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Fire & Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain | [Christian Wolmar]

Fire & Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain

The opening of the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1830 marked the beginning of the railway network's vital role in changing the face of Britain. Fire & Steam celebrates the vision of the ambitious Victorian pioneers who developed this revolutionary transport system and the navvies who cut through the land to enable a country-wide railway to emerge.
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Publisher's Summary

The opening of the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1830 marked the beginning of the railway network's vital role in changing the face of Britain.

Fire & Steam celebrates the vision of the ambitious Victorian pioneers who developed this revolutionary transport system and the navvies who cut through the land to enable a country-wide railway to emerge.

From the early days of steam to electrification, via the railways' magnificent contribution in two world wars, the chequered history of British Rail and the buoyant future of the train, Fire & Steam examines the importance of the railway and how it helped to form the Britain of today.

©2007 Christian Wolmar; (P)2008 Soundings

What the Critics Say

"A beautifully written, detailed (but never anoraky) history of two centuries of life on the iron road." (Telegraph)
"An excellent book." (Independent)
"It is written in a brisk, down-to-earth style (a favourite adjective is "daft"), and is enjoyably replete with bizarre details" (Guardian)

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  •  
    Brian Cobden, Ontario, Canada 09-05-08
    Brian Cobden, Ontario, Canada 09-05-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "A story of how technology impacts society."

    A thoroughly absorbing story detailing the history of rail in Britain; how it affected and transformed the social fabric in the Industrial age and how it had to, ultimately, transform itself to deal with modern times, technological advancements (usually through necessity) and the whims of political interference.
    A simple thing like the standardization of time from village to village is a consequence of being able to maintain a train schedule! This and other anecdotes show how things that are taken for granted today presented major problems in the mid 1800s. Fresh milk in the city, only if you had a cow in the back yard! What do you imagine life was like when the typical speed of transportation was only 2mph!
    If you love technology or even just how it can impact life, there is no better read. This is the 19th century equivalent of the Internet revolution,
    Non British readers may be confused by all the place names but they are so well interwoven into the compelling narrative that you will actually want to know where they all are, I would suggest having a small map of the UK handy to pinpoint the locations.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-1 of 1 results
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  • Neil
    Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
    4/11/09
    Overall
    "Fascinating & Compelling"

    I?ve always been a `railway enthusiast` ever since my school days, but not as much for the technical gauge?s and measurements, specs and performance, but more so for the love of the `thing` itself, the railways? This book is fantastically arranged and pieced together, offering a perfect account of the history of the railways merged with the explanations behind why we have the system we have today, who was responsible and why. The author self-reads this title, and his voice is compelling and alluring, you feel the man really did love the topic and that his whole heart and sole has gone into this one. and it really has. I would easily listen to this again and highly recommend to anyone, be they just wanting an overview from their beginnings to now, or a true railway enthusiast.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Ian
    Nuneaton, United Kingdom
    8/2/10
    Overall
    "Even if you are no railway buff..."

    ... This is a supurb read. The balance of detail with breadth, of purely railway information with wider social and economic developments is impressive. I am NOT a railway buff, but took a chance on this book and was hooked. Wonderful for anyone wanting to mug up 'railways' for a history exam, or for anyone simply looking to enrich their understanding of the past two centuries. Wolmar loves his subject, but can step back and take a balanced, non-sentimental view of it. The reactity of steam travel in the so-called Golden Age is well described, and you get an understanding of the reasons why Britain acquired such a jumbled rail network. If you are looking for something a little different, may I recommend you try this book. I wanted more, and there's an international follow-up that I will certainly hunt out.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Simon
    Adderbury, Oxon, United Kingdom
    10/20/09
    Overall
    "A must for all historians of Victorian Britain"

    This is mamouth listen and full marks for Christian for reading it himself. But the listener is rewarded with an engrossing train ride through the early, pioneering, days of Britains railways, the backbone of the industrial revolution.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Alison
    Buckingham, Bucks, United Kingdom
    4/16/10
    Overall
    "Fire & Steam"

    This was a period of British history I knew little about and so felt it was time to bring myself up to speed and hence this book. I was impressed by the book itself but felt it was read somewhat too fast by it's author. Having said that it was well researched and really brought the subject to life and made me look at all those tracks and stations in a new way.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    PETERBOROUGH, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Never knew trains could be so interesting"

    An excellent book. Tells the development of the railways in both a chronological and logical way. It explains the importance of railways in the history of Britain with fascinating glimpses into the past and future. Brilliantly read by the author whose joy and enthusiasm is infectious. Is a book for everyone not just train enthusiasts.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jeanette
    Barnsley, United Kingdom
    6/19/11
    Overall
    "The Magic of the Railway"

    As the granddaughter of a signalman this book has a special magic for me, placing the railway at the focus of Britain from its origins to the present day. The remarkable place of trains in the lives of the working population of Britain, from commuting, to fresh food transport, to the beginning of the holiday leisure industry, and the fellowship of trade associations and trades unions, is really brought to life (including the sexism of the industry). 'Narrated by the author' really adds to this experience, as Christian Wolmar is clearly fired by the subjects he has written about. A really good buy.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • MR
    Harrow, United Kingdom
    6/7/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Refreshing and fascinating"

    I was pleasantly surprised with this book an easy listen, especially good on a train journey.

    Enough detail without being tedious.

    However it was deflating to hear the 'Jimmy Saville' BR advertising reference toward the latter end of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Adrian
    Clophill, United Kingdom
    1/8/13
    Overall
    "I'm a steam nut!"

    Yep gave it all away in the title. If you are like me then you will probably like this book, if you're not a steam nut then you will definitely like this book.

    A reasonably detailed look at the rise, fall, rise and fall again of the British railway system, including the shocking politically motivated and inept way that the railway was privatised, could it have been done in a worse way?

    Mr Wolmar narrates well despite the odd stumble(we're all human) and his passion shows.

    I found this a wonderful accompaniment to my four mile walk home from work and have listened to this more times than I care to remember and will listen again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • chris
    Barnstaple, United Kingdom
    6/16/12
    Overall
    "A gem"

    I love this book, you can tell it it written (and narrated) by an enthusiast. There is lots for a railway newbie, probably not enough for a true trainspotter? I found Christians' narrration hard to listen to at first, but after a while it grew on me, and I now think that it is a shame that so many male narrators sound the same! The only disapointment for me was that there is a lack of technical info, there is not very much that explains how the engines worked, and how they were improved, for me there is prehaps a little too much emphasis on the polictics and people. That said it is still very accomplished. Worth it if you have ever wondered about the history of our railways.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Caroline
    Sherborne, England
    5/13/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Read so fast, almost incomprehensible"

    I'm sorry I can't agree with previous reviewers. The author reads so badly, so fast, that the story is sometimes incomprehensible and literally gave me a headache. He trips over words, pronounces badly, and one would think he is reading stopwatch in hand.

    The content is interesting, but far too political.

    A bad buy I'm afraid.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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