Book Review
Whistle Stop by George Gait

Have you read any of Paul Theroux's books such as "The Great Railway Bazaar" or "The Old Patagonian Express"? Have you ever wished that Theroux would "do" Canada in the same way? I certainly did. Thus I was really pleased to read George Gait's book "Whistle Stop".

Gait starts in Toronto and ends in Prince Rupert. Sometimes he is forced to get to some of his destinations by bus, because the train does not go there or is too late. He reminisces about old train trips he took as a child as well as narrating the zany and sometimes frightening things that he saw on today's trains.

He likes to tell ribald tales and his story of the "genital tennis" performance will keep me laughing for years. He fantasizes about meeting a beautiful "outgoing" woman on the train, but has to be content with a gossip in Charlottetown and a girl who snuggles up to him with her toes on the "Canadian". She wonders aloud about the difficulties of lovemaking in a lower berth, but he claims to have avoided the experiment.

If you like to ride trains not for the technical nature but for the human interest side of the trip, you'll love this book. There are some picky railway points that are probably wrong, for example, a southbound Ontario Northland train that goes down the WEST side of Lake Simcoe before heading down the Don Valley into Toronto. The end-paper maps certainly miss out on parts of his journey as well as putting junctions in strange places.

I certainly liked the book in spite of the errors. Canada now has a Paul Theroux!

Bytown Railway Society,  Branchline, October 1987, page 17.

Home    Circle    Articles