Trains In Literature - Old empty benches with backpack and magazine near shiny window in train in sunlight
Image by Anastasia Kolchina on

Page Turners: Railway-centric Literature

The allure of trains has captivated the imaginations of both authors and readers for centuries. Railway-centric literature, a genre dedicated to the world of trains, tracks, and stations, has produced some of the most thrilling and evocative stories in literary history. From the iconic Orient Express to the humble commuter train, the railway has served as a backdrop for unforgettable tales of adventure, romance, and suspense.

One of the most famous examples of railway-centric literature is Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” Published in 1934, this novel takes readers on a suspenseful journey aboard the luxurious train as renowned detective Hercule Poirot unravels a perplexing murder mystery. The setting of the Orient Express, with its opulent cabins and diverse cast of characters, adds an air of intrigue and claustrophobia to the narrative. Christie’s masterful storytelling and intricate plot twists keep readers guessing until the very end.

In a stark contrast to Christie’s murder mystery, R.J. Palacio’s “Wonderstruck” explores the transformative power of trains in the lives of two young protagonists. The novel weaves together two narratives, one set in 1977 and the other in 1927, both linked by a fascination with trains. As the characters embark on their separate quests, the railway becomes a symbol of freedom, adventure, and the possibilities of the unknown. Palacio’s sensitive portrayal of the characters’ emotional journeys resonates with readers of all ages.

For those seeking a more introspective exploration of the railway, Graham Greene’s “The Heart of the Matter” offers a compelling examination of human nature against the backdrop of war-torn Sierra Leone. The protagonist, Major Scobie, finds solace in his nightly train rides through the African countryside, where he grapples with moral dilemmas and the consequences of his actions. Greene’s evocative descriptions of the train’s rhythmic motion and the changing landscapes mirror Scobie’s inner turmoil, resulting in a haunting and thought-provoking novel.

In recent years, railway-centric literature has expanded to include diverse voices and perspectives. One such example is Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West,” which reimagines the train as a portal to escape war and oppression. The novel follows the journey of two lovers, Saeed and Nadia, as they flee their war-torn homeland through a series of magical doors that transport them to different parts of the world. The train becomes a symbol of hope and resilience, as it carries them across borders and connects them to a global community of refugees.

Railway-centric literature continues to evolve and captivate readers with its ability to transport them to new worlds and explore universal themes. Whether it’s a murder mystery, a coming-of-age story, or an allegory for the human condition, these books offer a unique perspective on the power and allure of trains. As readers delve into the pages of railway-centric literature, they embark on a journey of their own, where the tracks lead to new horizons and the turning of each page brings them closer to the heart of the story.