"The Celestial Railroad" is short story written as an allegory by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. In it, Hawthorne parodies the seventeenth-century book The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, which portrays a Christian's spiritual "journey" through life.
In this story, the pilgrim journeys by iron horse rather than by foot, the burden of sin that Bunyan portrays is pulled by the same train, and Bunyan's figure Evangelist, preaching a message of conversion, is replaced by a figure known as "Mr. Smooth-it-away."
Hawthorne mostly wrote against his own religious belief, popular at the time, Unitarianism or Transcendentalism, but according to some educators, several of his comments also indicate his dissatisfaction with Bunyan's religiously exclusive theology. In addition to this underlying view, however, he states "we were rushing by the place where Christian's burden fell from his shoulders at the sight of the Cross...for our burdens were rich in many things esteemed precious throughout the world."
The story ends with the traveler's relief that what he'd seen was just a dream and an element of hope that is rare in Hawthorne's romantic era literature.
The American composer Charles Ives based the second movement of his Fourth Symphony on Hawthorne's story, expanding on his earlier piece for solo piano, also entitled The Celestial Railroad.