Professor Childermass introduces Johnny and Fergie to a talking falcon statue named Brewster and says they are going to take a trip together. The boys are taken aback when they discover their destination is Constantinople during the Turkish Invasion of 1453 and their ride is a time trolley, locked away in the professor's basement. Overlooking the Marmara as the Byzantine Empire prepares for battle, the professor gathers flares and a raft and reveals his plans to save the people who flee to the Church of the Holy Wisdom from being killed or enslaved.
Main article: Johnny Dixon Series#Characters
- Turkish soldiers
- Duston Heights, Massachusetts
- Stark Corners, New Hampshire
- May, 1453
For Richard, Beth, and Toby -- nobody succeeds without help.
BackgroundBellairs's deep interest in ancient history comes to the forefront in this book, as Priscilla Bellairs notes John, like Professor Childermass, was “fascinated with the fall of Constantinople” and had a map of the ancient city pinned to a wall in his work space. Bellairs was also intrigued “with the burning of the library at Alexandria [and] owned a couple of beautiful medieval missal pages."
Brewster was not originally included in the cast. Brad Strickland explains that Bellairs's editor observed that there needed to be a way for the characters to communicate with the historical figures they visit in the past. Brewster was created to be, among other things, the universal translator.
Brad Strickland, writing in 1996, said that one of book proposals sent to his editor at Dial was for The Trail of the Time Trolley, a sequel to The Trolley to Yesterday in which Johnny and Fergie would visit the future - the world of the 1990's. The idea was nixed, Strickland says, partly because Trolley wasn't one of the editor's favorite books.