RAILROAD SEMANTICS #1: $7.95, 5 ½” x 7”, paperback, 64 pgs.

Apr 27, 2012

This is a nicely packaged zine, a reproduction in book form (so I suppose it could have been reviewed in the book section, but I’m putting it with zines since that’s what it was originally released as) of the first issue of Railroad Semantics. It is a perzine of riding the rails from Portland, Oregon, to Pocatello, Idaho, and then from Portland to Eugene, Oregon. I’ve read a zine or two before about riding the rails, something which I have always thought would be interesting to do if I wasn’t such a suburban-raised drone, dependent on a job with steady health insurance. So when an occasional zine talking about riding the rails comes my way, I have to live vicariously through such an individual. This issue has not only the tales of the rider but also a number of black and white pictures of beautiful landscapes, train yards, and people met along the way. There are also pics of train graffiti and photocopies of articles related to trains. It’s an interesting compilation of things, but certainly not the best thing I’ve read on riding the rails.  Much of the author’s experiences were dull, without much of any conflict (which always makes for a good story) and his descriptions were “here’s how I got from point A to point B.” There’s not much attention to descriptions of the experiences for the non-tramp. This is all based, too, on the notion that the reader will be familiar with train terminology. There were a number of acronyms that could have been made much clearer with some parenthetical explanations. I found my lack of experience with riding the rails to make this a rather lackluster read.Recommended exclusively for tramps or those familiar with train culture. -Kurt Morris (Microcosm, 636 SE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97214)