As not to become an unintended spoiler for the novel, I've confined my characters to those who begin the story with Vincent.
Vincent is the novel's main character - a young man who escapes to Chicago from a broken family. Blamed for his sister's disappearance after she was swept up by a phantom train, Vincent has little self esteem and even less prospects on the city's hard streets. A rakish dark-haired descendent of Irish railroad workers, Vincent is only a step ahead of the vagrants he despises. Still, despite a hard upbringing by an embittered mother, there is both compassion and courage inside him. He just has to find it. Unknown to Vincent, he also carries a special skill handed down by a father who disappeared searching for his missing daughter. He is a gandy dancer - a highly sought after talent in Hobohemia.
A jagged slip of a girl, Samantha sees life through feral eyes and a soul torn by dark secrets. The raven-haired daughter of Baron Bram Van Erie, this heir to the Erie Railroad loathes both her father and herself. Determined to seek salvation on her terms, Samantha will use anyone, and say anything, to achieve her own desperate ends. To this end she is both capable, and if need be, unflinchingly deadly. Vincent very quickly ends up in her sights.
As light and lively as you would expect a steam child to be, Freedom is an exuberant whoosh of optimism capped by wispy locks and a top hat. Her biting sarcasm does carry the sting of her own turbulent past, including a stormy relationship with Samantha to whom she owes a sobering debt. Freedom taunts Vincent with a devil's smile, however her intentions are well-meaning.
Looking like a gambler down on his luck, the king of Blue Island's hobo jungle has a plan to regain his place in a society he walked away from. Formerly Baron William Van Erie, Willy left the family business in a crisis of conscience. Now, to stop his brother's evil, he must seek Vincent's help in regaining his title.
A conductor in search of a runaway train, Timepiece knows too well the price of becoming a hero. Living among the hobos, he has allowed despair to shadow his quest to recover his beloved Hudson steamer. King Willy offers him a chance at redemption if he helps Vincent on his journey.