Best Book Publishers UK | Austin Macauley Publishers

By: John Szemerey

The Ghost of the Cog-Wheel Railway

Pages: 42 Ratings: 5.0
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The ghost of Zoltán is rewarded for a good life by being allowed to drive the cog-wheel railway up and down the Buda hills at night.

This had been Zoltán’s life ambition, and he is very happy. 

However, the people living near the cog-wheel railway are worried why the railway is running when it should be closed down for the night. So they call the police, who try to set a trap for whoever is driving the railway. But the trap does not work, as the police cannot see the ghost of Zoltán driving the train.

The local dogs and cats, who can see ghosts, welcome Zoltán and the night journeys of the cog-wheel railway.

John Szemerey is a journalist. He is a general and political features writer, and was one of the first British officials of the European Commission (1974–2006). He is now retired.

Customer Reviews
2 reviews
2 reviews
  • Vidubo

    Firstly, this is a tale to ease the pain that children can experience when someone dies.

    This highly unusual and beautifully illustrated book for younger children takes place in the hills of Buda, on one side of the Danube River, with Pest on the other side. These are the two areas which make up Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

    The author’s own young children were told the tale by their father, John Szemerey, when they visited Budapest on holiday many years ago on holiday. Recently retired from his role as a journalist based in Brussels, he showed the original story to me a year or two ago. His children had already begged him to publish it and I encouraged him to take this idea seriously. He waited until he could find the right kind of illustrator. A well worthwhile wait.

    Firstly, it seems to me that young listeners and slightly older readers will have their horizons enlarged by the idea of a country far away from the United Kingdom where there is a special railway that goes up and down a hill collecting and dropping off people regularly during the day. And as it happens, by a ghost driver at night...

    Children will learn that not everyone thinks in the same way – which can only be helpful to them. They might also leran that animals almost always know what’s happening before humans do.

    As younger children may not be aware there are places other than the area close to home they are familiar with, this is a good chance for children to broaden their horizons.

    In my experience, a child from six to seven will be enchanted by the opportunity to learn about a country with special trains that can go right up a steep hill. What’s more the published book is generous with illustrations, has good hard covers that will last well and the print is large enough for children to see easily in their early attempts to read.

    The story begins with a friendly old fellow called Zoltan on his 80th birthday. His family hold a birthday party for him and everyone he knows.The food is fantastic. He spends time with everyone he can. However, at the end of the day, he falls asleep in an armchair...

    When Zoltan falls asleep after his birthday party, he dreams of his family and his long life working for the railways – the last 20 of which he had been a train driver. As his dreams fade away, so does his breathing and awareness of Earth.

    Angels gather. Zoltan was well known for his goodness, helpfulness and kindness to his workmates so they send him straight to Heaven.

    It is a natural and non-frightening way for children to learn about death although it might not suit those who hold firmly to political correctness. Parents or teachers might consider the book as a non-confronting way to deal with the subject of death for younger children.

    An immensely old, bearded man sits at a a large desk. He smiled cheerfully at Zoltan, who feels a little nervous. He is reassured by St Peter – for that is who the very old man with a big notebook was. ‘You deserve a special wish if there’s anything you want,’ he told the newcomer.

    At first, Zoltan thought there was nothing else he wanted – he had it all while he was alive – but then he remembered that he had always wanted to drive the cog-wheel railway. ‘No problem!’ said the smiling saint. And he arranged for Zoltan to drive the cog-wheel train up and down the Buda hills at night when the railway was officially closed.

    This is where the fun starts. It is a very special train and the mountain railway is the only one of its kind in Hungary... if not the world.

    Read about what happens when Zoltan – who cannot be seen by normal people but can be seen by cats, dogs and other creatures – starts driving the railway carriage after midnight. This is when normal passenger service stops.

    Night after night, most of the people on Buda mountain are kept awake after midnight by the combination of the train’s bell at every stop and the excited cries and yelps from people’s animals – as well as a few homeless cats.

    A lawyer is asked to intervene. The police are called in. But the train just keeps going up and down the hill. And guess what? After a while the cats ask if they can have a ride, too. This leads to even more surprising things...

  • Stuart Millson

    Younger readers – or indeed grown-up readers who love railways and amusing ghostly puzzles – will be delighted by Institute member John Szemerey’s light-hearted tale of the supernatural from Hungary. The result of a story he told to his own family, Szemerey has created a superb story-book, the perfect Christmas gift, with excellent illustrations that help to set the mood (although there does not deem to be a credit to the artist). The saga concerns the cogwheel railway line that serves the people who live on the hilly Buda side of Budapest, and the old train-driver, Zoltán, whose one aim in life – and the afterlife – is to maintain the rail service, no matter how much the appearance of an apparently driverless train scares the locals – and baffles the local police! Passengers of the strange ghost-train also include a group of stray cats, the unruly feline presence adding to the head-scratching difficulties faced by the authorities.
    They say that a sad tale is best for winter, yet this is most definitely one ghost-train which you can board in the full knowledge of there being a happy ending – with more than a few smiles along the track!

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