia where Mr. Everett will head Van Horne’s shipping venture to the Orient.

The Boundless gives us real insight to the different classes on the train and the lives of the train laborers.  At first, i found his lack of confidence irritating, but eventually, I realized that Willis uncomfortable at the rapid change of his circumstances and doesn’t really know where he fits in. He longs for adventure and finds it, and his place, on the Boundless.

This isn’t Oppel’s best story ever, but it is a good, faced-paced, action-filled read.


19 Oct

Two new lovely books for train fans!


Brian Floca’s Locomotive is a look at a family’s 1869 journey from Omaha to Sacramento via the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad. This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that gives readers tons of information from the sights and the sounds to the machinery and the people who work on the locomotive.


Watercolor, ink, gouache, and acrylic illustrations give readers a variety of views from up close details of the locomotive to vignettes of the different stopping points along the trip.  The endpapers give details about the trip and steam power. Notes at the end provide information about the sources Floca used. Clearly train enthusiasts will love this book, but so will kids interested in history, historical fiction and westward expansion.

More amusing is How to train a Train written by Jason Carter Eaton, and illustrated by John Rocco.


Essentially this is a how to book for kids who don;t want a puppy, kitten or goldfish. This is a guidebook on how to catch and train a train. Told in a very straightforward manner, you can’t help but love Mr. Eaton’s  dry sense of humor the way Mr. Rocco captures it.


The opening pages describe different types of trains and suggest  how to get one.  The book  then describes ways to make the new train feel comfortable and earn its trust. We also learn that there are others who lean towards other modes of transportation, like planes, trucks or submarines. You can all meet up on the open road and make new friends.

It gets me thinking of  other things kids might like to have as pets, and the stories they can write to teach others how to have an unusual pet.

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