Blood, Iron and Gold
Atlantic Books Ormond House 26-27 Boswell Street London WC1N 3JZ UNITED KINGDOM
* Author - Christian Wolmar
Blood Iron & Gold is a look at how the railways transformed the world. The author has given a good overview of the development of railways in all parts of the globe,
creating a very readable narrative.
It is interesting to note that the first public railway in Britain was not from the capital city but between Liverpool and Manchester (by way of contrast, the first public
railway in Ireland was from Dublin - the Dublin & Kingstown Railway). The author sets out that the earliest known representation of wagons on tracks dates from
1350 and is located in the minster at Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany. Another fact that I was unaware of was that New Zealand briefly had a section of track to 5’3"
or Irish gauge (along with Brazil and parts of Australia).
The author sets out the development of the railway and the inevitable decline caused by motor traffic but ends with the subsequent revival of railways around the
world. In doing so, he unearths some more gems including that the first railway in Australia was man powered - transported convicts pushed individual carriages
along a 5 mile section of track in Tasmania. He also notes that the motor car industry in the interwar period in USA encouraged towns to remove their street
tramways to make room for the car. Similar policies were of course applied in Britain and Ireland to the benefit of the motor industry.
One point I would have to take issue with the author concerns his description of the Atmospheric Railway as "Brunel's vacuum railway". Whilst Brunel could be
described as the most ardent advocate of the system - adopting it with the stubborn zeal that characterised the infamous engineer - the first commercial use of the
system was of course in Ireland and Brunel had nothing to do with it.
All things considered, the book is a very worthwhile addition to the stock of published material on railways and makes for an enjoyable read - especially as it is not
train spotter in nature.
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