What is it about trains that make us imagine stories?
Certainly, there is something about the experience of traveling by train or seeing them arrive and leave the station that lends itself to the creation of romantic, tragic, comic, or nostalgic stories.
A touch of hands, a man with a mysterious briefcase in his hands, a rainy day, tears running down a face, all details that can unleash a great story if we pay a little attention.
There’s definitely something exciting about stories set on trains where the carriages are so narrow and the world outside is so wide, though it’s only glimpsed as it speeds by.
If you love to travel by train, you won’t want to miss these train thrillers, mysteries, and train novels. I hope this list of books set on trains will transport you, and inspire you to choose some novels for your reading pile!
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Novels and Fiction set on Trains
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Strangers on a train was the debut novel of Patricia Highsmith and part of its success is due to the fact that it was adapted to the cinema by Alfred Hitchcock a year after its publication.
The novel begins with a chance meeting between two young men on a train. This fleeting encounter sets in motion a terrible chain of events, their drunken conversation leads to a macabre bargain:
You kill for me, I for you, no one relates the crimes, and then each one on his own silently celebrates the perfect crime.
The way the writer tells her stories, her style, and the characterizations of her characters that are psychologically believable allow the reader to fully immerse in the book.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This is a classic book written by Agatha Christie who was known as “The Queen of Crime”. It was written and is set in the 1930s so some of the language and expressions are old-fashioned.
A train. A murder. Multiple suspects. Nearly an alibi for everyone. But wait, there’s a motive for everyone.
How did this seemingly impossible murder occur? Hercule Poirot knows.
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
It’s that sort of book you want to devour at the speed of light but also slowly sip, tasting every page, every paragraph, every word… All at the same time.
Rachel rides the same train every day. Every day she watches “Jess and Jason”, that is how she has named the couple who lives a perfect life, in a dream house.
Until one day she witnesses something disturbing and decides to get involved. This is her opportunity to be part of those lives that she has only seen from the train.
The Last Train To Key West by Chanel Cleeton
This book is a must-read historical fiction novel featuring inspiring, strong women with different stories. It is a novel based on good historical research but with a little romance included.
The Last Train to Key West begins just days before the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. The country is still feeling the impact of the Great Depression.
The three main characters’ paths first cross in Key West at Ruby’s Diner where we meet the young women whose lives will be changed by the horrific disaster about to occur.
When you finish reading this book, you will surely want to share it with your friends!
Be sure to check out more of our favorite novels set in Florida.
Orphan train by Christina Baker Kline
This is the story of two very different women who discover that they have much more in common than they could have imagined.
Vivian, an orphaned Irish immigrant in New York, boarded a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose fates would be determined by chance. Seventeen-year-old Molly knows that a community service position will keep her out of juvenile detention.
Orphan Train is a powerful story of unexpected friendship, second chances, and survival that explores the depth of emotions children experience and the devastating consequences of abandonment.
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
A classic book to enjoy at Christmas!
Tom Langdon is a retired, disillusioned war correspondent and is now back in the US writing articles for domestic magazines and covering teen beauty pageants.
But now Tom has a mission, to get from New York to LA in time to spend the holidays and Christmas with his girlfriend. His multi-day journey puts many interesting and unique characters in his path, as well as moments of adventure and others of mystery.
This is an extraordinary portrait of the lives of people who work and travel on long-distance trains, of second chances and reunions.
4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
What would you do if you witness a murder that no one seems to believe about?
Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy is on her way from a shopping expedition to visit her old friend Jane Marple for Christmas. Her train passes another train running parallel and in the same direction as her train.
Then, she sees a man with his back to her strangling a woman. She reports it for investigation but realizes that no one is taking her word seriously.
When arriving at Miss Marple’s cottage, she tells all to her. Miss Marple believes her story and sets out to determine where the body is because there is no police report on the case on the next day’s news.
If you like suspense stories, murders, and mysteries, you will love this Christie classic. You can even read the other books that include Mrs. Marple.
Orient Express by Graham Greene
The book was originally published under the name “Stambul Train” but was renamed “Orient Express” when it was published in the United States.
