The Old Powder Line, by Richard Parker, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Old Powder Line, by Richard Parker (Thomas Nelson, 1971) is very enjoyable English time travel story.  It tells how an ordinary kid, fifteen year old Brian, discovers that there is a fourth platform at his local train station that he had never known about (even though he's been a keen train spotter for years), and from there, a steam train travels on an abandoned railway to the old powder mill (as in the ingredients for gunpowder) up in the hills.  Though he knows it's impossible, he boards the train, and when he gets off at the next stop he finds he's gone back in time 14 years...but fortunately, he gets on the train going in the other direction, and is in the present again.  

He's joined in his exploration of the time travel phenomena by one of his sister's friends, Wendy, and by an older man, Mr. Mincing, paralyzed in an accident years ago...at which point the time travel turns tricky.  Mr. Mincing travels the train past the threshold where Brian can safely disembark (his own lifetime), and when he gets trapped in his wheelchair back in the past, Brian must find a way to rescue him.   And meanwhile, Wendy might be trapped in a time of her own when the train schedule starts to change...

What makes it such a good read is not just the very admirable time travel mystery, which is a pleasing one, but the friendship that develops between Wendy and Brian.  He'd never seen her as a person before, but gradually he does, and there is a nice hint of possible romance in the air.  Mr. Mincing's travel back to his past as a healthy, care-free child are also poignant and thought-provoking, though  I do want to make it clear that he is never portrayed as a helpless object of pity.  And what's also nice is that not only is a grown-up an active participant in the adventure, there are other grown-ups who take Brian's story seriously, and believe him enough to actually be of use (as a grown-up myself, I think I appreciate this more than I might have back in the day).

If you like time travel, with ordinary kids having extraordinary adventures, and like older English books of that quintessentially English 1960s and 70s kind (the ones that always seem to come with black and white ink drawings), you will enjoy this one (and Amazon has it fairly cheaply).   My own copy is a library discard...but most libraries have by now discarded the un-circulating English books of that era, and the book sale pickings get slimmer every year....

Apparently Richard Parker wrote many books, though it's hard to find out much about them...I shall be on the lookout for them, because I did enjoy this one very much.


  1. Like so many of these, it looks so familiar... maybe it will show up in a cupboard somewhere at school!

  2. It's the mustard cover. Mustard must have been very cheap back then...

  3. This book sounds great, Charlotte. I'll look for it. I doubt my library will have it though. Glad Amazon does.

  4. Ha, I love the observation that books of a certain era tend to have black and white drawing illustrations. So very true! I get warm and fuzzies over that type of picture, because it's so associated with a certain type of book, which likely predisposes me towards liking a new book...

  5. I'm enjoying this one - thank you!


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