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Books About Trains

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top 5 children's books about trains.

With the Adventures on Trains series launching this week, author Sam Sedgman has picked out his own top 5 children’s chapter books about trains.


Robin Stevens
Chapter book

Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike mystery series brilliantly evokes the golden age murder mysteries of the 1930s: intrepid schoolgirl detectives Daisy and Hazel piece together clues, investigate suspects, assess crime scenes and bring murderers to justice — with plenty of bunbreaks along the way. First Class Murder is one of my favourites in the series, incorporating a clever ‘locked room’ mystery and a glamorous railway journey, in a delightful tribute to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Chris Van Allsburg

A Christmas classic for every train-loving child, The Polar Express is a wonderfully gentle adventure to the North Pole that millions of readers return to again and again. Why? There’s an indescribable magic to trains that this book makes real. Its beautiful illustrations capture the pure joy of watching a steam train rumbling into the distance. Something chuffer nutters young and old can all appreciate.

Neil Gaiman
Chapter book

A secret world beneath London’s streets, where the names of tube stations take on mythic significance – the Angel of Islington, the Earl of Earls Court, the treacherous Knight’s Bridge – the world of Neverwhere drips with imagination. After helping a wounded girl called Door, ordinary Richard Mayhew finds himself stranded in London Below, and forced to go on a quest deep into the city’s underbelly to get his life back. The everyday world of the rattling Underground trains becomes something truly magical here. I was obsessed with it as a young reader.

E Nesbit
Chapter book

​You can’t talk about great books with trains in them without mentioning this timeless classic. I loved E Nesbit’s adventures when I was little, and this one was no exception. Many of her books feature magical worlds, but here the railway provides the magic – becoming a portal for adventure for the three siblings whose family has fallen on hard times. It’s a beautifully built tale with lots of smaller stories shooting off like branch lines from the main plot. But they’re all woven together by the theme of simple kindness – and the importance of helping people less fortunate than ourselves.

M. G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman
 & Elisa Paganelli
Chapter book

A full-steam-ahead adventure that had me hooked from the get-go. The Highland Falcon Thief is a middle-grade mystery story set on a steam train. With a high spirit of adventuring and a good-and-proper mystery that unfolds with clues and red herrings along the course, this is a brilliantly fun story that is sure to be on track to find itself set among the very best in the children’s mystery genre.

Harrison Beck (Hal) ends up aboard the last-ever journey of a famous royal steam train ‘The Highland Falcon’, unwillingly accompanying his travel-writer uncle while his parents are occupied in hospital having a new baby. Hal doesn’t think much of steam trains – and he is even less impressed when he finds there are no other child passengers on board and no electricity to charge his devices. Before long, Hal finds himself caught up with entertainment of a more old-fashioned kind. A mystery begins to unravel among the passengers – with valuable items disappearing including the princess’s diamond necklace – and Hal begins to record what he notices in his sketchbook. What’s more, Hal befriends a secret stowaway girl called Lenny and the pair set to work to solve the mystery before The Highland Falcon reaches the end of its last-ever journey.

It’s a full-throttle mystery with likeable characters and a well-paced plot that is especially full of treasures for anyone who loves trains. Even those who are not particularly into trains – like myself – will enjoy the feeling of being immersed in the world of locomotions, and the joy of being on board one came across with such a passion that I think I may have gained a new-found appreciation!

Highly recommended.

Looking for younger picturebooks about trains? Try our Transport and Journeys booklist.

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