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Engines of War: How Wars Were Won and Lost on the Railways Paperback – 1 Jun 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848871732
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848871731
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 177,608 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

Publishers Weekly "Wolmar writes with an authoritative tone and solid research on how railroads, with their ability to move vast numbers of troops, made "industrial-scale carnage possible." Library Journal "Very accessible and likely to be popular with readers of general military history." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Christian Wolmar is Britain's foremost writer and broadcaster 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, Fire and Steam, and Blood, Iron and Gold.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By neil3146 on 10 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Among the plethora of books about wars it's good to read a new one that deals with a subject that I have not seen covered in detail before. I have read the odd chapter dealing with subjects like the use of trains in transporting holocaust victims or troop movements in the UK leading up to the Normandy landings but this book adds a level of insight and detail that I found unexpected and useful.

Christian Wolmar outlines clearly at the start of the book which areas he will deal with in detail and which areas he is not expert enough to cover.

From my point of view he covers most of key elements of the conflicts in adequate detail without getting overly technical. The book is very readable and my only quibbles are that the maps should probably have been at the beginning of each chapter and yes, there should be a map dealing with the Middle East conflicts of 1918. I would like to know some more about the cover image and where it was taken as it relates to a section on railway mounted artillery.

Those points aside, I would recommend the book as a companion to the many other books that dealt with the same conflicts and wars yet hardly ever mentioned the railways!

A book I read about the war in Russia in 1941 mentioned how the trains ran from Berlin to Moscow for three weeks after war was declared by both sides but Wolmar's book provides a much more solid context for understanding why many of the wars were started where railways were a relevant factor or how they served the progress of those conflicts. Subsequently, I think the history of the railways now has a very sinister overtone.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 6 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Railways and locomotives are not just limited to peacetime use.
In our memories, we may wish to associate them with happier times...day trips to the seaside, going on holiday to some other location at home (UK) or overseas, perhaps.

When pushed, we will recall the use of the railways in the great evacuations from London at the start of the Second World War...and the use of the London Underground as emergency air raid shelters.

But the railways, and locomotives have had a much more sinister, and deadly use.....as "engines of war".

The disappointing results of technology were noted by Orville Wright, one of the inventors of the airplane. During World War II he wrote the following to Henry Ford:
": "Wilbur and I thought the plane would hasten world peace. So far it seems to have done the reverse. I suspect when you introduced mass production --one of the great inventions of the ages--you little thought it would be used . . . in building tanks for world destruction. It seems that no beneficial thing can be introduced without some one finding a vicious use for it."

And so it has proved to be, in all aspects of life and industry....

Christian Wolmar's latest book.."Engines of War" traces a siimilar theme in the use of the railways in war, and for war, since the middle of the 19th century...

The book's chapters are:
1. War Before Railways
2. The Railways called Into Action
3. Slavery Loses Out To The Iron Road
4. Lessons Not Learnt
5. The New Weapons Of war
6. The War The World Anticipated
7. The Great Railway War On The Western Front
8. Eastern Contrasts
9. Here We Go Again
10. Blood On The Tracks

Whilst not exhaustive...
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Rines on 6 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Christian Wolmar's book was a series of revelations to me. I have read quite a lot about 19th and 20th Century Wars, but the key role of railways is largely ignored. For example, they enabled the North to beat the South in the American Civil War, Kitchener to beat the Mad Mahdi, the Allies to beat the Central Powers in WWI and the Axis in WWII. But what I found of most interest was Wolmar's views on the role played by railways in WWI. He refutes AJP Taylor's view that it was the rigidity of the military's railway timetables that led to war. Again, because an advancing army has to move over damaged infrastructure a defending army always had a better rail supply network behind it. This led to the stalemate of the trench war, with neither side able to sustain a breakthrough. Not mentioned in standard histories is the fact that light railways were the only effective form of transport over muddy cratered ground, and that hundreds of miles of tracks were laid by both sides. In WWII, Hitler failed to grasp the importance of rail, being a car fanatic, and mistakenly gave priority to building autobahnen, then did not build enough lorries.As well as dealing authoritatively with strategic and tactical issues involving the railways, Wolmar includes fascinating anecdotes. For instance, when trains were blacked out in WWII bulbs were stolen from the LMS line at a rate of 50,000 a year!
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Thomas De Vries on 11 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book covers, in ten chapters, the use of railways in war from Balaklava to the present day. Essentially, the deployment and supply of millions of soldiers in the wars of the last century would have been impossible without railways. The book is written in good English throughout and has a very useful index.

The author is very definitely a railway author rather than a military one or a master of both subjects. He mainly relies on AJP Taylor for the political/military viewpoint. It is a shame he was not more catholic in his reading, both for the wider perspective and because of the book's main failing, the paucity and inadequacy of maps. Military books normally have much better maps than this.

Let us take WWI as an example. For the Western front (over one chapter is devoted to this), there is one map, situated a long way from the relevant text. To follow the action, the author naturally uses a number of place names, the majority of which are not marked on his map. There is an inset, barely legible, of the area of the Somme, which is one of the very few places in the book where a map is inessential since the Somme offensive is only discussed in very general terms.

To accompany the chapter on WWI's several Eastern fronts, there are no maps at all. I found it necessary to improvise - for instance, the account of the Arabian/Palestine campaign can be followed with the aid of a map in Natkiel and Pimlott's excellent "Atlas of Warfare".

The author rightly criticises some of the combatants in his book, for rushing into action without adequate preparation. I wonder if the same criticism might not be fairly levelled at him.
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