Choo Choo

From TrainSpottingWorld, for Rail fans everywhere

This article is about a children's book called "Choo Choo". It was written by author/illustrator Virginia Lee Burton, and published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The Story

Choo Choo is a small, shiny black steam engine. She has an engineer named Jim, a fireman named Oley, and a conductor named Archibald. Choo Choo pulls passenger and post trains. The first two coaches being filled with people, the third, with baggage and letters. She pulls them all day long to the big city and back again.

One day, Choo Choo thinks to herself about how fun and easy it would be if she went off by herself. And, the next day, while Jim, Oley, and Archibald are having a cup of coffee in a restaurant, she does just that. She leaves behind all of her coaches and goes off by herself. As she goes on her merry way, Choo Choo begins to frighten many animals and people, some of whom climb up to the top of a steeple to avoid being hit by the train. Everyone she passes becomes very angry with her for scaring them. Then, just as she crosses a drawbridge, it starts to go up, and she loses her tender. However, that doesn't phase Choo Choo, and she continues on her way through the big city. Soon, she leaves the city and ends up in the country. she comes to a set of switches in the tracks, and does not know which way to go. She ends up taking the one that goes left. The track she chose is very old and overgrown. Soon, Choo Choo ends up losing steam, and must stop in the middle of the wild overgrowth...

Meanwhile, Jim, Oley, and Archibald heard Choo Choo go by and run after her. They run until they are out of breath, and are then picked up by a streamliner. The engineer of the streamliner is rather reluctant at first but when Jim explains the situation, the three men are allowed in. As the streamliner goes on, all of the people that Choo Choo had frightened point out the way she went, telling the men to hurry and catch the naughty runaway engine. The streamliner soon comes to the drawbridge, and Oley spots Choo Choo's tender on a coal barge. Jim instructs Oley and Archibald to get the tender back up, while he goes on with the streamliner to find Choo Choo. Soon, the streamliner comes to the set of points in the country. While Jim and the streamliner engineer are arguing about which way to go, an old, retired engineer informs them that she is right up the old track, and can't have gone far, as it was an old track which hasn't been used in over forty years. So, the streamliner goes down the old track, and quickly finds Choo Choo, who is so happy to be found that she uses the last of her steam to blow one small "toot" on her whistle. Jim then couples his little engine up to the streamliner. The streamliner then takes Choo Choo back to the engine shed where Jim, Oley, and Archibald look her over to see if any damage had been done. Luckily, there was not, and, except for being rusty and tired, Choo Choo was as good as ever.

On her way home that night, Choo Choo apologizes for running away, and promises not to do it ever again.


  • The book version of "Choo Choo" is available in both hardcover and paperback.
  • "Choo Choo" is also available on audio CD and cassette.
  • A televised version of "Choo Choo" is available on VHS from the children's TV show, Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories.

Other Information

  • "Choo Choo" was Virginia Lee Burton's first published book.
  • The book is dedicated to her son, Aristides.
  • The book carries the subtitle: "The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran Away".