A BOOK OF RAILWAY JOURNEYS by Ludovic--Ed. Kennedy


Email this review


A feast--or, according to taste, a glut--of railway memorabilia: over 100 bits of prose, poetry, personal history, you-name-it attesting to the very special pleasures (or inconveniences) of traveling by train. The material is grouped geographically, with additional sections devoted to Wars, Crashes, and Fiction (ranging, conglomerately, from Conan Doyle to Proust). ""England"" brings a disparaging prognosis from the Duke of Wellington (""I see no reason to suppose that these machines will ever force themselves into general use""); poet Philip Larkin's wry description of newlyweds waiting on the station platform ""after the last confetti and advice were thrown""; and Thomas Cook explaining how ""the social idea"" of tours developed when he chartered a train for a temperance crusade. In ""Europe,"" we find Emile Zola wondering in transit if ""he would be able to piddle in Paris, at Nantes, and at Vernon""; and Lenin, headed back to Russia, preparing a defense for his expected arrest. Among the particular charmers are E. B. White's tales of Maine--trains to N.Y. averaged 32 mph in 1905 and 34 mph in 1960, prompting White to comment, ""It's not every institution that can hold to an ideal through fifty-five years of our fastest moving century."" Also, Eric Newby's eyewitness report on Russian railway travel (where clear-glass lavatory cars revealed that Russian soldiers wore no underpants) and Peter Fleming's saga of capturing an ammunition train in Greece during World War II. For judicious sampling or weeks of vicarious travel.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Rawson, Wade--dist. by Atheneum