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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book but sometimes strays far from topic
This book is inspired by Bradshaw's 1866 tourist handbook and quotes from it regularly, noting that some places formerly regarded as worth visiting by tourists (such as Gravesend) later slipped off the tourist agenda, while others (such as Cornwall and Bournemouth) that didn't appeal to tourists in 1866 became more appealing. The five main chapters each cover one supposed...
Published on 24 Jan 2012 by Peter Durward Harris

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Must try harder!
Karen Farrington is clearly not a historian. Her featherweight book is full of factual errors and misinterpreted history. She couples this with a lazy writing style stuffed full of cliches. You won't learn much from this book, and you won't enjoy reading it because her breathless style is so annoying. If you want to find out the history spend an afternoon on Wikipedia...
Published 21 months ago by Val


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book but sometimes strays far from topic, 24 Jan 2012
By 
Peter Durward Harris "Pete the music fan" (Leicester England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
This book is inspired by Bradshaw's 1866 tourist handbook and quotes from it regularly, noting that some places formerly regarded as worth visiting by tourists (such as Gravesend) later slipped off the tourist agenda, while others (such as Cornwall and Bournemouth) that didn't appeal to tourists in 1866 became more appealing. The five main chapters each cover one supposed journey, but within these chapters the contents are mostly about the places along the route - and some places that aren't anywhere near the route. The actual railway content varies from one chapter to another, so this book is likely to appeal more to those who are interested in Victorian England and Ireland (with a bit of Wales) than dedicated railway fans.

The chapter I was most looking forward to most was the one covering the journey from Berwick to the Isle of Man, and while I enjoyed it, the contents were curious given the title of the book. Much space was devoted to early railway developments including the Stockton and Darlington, the Liverpool and Manchester, Thomas Cook's pioneering railway tour packages and London's 1951 exhibition, most of which involved places off the chosen route, and sometimes not anywhere near it. Meanwhile, the book didn't have a lot to say about many of the places served by the route. When I lived in Newcastle, I enjoyed heading northwards into Northumberland, or westwards to see Hexham or the Roman wall. Scant mention is made of Northumberland, and there is nothing about any of the places between Newcastle and Carlisle, not even the Roman wall. Coverage of Berwick and Newcastle is mainly limited to the bridges, which I agree are magnificent. The rest of this particular journey does tend to say more about the places on the route, but as the chapter is supposed to be about a journey from Berwick to the Isle of Man, the contents seem a little strange.

Other chapters tended to stick more closely to the journey's route, though they also offer plenty of surprises in their choice of subjects covered, It seems that the author has a fascination for murders, as she describes the case of Thomas Briggs, the first person murdered on a train, as well as an earlier case in which a murderer escaped on a train but the police were alerted by railway telegraph and were waiting for the train's arrival at the destination. I actually own Mr Briggs' Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain's First Railway Murder, but it's one of many unread books awaiting my attention.

The author also mentions Mrs Beeton, the celebrity cook of the Victorian era. The piece here is very different from the one that I read in The Story of Your Life: A History of "The Sporting Life" Newspaper (1859-1998). Karen Harrington mentions speculation about Mrs Beeton copying recipes rather than creating them, but the other book's author seemed in no doubt that she copied at least some of them. If there isn't a biography of this woman currently in print, there should be as there is obviously plenty of interest in her.

I found the Irish chapter particularly interesting, although it also strays far beyond the basic theme. Is that the Byerley Turk (famous in the horse racing world) in the picture of the cavalry charge at the Battle of the Boyne? Perhaps not, but he took part in it. The potato famine also gets a mention, with the author pointing out that while the railways helped to gave a much-needed boost to Ireland's prosperity, they also made it easy for people to emigrate.

There is so much that this book has to offer, although those who are only interested in the railway aspects will get less out of it than those who enjoy reading about Victorian industrial progress. Being interested in both, I'm not complaining, except perhaps about the title.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Must try harder!, 14 Mar 2013
This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
Karen Farrington is clearly not a historian. Her featherweight book is full of factual errors and misinterpreted history. She couples this with a lazy writing style stuffed full of cliches. You won't learn much from this book, and you won't enjoy reading it because her breathless style is so annoying. If you want to find out the history spend an afternoon on Wikipedia - that's probably all the research she did.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute gem of the book to the series, 23 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
I am an avid fan of the BBC series with Michael Portillo - this current third series is a real treat, and I bought the first tie-in book. This sequel is even better. I think the quality of the design and photographs are of a higher quality and it's great to have anecdotal text that relates to the five journeys Michael Portillo is undertaking, it really helps to get a better idea of how each journey came into being, as well as how it was viewed by the Victorians themselves. There are more Bradshaw related maps and some very revealing quotes from his travel guide that I found really insightful and thus saved time from scouring through the many facsimiles that are out there of his original book. I now have all related books to this show, and this new one is a beauty and I'd recommend all lovers of the history of our railways to see what they think too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 10 July 2014
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Excellent
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5.0 out of 5 stars good book, 12 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
this has been well researched and written with good photos. Very interesting,you do not have to be a railway buff to enjoy
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1.0 out of 5 stars Just who is the intended readership for this book?, 28 Mar 2014
This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
As others have pointed out, Portillo did not write this book other than the Foreword. I'm pretty sure that if he had read the contents he would not have endorsed it in any way. Karen Farrington seems to be writing for ten year olds, such is the stilted prose and sound-bite "facts" that populate her effort. It is factually inaccurate, partly irrelevant and must be extremely irritating to anyone who has the slightest knowledge of railway history.

I very rarely do not finish reading a book, even more rarely do I throw one away that I have bought, but this one took the proverbial "biscuit" - I wouldn't even inflict it on a Charity shop.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Birthday Present, 27 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
Greatly appreciated by my son's train enthusiast friend, who found it most informative and with good pictures.
Excellent price and speedily delivered.
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2.0 out of 5 stars gets disappointng the more you read, 21 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
I thought I would have liked this book, an to a point I did, but as others have said its more about other subjects related to the railways rather than the railwaysthemselves
A BIG disappointment was that Scotland isn't even given a mention - even though Ireland is !! This to me was a fatal omission having had ancestors work on the victorian railway in Scotland.
By the time I finished reading I was quite disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For historians and steam enthusiasts., 13 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
An interesting and revealing book, every page a revelation, a must read. Cost effective, fast delivery, a very hard book to put down. Well packaged. recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Full Steam Ahead., 24 Feb 2013
This review is from: Great Victorian Railway Journeys: How Modern Britain was Built by Victorian Steam Power (Hardcover)
Tie-in book to Michael Portillo's third series of Great British Railway Journeys. Much of the text is radical, considering the television programmes was fronted by a former Conservative MP. The hard times and dangerous lives of the railway workers are well chronicled and should be an education to people who doubt the need for trades unions and health and safety legislation. The railway owners who overreached themselves also endured tough times and some were bankrupted. The best part of the book are the photographs and sketches, but why do we have six pictures of Mr Portillo?

The downside is that some of the content is in a rather random order and there are a number of pieces that have little or nothing to do with the railways, stories about Mrs Beeton and Grace Darling are just two of several that are superfluous to the book.

If Karen Farringdon had to fill 256 pages, then more information about the financial issues affecting the railways would have been of interest.

A good book to buy someone who is interested in the railways or who enjoys viewing a collection of historic and scenic pictures.
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