Part lavish picture book, part history, part travel diary, part tourism promotion, part guide to railroads and railroading, it's a curious hybrid. It would seem that the original impetus for this undertaking came from the 200 photographs (140 in color) taken by Dutch photojournalist Pet during a railroad journey from the Himalayas to the Malabar Coast. They are certainly the most successful element in the work, though much of the appeal lies in shots that have little or nothing to do with railroads, or even travel, for that matter. Shots of the Taj Mahal at sunset, of gentlemen in dhotis descending the steps of a ghat, of sari-clad women stringing marigolds are atmospheric (if slightly brochure-ish) images of the Indian subcontinent. (But the fact that Pet apparently arrived by train at the various sites doesn't increase their interest or relevance in a work eh. titled Rail A cross India.) Railroad buffs may take greater pleasure in the shots of the gleaming antique engines and plush, if slightly ratty, interiors, of cams and drivers of the trains depicted; but here, too, there is little to distinguish one from another. In captioning his photographs, Pet has incorporated the diary entries made by his wife, Anja, during their journey. Sad to say, she is no Paul Theroux. There is an unfortunate air of false enthusiasm about her recital of the ""thrills"" of the trip, as if she were trying to lend exoticism and adventure to a fairly mundane experience. Beautifully produced but, in the end, an elephant designed by a committee.