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Heritage House Publishing Fall 2023

A Different Track
Hospital Trains of the Second World War
By (author): Alexandra Kitty
Alexandra Kitty


Heritage House - Victoria



Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Flaps


General Trade
Oct 03, 2023
$24.95 CAD


7in x 5 in

Page Count:

224 pages


b&w photographs
Heritage House
HISTORY / Wars & Conflicts / World War II / European Theater
Non-combatants|History of medicine|Military history|Second World War|Trains and railways: general interest|Locomotives and rolling stock
This fascinating book looks at the largely unknown history of hospital trains, which wound their way across the scarred landscapes of war-weary Europe, and the doctors and nurses who risked their lives treating patients from all sides of the conflict. 

Railroads played an integral role in the Second World War. Trains brought food, munitions, and essential supplies. They transported troops. They were a means of escape for those fleeing persecution. At the same, they were used to transport innocent people to their deaths. Yet there was one kind of train that improved the chances of survival every time they rolled through the battle-worn towns and cities of the European theatre of war.

Hospital trains were not a new concept in the Second World War, but their use was instrumental in this most deadly conflict of the twentieth century. Regular passenger trains were converted into mobile emergency wards tending to the critically wounded. It was an elegant solution, as train cars could be refitted with tier beds, and supplies could be easily transported along with medical staff.

A Different Track introduces readers to the world of hospital trains of the Second World War. From the nurses who ran them to the factories that manufactured them, this book looks at how these trains quietly altered the fortunes of the world. From Canada’s contributions to the role of women who both healed the sick and built the trains, this is a fascinating look at one of the hidden nuggets of history.

  • This is the only book to focus specifically on WWII hospital trains.
  • Highlighting the chronically underreported contributions of women in war, this book pays special attention to the nurses who worked on hospital trains.
  • Author was inspired by her grandmother, who was a nurse on a hospital train during the Second World War.
  • Author writes passionately and eloquently about the lasting impact hospital trains had on both the people they saved and those who worked on them.
  • The book includes a brief summary of the history of hospital trains—they had been a common part of war, making their debut in 1850 during the Crimean War (although transportation adapted for medical use was practiced even earlier) and were used across Europe and throughout North America during earlier conflicts.
  • During the Second World War, hospital trains were neutral; marked with red crosses and they picked up anyone in need, regardless of what country they were from or which side they fought for. These trains brought patients to conventional hospitals, and to other mobile hospitals (such as ships), but often care was provided en route in cars retrofitted with tiered bunks and operating rooms. There were also secondary uses for the trains, including treating and feeding the wounded, rescuing children who lost their parents (through war or concentration camps), and distributing goods or comfort articles to troops.
  • Will appeal to nonfiction readers interested in transportation history, military history, medical noir, Second World War, women’s history, and women’s role in wartime.
  • Author has published several academic articles, chapters, and books relating to war propaganda, journalism, consumerism, and mass communication.

Alexandra Kitty is an award-winning author, educator, and artist whose work has appeared in Presstime, Quill, Current, Elle Canada, Maisonneuve, Critical Review, and Skeptic. She was a relationships columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and an advice columnist for the Victoria Times Colonist. She taught language studies at Mohawk College, writing at the Sheridan Institute, communications at Conestoga College, metalwork arts at Niagara College, and art at the Dundas Valley School of Art. She was the first female recipient of the Arch Award from McMaster University, and is the author of a number of books, including Don’t Believe It!: How Lies Become News; OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism; A New Approach to Journalism; The Art of Kintsugi; and The Dramatic Moment of Fate: The Life of Sherlock Holmes in the Theatre, among others.


