Fifty Railroads that Changed the Course of History

Fifty Railroads that Changed the Course of History

by Bill Laws


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770851696
Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date: 08/11/2013
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Bill Laws is a journalist and writer. He is the author of Fifty Animals That Changed the Course of History, as well as numerous titles on philosophy and history. He lives in the UK, where he is conducting doctoral research in sociology at South Bank University, London.

Table of Contents


    Merthyr Tydfil Railway
    Swansea and Mumbles Railway
    Stockton and Darlington Railway
    Liverpool and Manchester Railway
    Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
    South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company
    Dublin and Kingstown Railway
    Brussels to Melchelen Railway
    Nuremberg and Fürth Railway
    Paris to Le Pecq Railway
    Grand Junction and London to Birmingham Railways
    Tsarskoye Selo Railway
    Ferrocarril de Camagüey a Nuevitas
    York and North Midland Railway
    Great Western Railway
    Leicester and Loughborough Railway
    Sheffield, Ashton under Lyne and Manchester Railway
    Paris to Le Havre Railway
    Georgetown and Plaisance Railroad
    Great Indian Peninsula Railway
    Semmering Railway

    Panama Railroad
    Grand Crimean Central Railway
    Chicago to St. Louis Railroad
    Hannibal to St. Joseph Railroad
    Metropolitan Railway
    Central Pacific Railroad
    Port Chalmers Railway
    Canadian Pacific Railway
    Jerusalem to Jaffa Railway
    Highland Railway
    Valtellina, Italy
    Cape to Cairo Railway
    Jingzhang Railway
    Grand Central Terminal
    Trans-Siberian Railway
    Allied Railroad Supply Lines
    Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway
    Sydney City Railway
    Berlin to Hamburg Railway
    Prague to Liverpool Street Station, London
    Southern Railway
    Auschwitz Spur
    Burma to Siam Railway
    Dutch Railways
    Tokaido Railway
    Bay Area Rapid Transit
    Paris to Lyon Railway
    Channel Tunnel

Further Reading
Image Credits



"When I closed my eyes this sensation of flying was quite delightful, and strange beyond description: yet strange as it was, I had a perfect sense of security, and not the slightest fear."
Actress and writer Fanny Kemble, opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railroad, 1838

Railroads have impacted on the lives of almost everyone on the planet. Since they arrived in the early 1800s, their steely sinews have threaded their way through history, nudging and elbowing it in unexpected directions.

Changing Landscapes and Passenger Travel
Railroads modernized the towns they touched and caused the downfall of the ones they left behind: they carried cargo into the most inaccessible places and transformed forever the traditional ways of life there. Trains brought a distinctive cacophony to the urban scene: station bells, bursts of steam, the scream of a whistle, carriage couplings clattering in rail yards, and the ring of the wheel-tapper's hammer checking for cracked steel.

The British monarch Queen Victoria was perfectly satisfied with this progress. On her first railroad journey, 18 miles (29 km) along the GWR or Great Western Railway to Buckingham Palace in 1842, she declared: "We arrived here yesterday morning, having come by the railroad from Windsor, in half an hour, free from dust and crowd and heat, and I am quite charmed with it." The Duke of Wellington, reflecting the sentiments of many of The Queen's citizens, had taken the opposite view. In 1830 he declared he saw "no reason to suppose these machines will ever force themselves into general use." While the railroads increased and multiplied, the anxieties of passengers remained much the same: Have I missed the train? Am I on the right platform? Is my luggage safe? Railroads undoubtably imposed themselves on the landscape. "There was probably more picturesqueness about the old method of traveling, for a stage coach harmonized better with the landscape than a puffing, smoking steam engine with its train of practical looking cars," wrote the regretful R. Richardson B.A. in Cassell's Family Magazine of 1875. He nevertheless acknowledged: "What we have lost in picturesqueness we have undoubtedly gained in convenience."

Making Tracks Across the Globe
With their speeding locomotives, luxury carriages and romantic boat trains, the railroads reached a zenith in the early twentieth century using the latest technology. Although the essential elements—train, tracks and rolling stock—were standard, idiosyncratic national characteristics were apparent from the start. The dominance of the railroad was complete, paving the way across the world with its routes and adopting country-specific structures, while two world wars battled on.

By the mid-twentieth century railroads were exhausted. Polluting, inefficient, uncomfortable, monopolistic and expensive, they had run out of favor. Their demise was accompanied, and exacerbated, by the rush for the road, a development that squandered dwindling natural resources and left a bill for everyone but the polluter to pay. Then in 1964 a streamlined train slid, like a vision from the future, into Tokyo station. Within a decade high-speed railroads and rapid transit systems were racing to change history again, leaving in their wake a charm of pleasant old lines and railroad memories. As railroad engineer George Stephenson's biographer Samuel Smiles put it in 1868: "Notwithstanding all the faults and imperfections that are alleged against railroads ... we think they must nevertheless be recognized as by far the most valuable means of communication ... that has yet been given to the world."

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