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.
"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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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Neil on 11-04-09
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.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By Ian on 02-08-10
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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Brian Cohen on 05-09-08
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.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful