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.
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.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
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.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
... 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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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
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
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
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
Alright I am big rail enthusiast, but this is a book with a difference.
This is a history- social and economic- of the railways in Britain.
I always been a fan of Christian Wolmar's railway journalism and of his work as a Labour politician. But when I saw that CW was going to be reading the book, I wasn't sure if it would work.
But it's fine. You wouldn't employ him necessarily to do other people's book, but reading his own book, he just brings a sense of passion and enthusiasm. I want to read his other book now, but am a bit disappointed that CW won't be reading it !
The content is generally ok, though some criticisms of policy etc. are the author's opinions rather than pure fact. The narration is only just adequate & the author should have considered engaging a professional reader.
Really well developed history, contextualised thoroughly against the social & political changes up to the early consideration of HS2. Very interesting on the role & impact of the railway in both world wars & how it was short changed by the post war governments. The author as the reader is understandable & is competent but the tempo & delivery are a just a little uncomfortable - but this is gripe rather than a criticism! Really recommended for anyone interested in railways & society!
I was educated, entertained, and in no small part surprised by this history of the railways in Britain.
If you are interested in trains, social change from the 1800's on, or politics of transportation - then this book will satisfy you with its study covering all these topics as they played out in the UK.