The Railways: Nation, Network and People by Simon Bradley

s-automobiles, published-2015

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from November 23 to December 04, 2015



Description: A magnificent account of Britain’s railways and how track and carriage united a nation.

This series of readings includes an exploration of many aspects of the railway revolution, such as the challenges of ‘railway time’, the nuances of first, second and third class, the dificulties of lighting and heating, passenger comfort, what to eat when travelling and the history of refreshment stops and the commercial opportunities they brought – including the establishment of W.H.Smith and Son, who became the nation’s first high street bookstore. Architecture and engineering are also covered, alongside the impact on social classes and gender.

Passengers may have a love-hate relationship with our railways, but few of us know much about the journey taken to get to where we are now.

“Simon Bradley’s The Railways is magisterial. It’s both authoritative and absorbing. A first class journey.” Michael Palin.

Episode 1: The coming of the trains shunted our vocabulary onto new tracks, and also did some odd things to time.

2/5: The nuances of the classes – the difference a seat makes.

3/5: The great sweep of social and economic change initiated by the railways meant that not only could we now move faster, but things were different when we stopped.

4/5: The railways altered the shape and character of the landscape, as well as giving us access to all corners of the country. Feats of engineering created bridges that have stood the test of time.

5/5: The enduring appeal of the railways – enthusiasts are so much more than just trainspotters. And what do trainspotters do anyway?

Reader: Stephen Tompkinson


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