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Mountain-Climbing Trains

Mountain-Climbing Trains
Submitter: I am a second-year school librarian, and I am constantly finding books in my aged collection which make me want to shout out, “Why?” I have attached a scan of my current favorite, Mountain-Climbing Trains, which I found in my elementary/middle library this fall. I really need to do a full-fledged weeding project!
Anyhow, the book was published in 1969, but was acquired in 1972. The library/school actually purchased the book.
It is just what it the title promises: the exciting story of how people came to make trains that dare to scale mountains. Here are the first few sentences to give you a flavor for the book:
“There are many ways to climb a mountain. Most mountains can be climbed on foot by skilled climbers and some can be scaled by just about anyone who likes a brisk walk on a nice day. To climb a mountain by train, however, cog railways are often used.”
I will spare you the brief discussion of cog railways that follows. Needless to say, it is not the most scintillating reading you are likely to find.
Holly: Even considering this is a children’s book, it’s pretty dumb.  Unless Thomas the Tank Engine is doing the lecturing about trains, kids today are probably not interested.  Even something educational from Mount Washington in New Hampshire or Pike’s Peak (both have cog railways) would be more interesting than this.

21 Responses to Mountain-Climbing Trains

  • This book may have little reason to exist in a school’s library, but I do love that cover illustration. It does a wonderful job of communicating the ostensible difficulties faced by mountain-climbing trains as I have no faith that that train would make it up a hill. In fact, it looks like it’s about to tip over.

    • The engines of the Mount Washington Cog Railway make the 3 mile trip to the summit several times a day during the summer. It takes about an hour to reach the top, and the trip is noisy, and depending on wind direction, can be a bit gritty. But the views are spectacular and even the ‘rickety’ trestles are preferred by many to the narrow hair pin turns of the Auto Road.

  • Wow a train can climb a mountain. I don’t think I’d want to be on that train since it looks like it is going to tip over.

    • The engine is tipped that way (relative to the track) because the boiler has to be kept as level as possible to function properly.

  • The steam looks like a map of North America.

  • North and South America? Western Hemisphere? Clearly I need to find an atlas quickly!

  • We have some serious little train fanatics at our public library who would check that out in a heartbeat.

  • Nothing says gritty train drama like Jhonny Ackerman.

    Rock on, Big A!

  • I like the look of the book and would find the discussion of cogwheel trains interesting, especially were I back in the 2nd grade.

  • The first thing that came to mind when I saw this was the Little Engine That Could.

  • “I think I can, I think I can..”

  • that rickety bridge really inspires confidence!


  • My son would have loved this when he was in kindergarten. It was all trains all the time. In fact, he would want to know if this book includes the sidewinder engine that was used to haul timber in mountainous terrain as well as cog railways. Of course, something newer and better written is preferable but in the heyday of the train obsession, this would have worked for him.

  • Oh, there are so many types of mountain railway, be it like the Cable Cars of San Francisco, or the balanced tramway of the Great Orme. Then there are rack railways like the one climbing Mount Snowdon in N Wales. There are funiculars too.

    Then we also have to consider the zig zag railways that edge up a steep hill be repeatedly traversing it.

    I’d say you probably will always have one or two trainiacs want to check that out. Anaraksia is not a crime, equal education for all.

    (seriously, that could be an interesting primer for someone).

  • Reading your post made me think that I might be able to guess the ages of the writers of this blog (maybe…..)….

    I don’t know – I just love the look of this book (as I GREW UP with types like these) and I don’t mind books with text that isn’t all that exciting. I know libraries are supposed to make their collections the best they can be and make weeding choices, but I love the library where I work because it SAVES old books that still have some informational or “memorabilia” value.

    How can you throw away a (“sniff”…) book that reminds me of my childhood?!

  • I get the black coal exhaust, but what the heck is the white coming out of the first pipe?

  • weeding is an understatement.

  • Well, a few years ago my boys would have checked it out and loved it, now at ages 10 and 11 they could probably write it, because they really know about trains.

  • My eldest son (now 15) was a train fanatic and he would have read this book ONCE. We bought a huge stack of old books from a public library. I hate to admit that he did not spend much time with those train books, but his new, color, glossy picture books ruled! “They ” say not to judge a book by its cover. Oh well! It’s just not that easy. Hanging on to the older books are REALLY a way to preserve history, a little slice of life that may, I fear, one day become extinct.

  • My son, a previos train fanatic, would have read this book only once.