Readers who can bear with Hastings' English prejudices (there's never a good word said for the Irish here) and survive the breakneck pace of his round-the-world tour will emerge with an appreciation of the locomotive's importance as an agent of rapid industrialization. Beginning his story with the horsepowered wagonways which transported coal in the United Kingdom, Hastings proceeds to sketch the proliferation railroads with reference to the ways in which they affected each nation's development. The first American lines were cheaply built to provide access to unsettled territory; construction in Russia was slowed by the opposition of slavophiles; in Argentina railways were the instrument of a policy of ""Europeanization,"" but in Peru, Chile and Bolivia gold and silver were the only freight profitable enough to make rail transportation worthwhile. Unfortunately, the vast scope allows for only a brief look at the careers of flamboyant engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Henry Meiggs, and Hastings' superior attitude toward the workingmen who built the lines at times borders on the offensive (he refers to the ""navvies"" as ""that anarchic and syphilitic aristocracy""). However, railroad buffs and possibly non-hobbyists as well will be inclined to overlook these defects in view of the contemporary prints and photos (showing the opulent luxuries of first class rail travel in British India, the breathtaking zigzags of Henry Meiggs' Andean route, and the precarious path cut through solid rock by surveyors for the Canadian Pacific) which so aptly illuminate the text.