All Aboard! True Train Tales
NLA Publishing, 2019
120pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
“I come from a railway family. My dad drives trains, my grandpa was an engine driver and so was his father …”
Jack is 8 and he lives in the country in an old white house near the railway station, surrounded by wheat paddocks where the river that snakes through the town sometimes floods and cuts the town in half. He loves nothing better than visiting his Grandpa who had a full-sized red train carriage devoted to all his train memorabilia which is his passion, and together they are working to save the railway museum particularly on Open Day when visitors come to ride on the steam train and view the exhibits.
The story of saving the museum is woven amongst Grandpa’s tales of happenings on Australia’s railways in the 19th and 20th centuries, all of them true, and interspersed with pages of information full of statistics, fun facts, quizzes and historic images from the NLA’s collection. Superbly designed, meticulously researched and well written by an experienced teacher and teacher librarian, this is a book for lovers of trains, independent readers who prefer non fiction but made more cohesive with Jack’s story so that even non-train aficionados can appreciate the history of episodes like the 1887 Hawkesbury crash, the Wirth’s Circus train and the plots and plans of bushrangers like the Kelly Gang and Frank Thomas.
Recently I have spent some time driving through central NSW and crossing railway lines that led to nowhere but overgrown grass, past tiny stations now abandoned, signs advertising railway museums and special steam train trips and avoiding the super-sized trucks that have taken over what were the veins that kept the freight in this country moving. It made me wonder about the stories of the past of both the towns and their trains, and so this is the perfect book to hook me into learning more. Perhaps I will join the hundreds of others who book a trip on the next steam train out of here. Others might like to investigate the role of the railway in the development of their town. Don’t forget as well as the resources available via the NLA, there is also a plethora from the National Digital Learning Resources Network.