  • Targeted national print, online, and broadcast media outreach, including: CBC Radio; Globe & Mail; Toronto Star; Canada’s History; Quill & Quire; CHCH TV Hamilton; Hamilton Spectator; Hamilton Review of Books; Hamilton News; Hamilton Arts & Letters; Herizons; etc.
  • Subject-specific outreach ( WWII history, medical history, trains) for print features, excerpts, interviews, and review coverage—such as: Canadian Nurse magazine; Pacific Historical Review; Canadian Military History journal; Canadian Bulletin of Medical History; Canadian Medical Association Journal; Trains magazine; Canadian Journal of History; Stand To! Journal of the Western Front Association; Journal of the Canadian Historical Association; Legion Magazine; Canadian History Ehx Podcast; This Day in History Class podcast; etc.
  • Promotion to historical groups across Canada, including: Canadian Association for the History of Nursing; BC Historical Federation, the Western Front Association, Ontario Genealogical Society, Vancouver Island Military Museum, Canada’s Virtual War Memorial, Canadian Letters and Images Project; Elgin Military Museum; Labrador Military Museum; and more.
  • Paid digital advertising on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Social media campaigns focusing on influencer outreach.
  • Advertising in select print publications, including Canada’s History and BC History.
  • Award submission to relevant literary and historical prizes, such as: Trillium Award; Canadian Historical Association Awards; Wilson Book Prize, etc.
  • Pitch to local book festivals (author located near Hamilton, Ontario).


  • Mark Zuehlke (author of the Canadian Battle Series)
  • Marion McKinnon Crook (author of Always Pack a Candle)
  • Tim Cook (Canadian military historian and author)
  • Cynthia Toman (author of An Officer and a Lady: Canadian Military Nursing and the Second World War, Sister Soldiers of the Great War: The Nurses of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and co-editor (with Jayne Elliot and Meryn Stuart) of Place and Practice in Canadian Nursing History)
  • Erik Larson (author of The Splendid and the Vile)
  • (USA) Lindsay Fitzharris (author of The Facemaker: One Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I)
  • (USA) Patricia W Sewell (editor of Healers in World War II: An Oral History of the American Medical Corps)
  • (UK) Christian Wolmar (writer and broadcaster, specializing in transportation matters. His most recent books are Blood, Iron, and Gold; Engines of War; and The Great Railroad Revolution)


  • Digital collateral (social media banners, quote nuggets)
  • Electronic blad / sampler
  • Electronic ARC
  • Video interview
  • Online banner
  • Press release
  • Book trailer

For more information contact
[email protected]

“Fascinating and well researched. Alexandra Kitty presents history that must be preserved.”
—Patricia W. Sewell (Collier), editor of Healers in World War ll: Oral Histories of Medical Corps Personnel

“Nothing encapsulates the horror of war better than a hospital train standing in a siding near a battlefield waiting for the inevitable casualties of the conflict. A Different Track highlights this largely forgotten feature of warfare and shows how this service, often provided by women whose role, too, has been lost in the midst of time, saved the lives of thousands of wounded men.”
—Christian Wolmar, author of Engines of War and The Liberation Line

“Alexandra Kitty shows us with skill and empathy what the patients, nurses and doctors thought of the hospital trains they served on and the danger and camaraderie that they experienced as the trains wove through battlefields, under strafing by enemy planes. This is an exceptionally well-referenced book and an intriguing read.”
—Marion McKinnon Crook, award-winning author of Always Pack a Candle: A Nurse in the Cariboo-Chilcotin

“A fascinating look at hospital trains and the people, especially nurses, who made them work.”
—Terry Copp, author of Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy

A Different Track is a love letter to the hospital trains that wound their way across Europe and North America during the Second World War. Alexandra Kitty draws on newspaper reporting of the time to trace the ways the trains offered a narrative of hope, order, and safety that was sorely needed in the dark days of the conflict.”
—Amy Shaw, co-editor of Making the Best of It: Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland during the Second World War

“The romance of trains collides with the bloodletting of war in a high-stakes game on rails, as told in the pages of this remarkable book. Historian Alexandra Kitty has written a scholarly yet accessible work inspired by her own grandmother’s role as a nurse on a hospital train despite personal tragedy. Millions of soldiers and civilians were saved on these locomotives, despite severely limited resources—thanks to the shockingly downand- dirty methods medical professionals had to resort to in the face of the terrors of world-wide conflict. Absorbing reading, a riveting and well-documented triumph.”
—Jacqueline L. Carmichael, author of Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front, 1914–1918

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