The Railway Children

The Railway Children cover


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit details the lives of Roberta, Phyllis, Peter after their father disappears and they move with their mother to a shabby cottage near the railroad.

Plot Summary

When their father leaves under mysterious circumstances, Roberta, Phyllis, Peter and Mother move from their comfortable house to a shabby cottage near a railroad. The kids’ fascination with the trains helps distract them from their concerns about their father’s absence.

Realizing they’re poor and that Mother earns little as a writer, Peter convinces himself it’s all right to steal coal from the railway station. The stationmaster catches him but is kind and forgiving. The kids watch and name all the trains. They make a habit of waving to a man they dub the Old Gentleman on a train they call the Green Dragon.

When Mother gets sick and can’t afford the necessary medicine, the kids talk to the doctor and send a note to the Old Gentleman, asking for a loan. Mother is upset and embarrassed when she learns the kids have requested help. Nevertheless, she takes the medicine and recovers.

A Russian writer arrives in town. He was imprisoned for writing sentiments the government didn’t like and has become separated from his family. The kids prevent a serious train crash by signaling the engineer. The Old Gentleman, who runs the railroad, honors them with a ceremony. When they tell the Old Gentleman about the Russian writer, he helps find the man’s family and organizes a reunion.

Roberta goes to the Old Gentleman once again when she finds a newspaper clipping reporting that her father was arrested. The Old Gentleman helps prove their father’s innocence and returns him to his family.

Christian Beliefs

Mother urges the children to ask God to show mercy to all prisoners and captives. At this time, the kids don’t realize their father is one of the captives of which she speaks.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

The children’s father is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Their mother writes to make a living for the family in his absence. Several adults, like a Russian author, the Old Gentleman and other railroad employees, are kind and attentive to the children.

Profanity & Violence


Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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