Transatlantic Train

The Untold Story of the Boston Merchant Who Launched Donald McKay to Fame

Non-Fiction - Historical
223 Pages
Reviewed on 02/13/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Transatlantic Train: The Untold Story of the Boston Merchant Who Launched Donald McKay to Fame by Vincent J. Miles is an enthralling biography of one of Boston’s earliest, most successful, and yet least-known businessmen and entrepreneurs. Enoch Train was born in humble circumstances yet would go on to play a major role in the building of Boston into a major U.S. maritime powerhouse. Through his contribution to the transatlantic shipping trade, with his sailing ship packet line between Boston and Liverpool in the United Kingdom, he made an enormous impact. This also involved the immigration of tens of thousands of mainly Irish people, seeking to escape famine, autocratic rule, or religious oppression and find a life of hope and enterprise in the New World. Perhaps even more important was his financial support and patronage of a young man who would become recognized as the greatest shipbuilder of the nineteenth century, Donald McKay. Enoch Train was also deeply respected and loved by his employees whom he treated as human beings rather than just a commodity to be utilized - an uncommon business practice for the time.

I love historical biographies that investigate and explain the development of societies and great cities. Transatlantic Train is such a narrative and it does a wonderful job of outlining one man’s achievements. To a large extent, these went unrecognized and uncelebrated in the city that he loved. Vincent J. Miles has extensive knowledge of the area, the era, and the man himself. He has researched the book extremely well and left a great number of footnotes and appendices for the serious historian to study. I appreciated the drawings and photographs of the early shipping pioneers and their vessels. Although primarily focused on Enoch Train’s working life as a businessman and entrepreneur, there is enough detail of his private life and conjectured personal opinions to give a rounded view of this innovative man. I connected with this story as it is another example of a man whose input to the social fabric of Boston was not appreciated or celebrated either when he was alive or after his death. He left a wonderful legacy to his city that the author has done a tremendous job of illuminating. This is a fantastic read not only for history buffs but for the general reading public. I can highly recommend this book.

Astrid Iustulin

Some historical characters are not among the most famous in history but still left their mark on their city and era. Such is the case of Boston merchant Enoch Train, who was born in 1801 and died in 1868. He started his business working with his cousin, Samuel Train, but soon established a packet line between Boston and Liverpool. His business thrived, and Train relied on Donald McKay to build his ships. Nowadays, the latter is better remembered than the former. The time has come to rediscover the life and times of this fascinating figure in Vincent J. Miles's splendid and well-researched book Transatlantic Train: The Untold Story of the Boston Merchant Who Launched Donald McKay to Fame.

Transatlantic Train is an enthralling book and much more than the biography of an exceptional merchant like Enoch Train. Although we discover both the professional and private life of the man (the Train family had many premature deaths), Vincent J. Miles has been able to represent an entire era in these pages. He makes it possible for readers to learn a lot about the packet service, what problems the merchants faced, and what could go wrong. He offers us a clear picture of the time by highlighting Train's attitudes that may appear controversial to a reader of our generation. I recommend this book to any reader who enjoys discovering new and forgotten historical figures, especially if they are passionate about the history of Boston. Here they will find a great story that they have probably never heard before.

K.C. Finn

Transatlantic Train: The Untold Story of the Boston Merchant Who Launched Donald McKay to Fame is a work of non-fiction in the historical, biographical, and cross-cultural subgenres. It is suitable for the general adult reading audience and was penned by author Vincent J Miles. Bringing history to life with confident authorship and a little narrative flair, this engaging work tells the real-life story and many achievements of Enoch Train, the merchant responsible for establishing the first packet line between Boston in the USA and Liverpool, UK. As we discover the twists and turns of the life of a young orphan who rose to enormous success, we also follow the cultural history of the link between two of the world’s most powerful nations.

Author Vincent J Miles offers a slice of history that many people will know very little about. The more you read this engrossing biographical work, the more you’ll want to know about the impact of transatlantic ships on the world during the nineteenth century. As someone who lives near and spends a lot of time in Liverpool, it was fascinating to see the connections made to British history and I thought there was a great representation of the universalities of shipbuilding culture as well as the differences across the pond. The atmosphere of the work brings it to life beyond the mere facts, crafting an authentic sense of history and personality as it builds that makes you feel as though you really know Enoch well by its close, and are proud of his legacy. Overall, Transatlantic Train is a useful and enlightening work that fans of history, and particularly transport and industry history, will be sure to enjoy.