Book Review: Railway Nation

This is a review of the book “Railway Nation: Tales of Canadian Pacific – The World’s Greatest Travel System” by David Laurence Jones.

I should disclose that I was given this book for free as a review copy, so consider that while reading this review. I would’ve bought this book anyway, and in fact I asked for it for Christmas and my wife bought it for me as well, so I now have two copies.

This book is a series of stories about the Canadian Pacific Railway and its associated businesses like CP Air, its hotels, passenger ships and so forth. It is not a traditional railfan book. It is more for the general public who would like to hear more about Canadian Pacific and its history.

If you are fairly well-versed in Canadian railway history, you will have heard some of these stories already. However, there are many stories that you probably haven’t heard or you certainly haven’t seen all the stories collected in one place before. The author does a really good job of covering not just the railway portion of Canadian Pacific but also its associated businesses like CP Express, CP Air and the passenger ships that CP operated.

The book is divided into five sections, listed below.

  1. Ribbons of Steel
  2. Railroaders, Rebels and Royalty
  3. Theatres of War
  4. Urban Castles and Rustic Resorts
  5. In the Air, On the Sea, and by Land

Each section has about 15 or so stories, each of which is four or five pages long. It is a great book to pick up, read a couple of stories, and put down again for another time. All the stories are engaging and interesting and it is a very readable book.

If you are looking for a chronological, scholarly study of the Canadian Pacific, this isn’t your book. I believe it is well researched, but it is not presented as a detailed linear history. It is also not a picture book; each chapter is illustrated with a couple of photographs but it is mostly text.

I definitely want to say something about the presentation of this book. The cover that you see above is a very stylized picture of a train through mountains that is very reminiscent of Canadian Pacific’s advertising art work, and the entire book is written laid out on the team with a stylized drawing leading each of the five sections. I found this to be a very effective and attractive presentation of the book. Kudos to Jacqui Thomas, who did the cover and interior design.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I read it over the space of five days by picking it up and reading a few chapters at a time.

The author worked for the CPR for many years and has written a few books about the railway already:

I haven’t read any of them yet but I will seek them out.


Buy this book on Amazon, from Chapters/Indigo, or from the publisher (Heritage House).

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Railway Nation”

  1. I got this book for Christmas present so have just started it today. I didn’t know it was a variety about CPR company, so am anticipating to start reading.

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