Look at the acknowledgments at the end of the book & you’ll see just how wide a base of influences this work of art has drawn from. The influence from Herman Melville is the most prominent of the lengthy list of writers Miéville has acknowledged, being another author who wrote a book about a great white beast, a hunter’s obsession, & a life at sea.
But this is no ordinary sea. Railsea is, quite literally, a sea of rails. A great, sprawling expanse of train tracks that criss-cross, weave, & spread out in a tangle of wood & iron. On these rails (you guessed it) are trains of all varieties. Salvage hunters searching for the shiny detritus of a world long gone, an armada of sail-powered wooden trains, & mole-trains which bristle with hunters & their harpoons.