Off the Tracks: A Meditation on Train Journeys in a Time of No Travel

Mulloy, Pamela

  • Train travel is having a renaissance. Grand old routes that had been canceled, or were moldering in neglect, have been refurbished as destinations in themselves. The Rocky Mountaineer, the Orient Express, and the Trans-Siberian Railroad run again in all their glory.

    Pamela Mulloy has always loved train travel. Whether returning to the Maritimes every year with her daughter on the Ocean, or taking her family across Europe to Poland, trains have been a linchpin of her life. As COVID locked us down, Mulloy began an imaginary journey that recalled the trips she has taken, as well as those of others. Whether it was Mary Wollstonecraft traveling alone to Sweden in the late 1700s, or the incident that had Charles Dickens forever fearful of trains, or the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt trapped in her carriage in a midwestern blizzard in the 1890s, or Sir John A. Macdonald’s wife daring to cross the Rockies tied to the cowcatcher at the front of the train, the stories explore the odd mix of adventure and contemplation that travel permits.

    Thoughtful, observant, and fun, Off the Tracks is the perfect blend of research and personal experience that, like a good train ride, will whisk you into another world.


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  • Pamela Mulloy is the author of two novels, including As Little As Nothing (2022). She is the editor of the New Quarterly and director of the Wild Writers Literary Festival. She has lived in the UK, Poland, and the US. She now lives in Kitchener, Ontario.

  • Published: April 2024

    ISBN: 9781770417298

    Dimensions: 5 x 8 in.

    Pages: 192

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“Readers will be persuaded that traveling can be more than a means for getting from point A to point B.” — Publishers Weekly

“The book’s vignettes cover many aspects of train travel … The vision of shining rails leading to new horizons holds [the book] together.” — Library Journal

“Pamela Mulloy’s Off the Tracks is like ‘slow travel’ itself: absorbing, with many grace notes of observant and profound perceptions on the whole project of moving across space—preferably by train. Like Rebecca Solnit, Mulloy is an expert storyteller, allowing her personal relationship with travel to open doors onto travel’s relationship with history, gender, politics, and the whole project of selfhood. Perceptively written, it is full of fascinating insights on how travel allows us to discover and understand our world.” —Jean McNeil

Off the Tracks is doing a lot, but never feels overstuffed. Instead, Mulloy invites us to wander her memories and her learning in order to escape from the COVID days. It’s remarkable she was able to pull something meaningful and interesting from that exercise.” — Miramichi Reader

Off the Tracks is an enchanting, lyrical reflection on memory, travel, and passenger trains … With pensive, evocative accounts of trains and travel, Off the Tracks is a lovely, immersive book about how our physical and mental journeys shape us.” — Foreword Reviews

“I read Off the Tracks in one sitting, on a couch by a window that transformed into a European couchette, a stagecoach, a dining car speeding through a Maritime landscape and more on journeys that were remembered, imagined, and hoped for. Sparked by a stillness in time, Mulloy writes in beautiful, spare prose of travel as an act of the mind and memory, the ever-changing notion of home, and covers landscapes that are both geographic and metaphoric. Her travelling companions are historic as well as intimate, and always interesting, while Mulloy is a thoughtful, nuanced, and engaging guide.” — Emily Urquhart, author of Ordinary Wonder Tales

“Mulloy sends us vivid dispatches on the beautiful topic of trains and train dreams, leaping easily from the Napoleonic Wars to Google Maps, botany and Brontë to Italian movies. Off the Tracks recounts both psychic and physical journeys, past and present, parallel trips to international destinations, and, perhaps more importantly, the in-between places of travel. This is an intimate memoir, brimming with pleasing tangents and informed by family, history, lit, and wit.” — Mark Anthony Jarman, author of Touch Anywhere to Begin