While there is nothing quite like seeing the country from a train, travellers are given scenic views often inaccessible by other modes of transportation, there is no denying that train travel is accompanied by long days. One can only enjoy so many glasses of merlot, coffee, or tea window-side before ennui sets in. The best way to stave off any boredom is to immerse yourself in a good book.

Trains provide excellent reading conditions, and what better way to pass the time on a train than with a book set on a train? In literature, trains often represent progress and change, both bad and good, and can help to propel narratives forward. Trains can transport people to new opportunities and exotic destinations. A place where strangers can become friends or lovers. Trains also provide a gateway to the unknown. Sometimes an ominous setting filled with death and mistrust, and sometimes a symbol of hope and a way to escape.

Below you will find some of the best books set on trains, both fiction and non-fiction, that make excellent additions to your travel itinerary.


A marriage of art & truth.

A story of people

The story of the plan to build the railway across Canada. Pierre Breton uses primary sources, such as diaries, letters, public documents, and newspapers, to bring to life this epic endeavor.

Canadian Rail Travel Guide

by Daryl T. Adair

This book will give you all the information you need to know for planning a trans-Canada rail trip. It includes mile-by-mile descriptions of points of interest, locations of communities on the routes, route histories, destination attractions and more.

Guidebook to train travel with VIA Rail

A gem of Western Canada

Trip of a Lifetime is about the building of the Rocky Mountaineer. Includes an inscription from Peter Armstrong, President of Great Canadian Railtours and James Terry, head of Guest Services and Operations.

Epic Train Journeys

by Monisha Rajesh

Monisha Rajesh presents 50 legendary routes around the world, everything from cheap seats to luxury locomotives. Providing inspiration and practical tips for people who want to experience the joys of travelling by rail. Here you will find information about The Skeena and The Canadian.

The world's greatest rail routes

Memoir of life at the Banff Railway Station

This entertaining memoir and important historical record documents Terry Gainer’s life at the Banff Railway Station. Complete with a selection of archival photographs, When Trains Ruled the Rockies traces the role the station played in the local community.

Discusses the way in which our perceptions of distance, time, autonomy, speed, and risk were altered by railway travel. This book covers a wide range of topics, including the changing perception of landscapes, the death of conversation while travelling, the problematic nature of the railway compartment, the space of glass architecture, the pathology of the railway journey, industrial fatigue and the history of shock, and the railroad and the city.

The impact of constant technological change

A hugely entertaining railway odyssey

The Great Railway Bazaar

by Paul Theroux

First published in 1975, Paul Theroux’s strange, unique, and hugely entertaining Railway Odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia’s fabled trains – the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, and the Trans-Siberian Express – are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London’s Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back again.

A blend of memoir, history, and biography that takes the reader on one of the world’s most famous trains and tells of carving the dramatic route it follows, while pondering other international railways through the eyes of travellers past and present.


Let your imagination run wild.

Murder on the Canadian

by Eric Wilson

Tom Austen, an amateur detective, and his school rival, Dietmar Oban, are travelling from Winnipeg to Vancouver on The Canadian. During the journey, a woman is murdered, and Tom employs his amateur detective techniques to determine who killed her. Tom finds himself in great danger and fighting for his life in a black railway tunnel in the Rockies.

Eric Wilson’s internationally bestselling debut novel

The most widely read mystery of all time

Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the famous Orient Express in its tracks as it travels through the mountainous Balkans. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year but, by the morning, it has one passenger less. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.
One of the passengers is none other than Detective Hercule Poirot. Isolated and with a killer on board, Poirot must identify the murderer—in case he or she decides to strike again.

Strangers on a Train

by Patricia Highsmith

Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno are passengers on the same train. Haines is a successful architect in the middle of a divorce, and Bruno is a mysterious smooth talker with a sadistic proposal: he’ll murder Haines’s wife if Haines will murder Bruno’s father. As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy finds himself trapped in a perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, ordinary people are capable of extraordinary crimes. The inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1951 film, Strangers on a Train launched Highsmith’s prolific career, proving her a master at depicting the unsettling forces that tremble beneath the surface of everyday life.

A psychological thriller that stays with you

An international #1 bestseller

The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train.

Night Train to Lisbon

by Emily Grayson

A tale of the pursuit of love and passion against all odds, set in the 1930s when the world was on the brink of war and suspicion of loyalty, motivation, and intent — to both country and lover — was at flood tide. On a night train to Lisbon, a young American abroad will find the love she always desired and a danger she never imagined.

Over two million copies sold worldwide

A much-loved children's classic

In this much-loved children’s classic, first published in 1906, the comfortable lives of three well-mannered siblings are greatly altered when, one evening, two men arrive at the house and take their father away. With the family’s fortunes considerably reduced in his absence, the children and their mother are forced to live in a simple country cottage near a railway station. There the young trio — Roberta, Peter, and young Phyllis — befriend the porter and station master.

Would you ever reveal a dark secret to a stranger, even if you knew you’d never meet that person again? This question is at the heart of author, Carolyn Moncel’s latest work, Railway Confessions – A Collection of Short Stories. As passengers travel aboard a TGV train from Paris to Geneva one summer evening, three couples casually disclose very intimate, truthful details that could potentially transform their lives either for the better or for the worse.

A collection of short stories

From the Author of 'Jurassic Park'

The Great Train Robbery

by Michael Crichton

London, 1855, when lavish wealth and appalling poverty exist side by side, one mysterious man navigates both worlds with perfect ease. Edward Pierce preys on the most prominent of the well-to-do as he cunningly orchestrates the crime of his century. Who would suspect that a gentleman of breeding could mastermind the extraordinary robbery aboard the pride of England’s industrial era, the mighty steam locomotive? Based on fact but studded with all the suspense and style of fiction, here is a classic historical thriller, set a decade before the age of dynamite, yet nonetheless explosive.

If you would like any other suggestions of what to read while on the train you can follow the link below

Other Canadian Train Travel Books