Across America on an Emigrant Train





Murphy, Jim. Across America on an Emigrant Train. 1993, available in paperback. 150pp. Lexile 1180.

In this outstanding book, readers take a journey across America by train in 1879 with 29-year-old Robert Louis Stevenson, starting in New York City and ending in California.  The text uses many quotes from Stevenson’s writing to add color and detail about what it was like to travel in trains filled with mostly poor immigrants.  Murphy expands beyond Stevenson’s journey to descriptions of various trains, how they worked, accidents and problems, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and the effect the railroads had on the countryside and Native Americans.  Black-and-white etchings and photographs with useful captions show train workers, the scenery, the interiors and exteriors of many trains, and more. 

Reading Std #3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.  While Stevenson conveys the excitement of travel and the rich possibilities of the West, he also develops the theme of how Native Americans were treated as the West was settled and the railroads built.  Have students look in the text for Stevenson's own words on the subject and how Murphy integrates them into the whole.