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Blood, Iron and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World Hardcover – 1 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; First Edition edition (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848871708
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848871700
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 3.8 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster, principally on transport matters. He writes regularly for a wide variety of publications including the Independent, Evening Standard and Rail magazine, and appears frequently on TV and radio as a commentator. His previous books include the widely-acclaimed The Subterranean Railway, a history of the London underground and Fire and Steam, a history of how the railways transformed Britain.

Product Description

Review

'This authoritative and highly readable book will remain the definitive history for years to come.' --Michael Williams, Daily Telegraph

'Timely... A superb new history of the world's railways... In one brilliantly written volume Wolmar relates the story of the first global rail revolution' --Andrew Adonis, Financial Times

`Wolmar brings great energy to the task of explaining how the railways transformed the world.'
-- New Statesman

About the Author

Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster, principally on transport matters. He writes regularly for a wide variety of publications including the Independent, Evening Standard and Rail magazine, and appears frequently on TV and radio as a commentator. His previous books include the widely-acclaimed The Subterranean Railway, a history of the London underground and Fire and Steam, a history of how the railways transformed Britain.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one might expect from Christian Wolmar this is a very good book packed with fascinating detail. Wolmar charts the growth of railways in all parts of the world. The pioneering position of Britain and the dominant role that we played in terms of providing engineering expertise and, perhaps more surprisingly, private finance is well related. (Of course, this dominant position was subsequently lost to America and then France and Japan.) Chapters are dedicated to different aspects of railway growth; the building of European lines and the mighty projects of crossing America, Canada and the other continents. Further sections deal with the different motivations for railway investment; private and government sponsored, the effect of railway expansion upon society and trade, the use of railways in wartime, and finally, the decline of railways and subsequent recent resurgence with investment in high-speed lines. Wolmar is at his best when drawing together the general reasons for railway investment and the general effects upon people and their way of life. Some of the early chapters on the growth of the railway system can be rather overwhelming with a dazzling array of data, but perhaps this is the nature of the beast and a minor quibble. As with Wolmar's earlier, 'Fire and Steam' this is a good history book and is not an 'anorak' book or coffee-table picture book. This excellent read will undoubtedly be of interest to general readers and railway enthusiasts alike.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jensun on 27 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Christian Wolmar must be one of the most knowledgeable authors on railways writing today, and with this volume he has excelled himself. Anyone who enjoyed "Fire & Steam" - Wolmar's lively history of the railways in Britain - will be delighted that he has finally gone global, looking at how railways affected (and continue to impact) just about every country where they were built in the world.

The book is extremely readable and amazingly comprehensive - in spite of the author's apology that it isn't. Of course there are omissions (my own favourite line to Sóller in Mallorca isn't mentioned, for example). But it's a must for every railway buff and should also enthuse anyone interested in the industrial and social history of the last 150 years.

With signs of a potential renaissance for this mode of transport, Christian Wolmar should have plenty to write about in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By superblues on 2 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
After producing excellent railway history books of Britain's railway, Christian Wolmer has extended its field to the world. "Blood, iron, and Gold" conveys the readers the background stories of the pioneers in the world who developed the railways that would span Eurasia, Asian, American, African, and Oceanian contents and link cities and stretch the remote corners, with mixtures of social and technical history and amusing anecdotes.

It is impossible to disregard of the pioneers, lower class engineers and employees who worked very hard to build up railway, stations, and signals with primitive equipment, harsh environment, and given meague amount of pay.

With superb fast-finding abilities, Christian Wolmer also demonstrates how culture and civilization have been enriched and destroyed in the course of the railway expansion and discovers how the railway played a vital role e.g. transporting materials and personnels in civil conflict, as well as two world wars.

This is a highly readable and gripping history book that tells the readers how the railway have shaped the modern world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Reet Gradeley on 16 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Christian Wolmar tackles his chosen subject without delving into the "rivet-counting" detail that often characterises the genre. As with his previous books, he consciously tries to provide a more rounded overview of the topic, considering the social, financial, political and economic drivers and effects of railway development. With such a potentially huge subject, he opts to present this through a number of case studies, and one of the advantages of doing this is that one can learn of the more obscure topics, such as the railways in New Zealand or the trans-Andean railways. Almost inevitably, however, this means that there is some overlap with some of his previous books, and I was often left wanting to know more (he does, thankfully, provide a brief commentary on where one might go to fulfil this desire).

The most dominant theme in the book is that of the great transcontinental lines, from those in North America to the most recently completed line (the Ghan, running north to south across Australia), and he contrasts the motivations and implications of building these lines very well indeed. Although there are relatively few maps, this book is less about exactly where the railways went, than about why and how they were built, and what effects they had on the continents, and so I never felt truly lost. With a writing style that is easy, very little effort is needed to keep reading.

I would recommend this book to anyone with more than a passing interest in the railways, particularly if they have been avoiding those deeply technical volumes that often crowd the transport sections of bookshops.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian K Bleasdale on 10 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book was an excellent read, full of information and interest BUT reading it on Kindle had the same problem as discussed before, the almost impossibility of reading the most interesting FOOTNOTES as one progresses!
They are all at the back and to get there AND BACK is most difficult and really spoils the read.
If they were set at the end of each chapter, it would at least diminish the difficulty of access.
Similarly, putting all the photos at the back, means one doesn't really know they exist until one finishes the whole book.
So 5 stars for the writer but only 2 for the publisher!
IAN
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