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review 2017-07-19 01:46
The Chase (An Isaac Bell Adventure) - Clive Cussler

This was a good mystery with a cowboy type hero although he had no horse. He drove a fast car. I really enjoyed all of the historical details that were woven in with the story. This story has a western feel and is captivating even without cursing and graphic scenes. Once I got half way through the book there was no putting it down until the end. The "chase" scene made you feel like you were on board.

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review 2017-03-20 11:24
Another Colourful Book about Trains
The Romance of the Railways : The Question and Answer Encyclopedia Series - Harvey T. Grant

After reading a bunch of train books that my brother owned I started to realise that they pretty much all say the same thing. Well, not all the same things because some of them focus more on one area than on others, but they all tend to look at how trains were first developed, and then how they work, and then some of the record breakers that are around. The other problem is that these books were written quite some time ago, namely when we were kids, so a lot of the things in the book are out dated. Okay, not the history and details of the steam trains, but rather the more modern aspects of rail transport and the records that have been broken.


However, as I mentioned, they still make mention of things that haven’t changed. For instance the longest railway in the world is still the trans-Siberian railway (and I’m not entirely sure if it is actually possible to beat that record, unless you build one from Terra del Fuego to Alaska), and the longest, straightest railway is still the track that crosses the Nullabor Plain in Australia. The other thing worth mentioning is that in Australia most railways are still only used for freight, and in fact passenger rail has declined even further since this book was written, with the Overland between Adelaide and Melbourne only running twice a week.


The book itself was a rather fun read though, since it is structured as a series of questions and answers. The other thing is that it also has pretty pictures, and the kid in me still really enjoys non-Fiction books with pretty pictures. Okay, you get some books that have a collection of plates in the middle, but they aren’t anything like the pretty pictures that these children’s books have. Okay, maybe my ability to read the English language has increased substantially since I was a kid so I don’t actually need pretty pictures anymore, but on the other hand, I there is nothing stopping me from buying such books in French and German, though I suspect the way they teach French and German to adults is somewhat different to the way they teach communication skills to kids.


Anyway, here is a pretty picture of a steam train for your amusement:





The book was entertaining, and half the reason I read it was because I went on a ride on the steam train down at Victor Harbor, a seaside town near where I grew up. For those who are interested, here is a blog post on my travel blog on that little day trip, and another post on steam trains on my other blog. To round everything off, here is a link to a video of some rather extreme railways.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1947079113
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review 2017-01-13 14:44
The pneumatic tube
The Secret Subway - Red Nose Studio,Shana Corey

How could I not want to read The Secret Subway by Shana Corey while I'm living in New York City? Truthfully, it wasn't the setting of the story that drew me in. It was the front cover illustration by Red Nose Studio aka Chris Sickels that really caught my eye. His artwork reminds me of old school claymation. His creations are sculpted using materials found around his home and he makes not only books but stop motion animation with them. The Secret Subway is a fictionalized account of the creation of the New York Subway system. The imaginative inventiveness of Eli Beach is factual as is his idea of a subterranean transit system fueled by a pneumatic system. (Picture a giant fan pushing a train car and then reversing its flow to suck the car back the way it had come!) It's the minute details which have been slightly fudged by Corey to liven up the tale (which honestly doesn't really need much embellishment). The back of the book contains the facts of the event which I urge you to read as they are fascinating. It's so amazing seeing what the human imagination can create! This was a visually impressive book but if I'm honest it didn't really WOW me. I'd give it a solid 6/10 but if you're interested in the art (you will be) I urge you to check it out for yourself.


PS Aren't these sculptures gorgeous?


Source: rednosestudio.com

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-12-27 13:21
A Technical Book on Trains
The Young Engineer book of Supertrains - Unknown Author 921

As I was reading this a part of me felt that maybe this would have worked better as a television show, or even a Youtube video made by some train enthusiast, but then again considering that this book was written in 1978, and that Youtube didn't exist at the time, then maybe the book format was the best that was available. Though you did have the BBC, and I am sure there would have been similar shows on the BBC at the time. I remember a show called the Curiosity Show, which was a sciencey show that was aimed at kids. I have to admit that I loved it, and science in general, even though the German exchange student whipped us when it came to the let's see how pure we can get the water experiment – hers looked as if it was drinkable (though nobody was game enough to try it out).


