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I picked up the recently published book, Turbotrain: A Journey, on its first official day of release. This book is an exhaustive history of one of Amtrak's and ViaRail's most famous trains written by a true afficionado.

First a word about the author. Jason Shron is a very well known individual in both railfan circles and in the model railroad world. He is a prolific poster on the Canadian Passenger Rail forum on Yahoo and is highly regarded as one of the leading experts on passenger service. He is also the founder and owner of Rapido Trains - a company which specializes in lightweight and modern passenger car models in HO scale. It was his love of the turbo which led to the founding of the company. No one anywhere knows more about turbos!

Next, a word about the Turbotrain. The train was initially designed by Alan Cripe and refined by the engineers at United Aircraft. It was a 1960s application of aircraft technology to passenger trains to produce North America's first (some would say only) high speed train. The turbo suffered from some initial teething problems (especially related to winter and to too much new technology) that took until the early 70s to iron out. Thereafter, the turbo ran daily in Toronto - Montreal service and in the Northeast corridor for Amtrak. While the turbo did establish speed records and it also established reliability records, it suffered from high maintenance costs. The turbos were also inefficient in fuel economy and a third strike was that the trackage was not well suited for truly high speed operation. Accordingly, all the turbos were scrapped by 1983 - none were saved for posterity.

The book is written, designed and published by Jason Shron himself. It contains a huge array of photos and collateral material almost all of which comes from his personal collection. It is perfect bound and printed in a format 20 cm wide by 24 cm high (a little over 8" by a little under 9.5" for our metrically challenged American friends). The pages are a very high quality glossy coated paper, the print font is black on white unlike many of the modern stylistic approaches that sprawl text across images, and the photos are very sharply rendered. This is a quality piece of work at a very reasonable price (I paid C$22 for my copy)

The book covers the history of both the Canadian and American turbos from the earliest design stages through to their scrapping. No turbo related subject goes uncovered in the books' 136 pages. The author's enthusiasm for his subject is apparent throughout almost to the point that a reader is ready to start a campaign to bring back the turbos!

I am not a turbo expert so I was unable to spot any inaccuracies or omissions. If any errors exist they are certain to be minor. I also found no typos ... so the proofing and editing were of equally high quality. I do not agree entirely with the author's opinions on the value of the turbos. His insistence that the technology was abandoned ahead of its time is not as clear to me as to him. And certainly, ViaRail and Amtrak would not agree. However, that is just a matter of opinion not fact.

All in all, one of the best written, published and interesting books around on modern rail passenger travel.

As a footnote, a turbo will soon be available from Rapido in HO ( http://www.rapidotrains.com/turbo01.html ) - sadly, there are no plans for one in large scale.

Regards ... Doug
 

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Sounds interesting Doug!

Coincidentally I know the daughter of the engineer who ran the one out of Toronto--she has lots of great stories that she got from her dad--maybe I'll get her that book for Christmas!

Keith
 
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