There Is A Crisis In Donner Pass...
Winter in the High Sierras has always been a challenge, but this time is different. Global warming has spawned an endless series of blizzards the likes of which have never been seen before. Even the proud Union Pacific is reeling from the onslaught.
But the relentless storms and equipment breakdowns are only the beginning. They face a crisis at Donner Summit: a passenger train wrecked in the most dangerous, inhospitable terrain in all of railroading.
The railroad's Maintenance Of Way men—exhausted and short of equipment—must brave bitter cold and white-out conditions to rescue the survivors, in a raging blizzard, with the real danger of avalanches striking at any moment.
More than five hundred lives hang in the balance...
Here is the story of the unsung heroes of modern railroading - the Maintenance of Way - who keep the lines open under the worst conditions, and who fight to uphold the time honored tradition that the trains will always get through.
Stories of the railroads and railroad men have always held a special place in dramatic fiction. Here is one such tale - which combines the lore and mystique of the high iron with tomorrows headlines in a grim warning of ecological disaster.
Far too many commentators focus on the big picture of ecological crisis, but it is the fallout of that crisis and how it affects individuals which is the real story of climate change. Maintenance Of Way is a thankless task at the best of times, and when times are worst - when the tracks are washed out or bridges burnt or the passes clogged with snow - that's precisely the moment the track gangs are needed most.
Hard, weary men and women cope with extremes of heat and cold, rain and snow to repair tracks and clean up wrecks, answering the call when Nature unleashes its worst. Their labors are born in fires, floods, earthquakes, and blizzards, and they tread where weaker men dare not go. Theirs is an endless, seemingly hopeless task for which they rarely receive the recognition they deserve, yet without them the railroads - and the nation - would grind to a halt.
Here, at last, is their story.
This is a significant change from my usual field of F SF H. One of the hallmarks of my writing career has been my eagerness to try out new genres and new formats. This is my first foray into non-sci fi, the so-called 'mainstream literature'. Part of this is my interest in expanding beyond the spec fi market, which is very small and way over-saturated, after all.
The reason I chose railroading for my theme is, first, I am well familiar with the industry, being a life-time model railroader, and it is a most interesting subject IMn/sHO.
Second, there have been relatively few popular fiction novels published in this genre, although most of them are classics:"Of Time And The River", for example, by Thomas Wolfe featured much of the atmosphere of the Railroad Age. And there have been some excellent movies, "Von Ryan's Express", "Empiror Of The North Pole" and "The Train" having solid railroad themes - but that is pretty well it.
Third, the railroading hobby is well estaablished, so breaking in as an unknown should be fairly easy.
In any event, this was written for the same reason Mount Everest was climbed: 'Because it is there.' We shall see how it turns out.
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