Superpower tells with beauty and precision how the most powerful steam-engine train every made was designed and built in the 1920s.
Ben is just eighteen when one day, in 1925, he goes to work with his father and grandfather at "the Loco" in Lima, Ohio. But he is soon caught up in a marvelous adventure-the building of a new locomotive, the first Berkshire, one of the most powerful and efficient ever.
The apprentice meets engineer Will Woodard, who explains the dilemmas and niceties of locomotive design. In the pattern shop, Ben see Woodard's blueprints turned into finely-crafted wooden pattern for castings of iron and steel. From Marko Ukropina, an "old country" foundryman, Ben learns the secrets of pouring the massive frames (and to be more careful around white-hot steel). He follows the rough castings to the machine shop, where they are planed smooth and true. In the forge, Ben joins a team of hammermen wrestling a glowing steel ingot under the ground-shaking steam hammer three stories tall-and realizes why only the biggest and brawniest men work here.
Superpower chronicles the building of a steam locomotive in meticulous detail. But there is more here-it is also the story of working men, many of them immigrants from all over Europe. It recalls a time when family members worked together, and when pride in craftsmanship was intrinsic to American life. Based on oral histories of Lima's workers and their families, Superpower is, most of all, a story of America at work.
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Grade 6 Up A colossal (13 11) book in more ways than one, Superpower depicts the construction of the new ``Berkshire'' steam locomotive through the eyes and experiences of 18-year-old Ben, who begins work with his father at the Locomotive works (the Loco) in mid-1920s Lima, Ohio. In addition to explaining the construction of the new, immense locomotive, Weitzman also conveys the era's sense of community, tradition, and pride in craftsmanship. In the fictional account of his first months at the Loco, Ben learns about the design of locomotives, and during his time as a ``helper'' visits several different parts of the Loco, observing and assisting in the work of the foundry, the forge, the machine shop, and the boiler shop. Ben learns how and why different parts are manufactured by the different processes, until, near the end, he helps in the assembly of the locomotive (in seven days) and sees it come to life for its first trip. Weitzman's work is reminiscent of that of David Macaulay in its methodical exposition of each step of the Berkshire's construction and its excellent, intricately detailed, although not as plentiful, illustrations. It is unfortunate that this excellent work is marred by Weitzman's depiction of the speech of the ethnic laborers. Although an attempt to convey the spirit of the numerous immigrant workers, this distorted English may be construed as stereotyping, while the spelling and sentence structures used to portray these accents will deter less-skilled readers. A lot of research and love for the subject went into Superpower; it is a shame that it is tarnished by this easily avoided flaw. Jeffrey A. French, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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