Peter’s Railway books continue train-loving children’s journey

TFKTrain Books43 Comments

Peter's Railway Montage

There are few books that my six-year old son, Zachary, treasures more than his hardback Peter’s Railway ones. To a degree, he had outgrown Thomas The Tank Engine and younger train books and I was keen to use his love of railways, maths and how things are built to explore more real-life situations. The first book in Christopher Vine’s Peter’s Railway series fit the bill exactly, and we now own the whole lot.

For those of you who have one of the books, the format will be familiar. For those who don’t it can be summed up in three parts: tenderly-written railway adventure stories based around Peter, his grandfather and wider family; accessible and interesting technical explanations of how things work; and finally tales that bring to life the enduring history of railways. Peter's Railway Main Series

Aimed at children of six and upwards (but as I write below, they can be enjoyed by younger kids in my view), the series of five hardback books tell the story of Peter and Grandpa building and running their steam railway from the house where Peter lives with his parents, siblings and pets to his grandparents’ farm.

“Well,” said Peter, “if a big railway is too big, why don’t we build a small railway? We could make it just big enough to carry us, the rest of the family and a few friends. The neighbours would hardly know it was there and the cows and sheep would not be frightened at all.”

Grandpa switched off the machine and looked up. A huge smile spread slows across his face. “Peter my boy,” he said, “I think you’ve got it!”

(Extract from Peter’s Railway Book 1)

Peter's Railway Book 1

Peter's Railway Inside

Grandpa and Peter set to work planning and building their railway. As each chapter passes, the technical sections explain simply but accurately the key engineering and technical concepts behind the unfolding story. Children (and quite honestly, adults if they are reading with the kids) are brought insights into ‘Why Railways Don’t Have Steep Hills or ‘Gradients”, ‘Cuttings and Embankments’, ‘The Boiler – How the Locomotive Makes Its Steam’ and so on.

Peter's Railway Technical

The first of Grandpa’s stories from the history of railways centres on a WWII fighter plane that shot at a steam locomotive’s boiler, only for the dome to blow off and down the Luftwaffe aircraft. As Grandpa concludes the story, Peter asks ‘Have you got any more good stories?’. In a nod to the many more that will crop up through the Peter’s Railway books, Grandpa replies. ‘Ah, yes. I might well have, but I think we had better put down a but more track first. Otherwise, if I get started on stories about the old railways, we might never finish our railway!’

Grand opening for Peter’s Railway

Of course, as book 1 concludes, Peter and Grandpa do finish their railway and make their maiden trip. However, the journey – as in all the books – is one of working out how to solve the many challenges to completing ambitious projects, whether that be their lack of a steam locomotive or Grandma’s reluctance to travel on their new railway.

We read the first Peter’s Railway book to Zachary at the age of four and as far as we could tell he followed along well (and we skipped the technical parts as these are supplementary to the narrative). This was helped by John Wardle’s beautiful watercolour pictures that visually bring the books alive. Now Zachary is older, we stop more to understand better how things are being built and solved.

Peter's Railway John wardle

John Wardle’s beautiful illustrations

As the series progresses, Peter and Grandpa’s railway grows to match their ambition. A turntable is built and Peter learns to drive the engine (Book 2: Peter’s Railway and The Moonlight Express), the line is extended in a way that allows faster speeds and a race (Book 3: Peter’s Railway and the Forgotten Engine), new power sources are investigated but Fiery Fox is needed to help during bad weather (Book 4: Peter’s Railway To the Rescue), while the pair must finally become entrepreneurial to achieve an ambitious five-mile extension (Book 5: Peter’s Railway Hits The Jackpot).

Peter's Railway Mini Series

Christopher Vine has also penned 10 shorter paperback books, of which seven are aimed at the same age bracket, and three are written especially for 3-6 year olds. Each of these can be read individually but link back to certain parts of the hardback Peter’s Railway series – allowing aficionados like Zachary to pinpoint when in the series they had been written. There is also a Peter’s Railway Activity Book.

Author Christopher Vine signing books for Zachary at Bluebell Railway

Author Christopher Vine signing books for Zachary at Bluebell Railway

Since I started Trains For Kids in early 2015, I have spoken with Christopher Vine a number of times. It’s made me realise how much dedication is put into the Peter’s Railway world, whether that be his generosity when he spotted on Twitter that Zachary had an old version of Peter’s Railway Book 1 and sent him a new, signed one; or the time he spends at steam railway stations signing his books for children, parents and grandparents alike (as above image shows).

So, if you are ready to join Peter and Grandpa in their adventures building railways in the countryside, why not do so by going direct to the author’s website here, where unlike on Amazon or in bookshops he can dedicate and sign your copy of the book.

AA Peters Railway animated gif logo

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Grandpa and Peter build Peter’s Railway together. Who or what inspired your child’s/children’s love of trains? Let us know below!

43 Comments on “Peter’s Railway books continue train-loving children’s journey”

  1. Amy Tidd

    Thomas the tank engine for us, this has developed into a love of all trains! We have an extensive big jig and brio collection and have been several times to the watercress line to ride on different steam trains! My son loves trains!

    1. TFK

      Yes, it’s so wonderful Thomas the Tank Engine has endured for 70 years. Think how many kids have enjoyed trains because of him. Good luck – Ian

  2. kayleigh white

    We are a family of train lovers. My father is a volunteer on the West Somerset Railway – we love steam engines and go on them when we can, naturally it’s not often as we live 400 miles away in Wales. My dad took my nephew on the steam plate and ever since all the kids have a fascination with steam engines! We love Thomas the Tank engine in our family and Chuggington characters too.