Anyway, this isn't a general kid's science book, but rather a very specific book targeted at trains. In fact the title 'young engineer' should give you a pretty big clue that the purpose of this book is to allow train enthusiasts, or at least the children of train enthusiasts (or train enthusiasts who happen to be children) an idea of how trains work. Mind you, I have been to a fair few train museums, namely because my brother loves trains, and even visited some workshops in Queensland where they are restoring the old steam trains that used to plough the railways (and one of the huge trains we saw inside even appeared in this book).


Mind you, this book is showing its age because we have the author fully talking up the APT (Advanced Passenger Train) which ended up becoming a complete and utter flop, but that probably has a lot more to do with government interference than the concept not actually working. In fact one of the best ways to completely foul up a perfectly reasonable project is to get the government involved, which is the case with Australia's NBN where the shortcuts that are now being taken have turned it into an incredibly expensive white elephant, however to cover up their complete screwup they have the AFP raid the offices of the opposition communications spokesperson. Gee, I'm going off on lots of tangents with this book.


It is also quite interesting seeing some of the world records, which have since been broken. Well, not truly because the land speed record for a manned rail vehicle still stands (which was set by the US Airforce back in the 1950s), however the records for commercial trains have been broken since this book was written. So far, the fastest conventional rail vehicle was along the lines of 574 kph, while the fastest commercial rail vehicle, which uses maglev technology, is around 603 kph. The speeds that are set as records in this book are actually the top speeds that trains such as the ICE in Germany and the Eurostar reach on their regular trips (and the 574 kph set by the TGV in 2007 was probably performed under controlled conditions).


World's Fastest Train


The other interesting thing about this book is that it goes into technical details of the older steam trains, especially since they were categorised on the number of wheels that they had, with the leading wheels, the drive wheels (namely the ones that the pistons were attached to and caused the train to move) and the trailing wheels. Obviously with the development of diesel and electric power the need for the large wheels diminished – and the main reason for that is that apparently it takes at least a couple of hours to get a steam locomotive primed to go, where as a diesel, and electric, take far less time. Mind you, the main reason behind the development of the electric trains was due to the development of the subway systems in Paris and London – steam trains simply don't work all that well in a subway (and if you go to the old railway tunnels up in the Adelaide hills you will see the vents for the steam, and smoke, from the old steam trains).


Oh, and another interesting thing, when I went onto the internet to find out how electric trains work, the first thing I was directed to, surprise surprise, was an advertisement for Alstrom, which happen to make the power units for electric trains. Also, for those who really love trains, there is always my Youtube Channel, which is pretty crap mind you, but at least it has videos of trains.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1852227563
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review 2016-12-12 14:24
Water for Elephants
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

by Sarah Gruen


This was an amazing story.


I love realistic stories about the circus or carnivals and I learned from the author's note at the end that this was very well researched in a historian sense. It rang mostly true and some of the incidents were taken from events that really happened somewhere in circus history.


My only niggle is that it was written in present tense. I'm not going to dock it a star for that as I usually do because it was done well and sometimes I could forget to notice, but it still would have been better in past tense.


The depiction of the rough edges of depression era train circus life was very immersive and I actually read most of the book into the night in one sitting because I didn't want to stop. That's a sign of a well written story!


Without giving anything away, I particularly liked the way it finished. I mean the story itself, before getting to the notes. The decision made by Jacob, the main protagonist, left me with a smile on my face. Characters were strong throughout the story, human or otherwise.


There were definitely some animal antics that made me laugh, especially the elephant. There were other emotions too, some not so pleasant, especially with the knowledge that animals weren't cared for as they should have been in those days, but it's far in the past now and i could enjoy the story as a nostalgic record of a time that happened long before I was born.

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