The Victorian Railway, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The railway was the creation in some ways the archetypal creation of the Victorian age.

It transformed the whole social and intellectual fabric of Britain, affected Victorian thought and language, figured in the literature of the age, inspired artists, transformed communications and expanded the horizons of ordinary folk.

This absorbing book looks at every aspect of the railway in Victorian times from the origins and initial construction to the spreading impact on the nation; from engineers and financiers to the effect on leisure and the environment.

This is a story that is not only enthralling in its own right but also fundamental to an understanding of British history and the nature of Britain today.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Trains & railways: general interest
  • ISBN: 9780500288108



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This book complements Prof. Simmons' earlier books on the effects of the railway on Victorian Britain by looking at the way the Victorians themselves perceived the railway and its effects, good and bad. It's a very interesting and readable account, although perhaps not an ideal starting point if you're new to the subject, as Simmons does not waste much time on the more familiar material. Fanny Burney's trip on the <i>Rocket</i> is dismissed in half a line; Dickens' railway accident experience gets only slightly more; Ruskin does not get a chance to fulminate about the Buxton to Matlock railway. Even the illustrations mostly manage to avoid the obvious (we do get Frith's "Railway Station", though) .Simmons has managed to bring together a remarkable range of material, much of which I hadn't come across before, covering the whole of Great Britain (with a couple of minor excursions across the Irish Sea), and the whole period from the 1820s to 1914. This is a huge subject, but Simmons has the benefit of many years of research in the field and is able to select what is interesting and relevant from the mass of material available. He puts the material into context succinctly, and tests the Victorian writers' (often contradictory) perceptions against statistical data wherever it is available. He clearly did quite a bit of original research, for example in trying to estimate the development of excursion traffic, or the role of the railways in transporting daily commuters. And there are some interesting little inquiries into unexpected side-issues, like disentangling the roles of sabbatarianism from penny-pinching in the development of the British "railway Sunday".Definitely well worth the effort for anyone who's interested in railways in 19th century Britain.