Tom joins Richard Bartholomew, an experienced train technician, who explains to him many of the details of building and riding a locomotive. The concept of a train which ran on electricity rather than steam was, when this story first appeared in 1922, a tantalizing promise of soon-to-arrive technology. While electrification of rails began in the early years of the 20th century, its potential was only just being unleashed by newer, better trains.
All of this favored the general Tom Swift concept of promoting science, innovation and new technology through exciting stories. The introduction of trains that can travel faster than the earlier, steam-driven models becomes an exciting narrative, as the inventive and curious Swift devotes his mind to trialing and prototyping the new electric train.
Although swift has little by way of formal education, he has a natural knack for seeing how things work. From the start of this story, Tom's curiosity encourages his mind to brim with ideas for innovating and improving on his train design. It's his achievement of making a locomotive that is both reliable and speedy that forms most of the narrative.
Victor Appleton was the pseudonym which several authors used when writing Tom Swift books. The writing process often entailed much research into technical matters, that the progress in a given field be presented to young readers accurately.