Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways by Christian Wolmar, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways

Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways

by Christian Wolmar
     
 

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Before the nineteenth century, armies had to rely on slow and unreliable methods of transportation to move soldiers and equipment during times of conflict. But with the birth of the railroad in the early 1830s, the way wars were fought would change forever.

In Engines of War, renowned expert Christian Wolmar tells the story of that transformation,

Overview


Before the nineteenth century, armies had to rely on slow and unreliable methods of transportation to move soldiers and equipment during times of conflict. But with the birth of the railroad in the early 1830s, the way wars were fought would change forever.

In Engines of War, renowned expert Christian Wolmar tells the story of that transformation, examining all the engagements in which railways played a part from the Crimean War and American Civil War through both world wars, the Korean War, and the Cold War with its mysterious missile trains. He shows that the 'iron road' not only made armies far more mobile, but also greatly increased the scale and power of available weaponry. Wars began to be fought across wider fronts and over longer timescales, with far deadlier consequences.

From armored engines with their swiveling guns to track sabotage by way of dynamite, railway lines constructed across frozen Siberian lakes and a Boer war ambush involving Winston Churchill, Engines of War shows how the railways - a fantastic generator of wealth in peacetime - became a weapon of war exploited to the full by governments across the world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Publishers Weekly
“Wolmar writes with an authoritative tone and solid research on how railroads, with their ability to move vast numbers of troops, made "industrial-scale carnage possible." 

Library Journal
“Very accessible and likely to be popular with readers of general military history.”

Library Journal
Railroad historian Wolmar (Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World) provides a detailed review of the role of railroads in some of the conflicts in which they played a major role from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century. The author's thesis is that as railroads were a crucial part in a century of industrialization and economic expansion, they were also a crucial part in the economic contests and military disputes between nations. He notes that after World War II war became less industrial and mass armies no longer debouched from railcars. Western countries in particular became less tied to the railroad, using as well all modes of transportation. Very accessible, and likely to be popular with readers of general military history.
Kirkus Reviews

A history of the impact of the railroad on warfare.

Transportation historian Wolmar (Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World, 2010, etc.) argues that, by moving large numbers of men and their supplies over long distances at a speed previously unimaginable, railroads made war possible on an industrial scale. Their dominance began roughly with the Crimean War in 1850 and came to an end in the Korean War, just over a century later. The author notes that the era was marked by clashes between the generals and the railway men, each convinced that they knew the right way to put the new tool to use. Officers in all wars liked to commandeer empty cars after their arrival at the front, using them for everything from storage to headquarters. Meanwhile, railway companies disliked turning over their rolling stock to the war effort, fully aware that it might not come back. Engineer Herman Haupt, who supervised the Union railway program in the Civil War, devised solutions that maximized the delivery of men and supplies to the front, as well as tools for destroying enemy rail lines. Future military leaders who ignored Haupt's principles did so at their peril, as Wolmar shows with examples running from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to World War II. In particular, the lesson that the railways give the advantage to a defender was missed by the generals of World War I, leading to bloodbaths like Passchendaele and Verdun. A little-known detail is the wide use of miniature trains to supply the trenches, a technique adopted by both sides on the Western Front. Wolmar also provides perspective on topics from the effective use of railways in the British colonial wars to the prolongation of the Korean War by the North Koreans' skill at keeping their trains running despite constant American bombing. The author spices the narrative with odd sidelights such as the Russians' predilection for armored trains or Hitler's fascination with rail-mounted giant artillery pieces.

A meaty, informative book for railroad buffs as well as students of military history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781610390569
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
11/01/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author


Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster specializing in the social history of railroads and transportation. He has written for major British newspapers for many years and has contributed to many other publications, including the New York Times and Newsday. He frequently appears on TV and radio as an expert commentator. His most recent books are Blood, Iron, and Gold, about how the railroads transformed the world; The Subterranean Railway, a history of the London Underground, the world's oldest system, and Fire & Steam, the story of Britain's railroads.

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