“The train is a small world moving through a larger world” ― Elisha Cooper
We surely have come a long way in the manner we undertake journeys, for short distances and also for criss crossing across the country we now drive our cars and for longer journeys, there’s airline travel as well. The ever increasing costs of fuel and stressful driving we experience in cars and the dreadful bag searches, cavity searches or even the long lines at the airport don’t seem to bother us anymore. It’s almost like we have forgotten about trains and railroads and the great adventure that is a railway journey. How did such a change come over us?
Trains allow you to travel in safety and comfort, they pollute less, rarely suffer from weather delays plus you can make new friends or talk freely to the ones you are travelling with, read a book, and (or) have a snooze and when you wake up you might go for a stroll up and down the aisle; and if nothing else just their old-world charm sets them apart from other more mundane means of transport. Taking a train journey inside a big city has its own perks too. Forget about the fact that trains are more cost effective or offer far more scenic views through their huge windows than your average car windows can ever provide; such journeys can also become full of rewards and lessons that only a intense great rail adventure could provide and so instead of passing the time with eyes closed, just waiting for the trip to finally reach its end, you can choose to keep your eyes wide open at all times to soak in the innumerable sights, sounds, and smells (yes! There’s no limit to the extent of surprises you will encounter!)
In author Eric B. Barnes’s new book ‘The Great American Adventures of Modern Big City Railroading’ You get to meet this recently unemployed and down on his luck journalist, Daniel who unexpectedly finds himself along with his friend Dave and a woman, Karen who very soon becomes the object of his affections invited to a big city public transit exhibit, conducted by a larger than life figure called Circus Larry (who does have a very original and unique real name but we won’t get into it here) who takes them and the rest of the ‘invited’ guests on a once in a lifetime ride around their city on a rail car that drives on the road, introducing them to the many good and few bad of public transportation through which you get to experience your city like never before. A rousing, fun filled adventure is what the three get and which in turn changes their perspective on their daily city life.
The Great American Adventures of Modern Big City Railroading is unlike any other book that I’ve read which have dealt with similar themes. Some books may turn out to be an out and out travel guides or a train travelogue or otherwise it may turn out to be a fictional tale woven with trains and journeys in them appearing as mere plot devices. But this book isn’t simply an advertisement for the railways or train travel or even public transportation, what the author tries to say and succeeds in doing is extolling the virtues of discovering or rediscovering the city you’ve been living in all your life. As the author pointed out in the book and which when I later contemplated found out to be true was the fact that many of us, including yours truly don’t always let our senses be at its receptive best. Eyes we have but we don’t see it all, ears we have but a lot goes unheard and nose we have and yet many a great scents are lost on us.
The theme discussed in the book mirrors that often quoted line, ‘Sometimes the longest journeys one has to undertake in this world are the ones to find themselves’. Eric urges you to ditch your car and hop on to the public transport not just for the amazing views en route or to relish the extra time it takes, for such journeys can also function as a useful travel guide, an educational tool and brilliant personal account of the shocks, surprises, struggles and unfamiliar observations that every day travel on a train will bestow upon you. Eric’s honest & humorous writing style also brings the reader directly into the story and once you finish reading this book, one thing is for certain; you’ll be more excited than ever to experience trains and train travel for yourself.
I urge you to go ahead and buy this slim and yet satisfying book, which acts as a reminder that a really grand form of travel that we all used to depend on has now been relegated to the background. But it’s also an eye opener which promotes big city experience. Eric’s book urges you to expand your vision, to be concerned a little more about the journey itself than just your final destination. There are beautiful chapter names, and Chapter eight’s description about every kind of human that you will meet in this lifetime is magnificently arranged. It’s really tough to read a single sentence without having a big smile on your face, there’s also a lot of Woody Allen – ish humour in the way the narrator Daniel goes about describing himself and his surroundings. In the end the only regret that you going to have is that it’s such a short read because there’s enough material in it which genuinely warranted a longer version. Hopefully the author will do a follow up on the lives of its main characters & enthral us once again.
- Paperback: 68 pages
- Publisher: Outskirts Press (January 31, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1478726539
- ISBN-13: 978-1478726531