    1. TFK

      A whole tribe! I’ve never been on the steam plate – looks too much luck hard work 😉 Yep, TTTE and Chuggington toys frequently adorn the floor here ready to be trodden on.

  3. sarah wells

    The driver of a steam train waving at her and blowing his horn. She now wants to be a train driver and is driving us mad with her new favourite song, the runaway train.

  4. Adam Berger

    Playing with one train inspired mine to want to play with born. Now recognising it wherever they are. They are great pieces of art those trains.

  5. Kylie

    My son loves trains, he’s only two and a half but is obsessed. His dad got him in to it, first with Thomas and then they got a model railway set for Christmas last year and they can both spend hours playing with it. He can tell you if a train is a electric, steam or diesel just by looking at it.
    I often find myself sitting at the train station on a chilly afternoon so that they can both watch the trains go by.

    1. TFK

      That’s great knowledge for a 2.5 year old. Zachary at a similar age was saying Her and Bar when Southeastern trains went by (on chilly, sunny, rainy and many other afternoons, so I know that game). We didn’t get it for weeks until we realised there were two types of trains: the one with the door in the middle like the nose was Her and without was Bar. For the next two years I had to report back each commuting day – the colour of the doors, number of coaches and if it was a Her or Bar train. For both ways. There may have been some white lies.

  6. Gillian

    We are not really sure!! We have always taken our 2 boys out on lots of different days out & we spend lots of time in the open air during the summer. We have been to MOSI a few times but all of a sudden he just seemed to become completely obsessed with trains! Wanting to spend every weekend doing train things. We have just been to the NRM in York which we kept a surprise & his reaction when we got inside was brilliant, he just didn’t know where to look ????

    1. TFK

      I love that you made NMR a surprise. Kid in a sweetie shop. Always tough to pinpoint where s/he likes trains ends and s/he is a train fanatic comes in.

  7. Gill

    Started with Thomas here too but a visit to the National Railway Museum in York really stoked his imagination.

  8. debbi ruskin

    The inspirtion for my son’s fascination with trains would seem to be his autism – a connection which I have never found anyone able to explain but a common love among his peers. All I know is that he can watch them for HOURS! Lol

    1. TFK

      Thanks Debbi. I know very little about autism but there is a lot of scientific works on why people with autism prefer fixating on mechanical things rather than psychological. My very basic guess from afar is about predictability. Machines repeat, repeat, repeat and are less likely to throw a curve ball, which gives comfort if communication is challenging. Youtube is frequently on in our house with the boys watching trains or surprise eggs.

  9. Margaret Gallagher

    70 years of Thomas and still going strong -great for my nephew to learn and explore-started with going to bury on santa train a few years ago and having steam trains passing through our local railway station-so exciting to watch the marvellous engines in all their splendor

    1. TFK

      He doesn’t look that old does he?! It’s happened to me only twice but alway funny when on a commuter train and a steam engine rockets passed the other way.

  10. Tracy Nixon

    I loved Ivor the Engine as a child and then I got all my four children interested in train via Thomas the Tank engine! We went to the exhibition in York a few years ago and ever since then my boys have wanted to be train drivers when they grow up!

    1. TFK

      Ivor the Engine! The name is a little familiar but I’ve never really seen it. Just been on Youtube and it’s so brilliantly British. “Not so very long ago, in the top left hand corner of Wales, there was a railway. It wasn;t a very long railway or a very important railway…” Thanks, Tracy.

  11. sally brown

    It was Thomas the Tank Engine that caught my sons imagination that led to the love of trains x

    1. TFK

      Family is often important in inspiring kids’ love of something. Not in our family – though my dad as a former electrical engineer is certainly of a similar mindset. Glad my kids didn’t get fixated on surface to air defence weapons!

  12. Anthony Harrington

    Our little Grandson loves all forms of transportation, he started with buses, then tractors and now trains, he has fallen in love with trains as he lives near enough to a station to see them regularly.

  13. Gemma

    Trains are my sons life. After going on a train ride he loves to sit and watch the wheels go round. Peter’s life is deal for my sons. Great books.

  14. Sharon Hopkinson

    No idea where my boy’s love of trains comes from, except he loves all things mechanical. Anything with wheels, pistons, engines……

  15. Emma Anderson

    As we are a non driving family, to get any good distance we go by train, I think this has given both my children a great love of trains, they are the start of an adventure!

  16. Ruth Harwood

    We always had trains in the house when I was young and we’ve followed that up with a nice set in the bedroom on the kids floor xx

  17. Carrie Talbot-Ashby

    We are lucky enough to live very close to a railway, and my four children have always loved listening out and watching for the trains, but really Thomas the Tank engine began my love of trains years ago, i’m 35 now and now my children read all my old books and love him as much as I did! xx Lovely giveaway x

    1. TFK

      Something special about reminiscing over your old books with new kids. I love the rectangular original Thomas books.

  18. Jean Vaughan

    My grandson was born in Spain and I took Thomas books and a railway over for his birthdays and Christmas until his family moved back to England. One of the first trips we did together was the Bishop Lydeard to Minehead trip on a steam train and from here his love of trains was brought to fruition.Now at school he is obsessed with science, technology and maths, and I know his interest will definitely be caught by these books.

    1. TFK

      What a lucky grandson! Yes, these books are amazing for kids of that mindset – it’s not just railways and locomotives that are explained through the series, but all sorts from bridge building to energy sources.

  19. Victoria Prince

    What fab books :) It seems to pass down the generations here – my grandfather was a massive model railway enthusiast, as is my dad and I loved “playing” with them when I was a child (and as an adult!) and then of course Thomas is a massive favourite

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