Much more than just a good story, Peter's Railway explains engineering principles in layman's terms. So if someone you know has tired of over-commercialised character locomotives that talk to each other, or has an interest in live steam or miniature railways, then the Peter's Railway series of books could be just what you are looking for. In these well written and beautifully illustrated books, Peter and his grandfather build a miniature railway, drive steam engines and have a few adventures. The books are centred on the development of the railway, the storyline being embellished with tales about real events in railway history.
Each book is structured such that there is no need to read the preceding volumes. The second book, Peter's Railway and the Moonlight Express, describes how the railway is enhanced with the addition of a turning loop at one end and a turntable at the other (built using parts salvaged from a disused tractor). But it is not all 'play' for the two main characters; when Peter's grandmother goes away, Peter and his grandfather are tasked with decorating the living room - though this has unexpected results for the family cat!
As well as telling a good story, these books are highly informative, with 'how things work' double-page spreads. For example, The Midnight Express explains boilers, cylinder valves, piston rings and points (switches). Woven into the text is other essential information, such as how to drive a steam locomotive.
The Peter's Railway series is published by the author, Christopher Vine, yet they are high-quality, hardback books with 96 pages, many of which benefit from colour illustrations. The price of £11.99 represents excellent value for money. Peter's Railway - The Moonlight Express, is available directly from Christopher Vine, as well as online booksellers and other selected outlets. The first book in the series, Peter's Railway, is still available, and the third book, Peter's Railway - The Forgotten Engine was published at the end of September 2009.
* Review by Jonathan Severn, Editor of MachineBuilding.net (and father of a young railway enthusiast).