The story takes place aboard the majestic Orient Express as it crosses Europe from Ostend to Istanbul (though Greene uses the city’s old name, Constantinople).
All the characters travel for different purposes, but their lives will intertwine over the course of the journey as they confess or cheat on each other, leaving a trail of lust, murder, revolution, and intrigue on the endless train tracks.
More books set in Instanbul can be found on our best books set in & about Turkey.
Claudius Bombarnac by Jules Verne
In this extraordinary adventure, Claudius Barbanac is traveling on the railroad going from Turkestan to Peking. He is a reporter for the French newspaper the Twentieth Century and hopes to find a great story to cover.
He meets quite a few interesting travelers and they do have some challenging adventures, but he continues to search for the hero of his story. Will he find it?
Snowpiercer by Jacques Lob
The graphic novel was adapted into a movie by director Bong Joon-ho, so you might be familiar with it from somewhere. Without a doubt, reading the book is a completely different experience.
After “the great white”—a planet-killing climate event that has covered the world in ice and likely was set off intentionally due to war; the last remnants of humanity are traversing the globe on a massive train with 1001 cars.
The rich enjoy the front of the train with their wealth and comforts, while the 3rd class passengers are oppressed in the rear of the train. However, things are about to change aboard the train…
Non-fiction books about Trains
Epic Train Journeys by Monisha Rajesh
The book contains incredible photographs illustrating stories and useful information from 50 train journeys around the world, from short trips to multi-day transcontinental or from those in economy class to trips on luxury ocean liners.
Without a doubt, it is an exceptional book for those who enjoy traveling by train or are admirers of these incredible machines.
Children’s Books About Trains
Trains Coming Through!: My First Book of Trains by Stephanie Morgan
An unmissable book for little train enthusiasts!
The book is amazing. It is organized by train categories, from the oldest to modern times, passing through the subway, steam engines, or freight trains. It includes fabulous and colorful illustrations along with interesting facts to learn about them.
Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker
A relaxing book that brings together animals on a train.
When the train of dreams arrives at the station, each car is loaded: polar bears in the refrigerated car with ice cream, elephants fill tank cars with paints, tortoises fill it with race cars, and kangaroos with balls.
Recommended for reading aloud to children before going to sleep or for those little ones who are starting their first readings.
Young adult books set on Trains
Love and other train wrecks by Leah Konen
If what you are looking for is a novel with humor and romance, this book is for you! This romance plays out over the course of twenty-four hours during their madcap journey to upstate New York.
Ammy doesn’t believe in true love, but she’s riding a train to attend her dad’s second wedding. Noah is a total romantic. So much so that he’s taking a train back home to try and win back his first love.
The train stops for unknown reasons and nobody is sure how long it will take to get them back on the journey, but Ammy and Noah are anxious to reach their destinations. They hatch a crazy plan to get off the train that will lead them down a road full of misadventures.
Along the way, the pair will learn what it means to be a friend and that romance can blossom even in the midst of a blizzard.
Find even more New York City books on this reading list.
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
A book worth reading, whether you are an adult or a child. It is a hopeful and full-of-learning story.
Roberta, Phyllis, and Peter are living idyllic lives with their parents. The children are well-loved, and their parents make time to play with them.
One day, two men come to visit their father and he leaves with them.
Shortly after the father leaves, the mother and children have to move out of suburbia into the country because their social and financial status has radically changed. The three children no longer go to school, and while their time away, they spend a lot of time exploring the countryside and especially the railway line and station.
They make friends with the porter, Albert Perks, and the ‘Old Gentleman’ who is regularly on the 9.15 train. There’s fun and they have adventures, but they still wonder if their father is ever going to come home.
What Do You Think Of These Books Set On Trains?
Have you read any of these books set on trains? Do you know some great books that I’ve missed? What is your favorite book set on a train? I’d love to hear your thoughts on books set on trains in the comments below!
More Great Travel Books
Are you looking for even more travel books to inspire your sense of adventure and transport you to faraway places without having to leave the comfort of home?
Here are some more recommendations for great travel books to pick up next: