“The Railroad Earth” is a long, often flowing memoir recounting the narrator’s memories of his experiences as a “student brakeman” on the Southern Pacific Railroad in California. Its structure is episodic: its fifteen sections are loosely linked together by being set in the month of “October” (it was originally called “October in the Railroad Earth”) and by focusing on the narrator’s early career on the railroad.

The sections shunt backwards and forwards through Jack’s memory, arranged around the hub of two October Sundays spent at work. Sections 4, 5 and 6 deal with one of these Sundays and sections 12, 13 and 14 with the other — the two days linked by the fact that on the first Sunday Jack narrowly …

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Ellis, R. J.. "The Railroad Earth". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 23 April 2007
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=21641, accessed 27 September 2016.]