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I read a book (I remember vivid illustrations on each page) in the early / mid-80's. Plot line is along the lines of landed on a planet and a machine (I think was called RAAG or RAG?) then went and built a railway line across the landscape.

This railway line then cut through alien cities / civilizations. They got on the train and travelled across the landscape. Locals blocked the line with a barricade and long metal spike to impale anything travelling along the line.

I then remember that they somehow got past and ended up getting to the end of the line (the machine had run out of railway line) and had to get to rescue point. The machine had written (laser cut?) the message 'RAG (or RAAG) RULES OK' on the wall in the last tunnel.

EDIT - was read in Australia

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  • Welcome to the site. Can you clarify what actually landed on the planet? I'm guessing it was a spaceship, but if so, was it populated by humans, aliens, or both? And were the main characters adults, children, or both? Also, was the RAAG/RAG machine already on the planet, or did it land on the planet as well? – LogicDictates Mar 3 at 19:26
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    Thank you - nice to be here. I'm afraid I can't remember what they specifically landed in, but I would likewise assume it was some sort of spaceship. RAAG/RAG was a machine that they (I think adult human characters) bought with them to build the railway line and off it went. They then drove(?) the train along the lines laid down by RAAG/RAG traveling through the destruction it had caused. – Mike Mar 3 at 19:35
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This is surely "Planet Story" by Harry Harrison. Published in 1979, it is a short novel with wonderful illustrations by Jim Burns. It deals with an unlikely hero named "Private Parrts" stationed on a remote outpost on the desolate planet Strabismus. A planetary survey discovers a rich deposit of mcguffinite, and to access it a railroad-laying robot is deployed, carving its way relentlessly through mountains, rivers, and a series of alien cities. You almost had the name of the robot correct, but instead of RAAG it was actually RRAGG: the RailRoad And Ground Grader. When the line is complete, a summary on Goodreads describes the trip as:

Our hero is then caught up on the inaugural ride in a twentieth-century steam locomotive with a megalomaniac admiral and a huge-breasted exolinguist as they are attacked, double crossed, and pooped upon by a variety of alien species.

The story is fun (if a little juvenile - some might even say vulgar), but the real attraction is the amazing artwork.

I attach the cover art below, showing the fearsome Colonel Kylling glaring out. Another memorable illustration is of the well-endowed (she speaks 657 languages) exolinguist, Lieutenant Styreen Fome.

To the left: cover art for "Planet Story". To the right: portrait of the exolinguist on the mission

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  • Planey Story - that is indeed the one! As soon as I saw the cover artwork. I have no recollection of the other parts of the story you mention but look forward to refreshing myself at the earliest opportunity. I guess that is what 30+ years does to your memory. :-) It also makes sense as I remember going through a prolonged phase of reading everything I could by Harry Harrison. I still have the Stainless Steel Rat on the shelf now. – Mike Mar 4 at 9:30
  • I definately don't rember that... which is quite surprising as I guess I would have been early teens when I read it! :-) Thank you again so much. – Mike Mar 4 at 10:12
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    I thought that would be he most memorable illustration in the book ;) – Clara Diaz Sanchez Mar 4 at 10:17

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