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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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on 27 October 2009
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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on 10 November 2013
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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on 31 May 2015
Blood, Iron and Gold" is the rather confusing title of railway historian Christian Wolmar's latest book; however, the sub-title "how the railways transformed the world" tells all. It chronicles the development of railways across the globe, from Asia to Australia, North, South and Central America, Russia and Europe. Wolmar manages to pack in an enormous amount of material without ever resorting to a simple but boring list of railway openings. As one example, the story of the Trans-Siberian Railway gives a fascinating insight into its social and military implications. This is a book that will equally appeal to the social historian and geographer, as well as the railway enthusiast. Highly recommended.
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on 2 September 2011
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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on 4 December 2014
You don’t have to like railways or engineering to enjoy this book. It is an exceedingly well written history of the development of the modern world seen through the expansion of the railway around the globe.

Bringing advances in trade, business, finance and apparent civilisation, Wolmar takes us on a great journey of discovery, with illuminating asides and insights which will entertain and delight.

The golden age of discovery on tracks and sleepers and different gauges. A fine read.
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on 27 October 2010
It is a great pity that the maps were not included in the Kindle Version. A bad omission.
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on 29 December 2009
I liked Fire and Steam and loved The Subterranean Railway but this is a poor book. It's full of sweeping generalisations and statements with no real evidence to back them up. I could live with that but what's disappointing is that the book is not fun to read: large parts of it are just dry, abbreviated histories of how x line or y line were built and it's repetitive (I lost count of the times he said that the effect of the railway could not be overestimated). But my greatest disappointment lies in the fact that it lacks any of the insight that made his other books such a joy to read - it seems that what he has done is cobbled together bits of other railway books (including their anecdotes) into a boring blancmange. When you hear him on the radio or read his articles you get the impression that this is a man with knowledge and passion about the railways - you won't think that if you read this book.
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on 12 December 2009
Thinking of planning and building a new railway line? This is the book for you; it is a book of case studies and lessons rather than a text book as there is no prescribed way to plan, design, finance, build and operate a new railway.
Christian Wolmar's latest offering, Blood, Iron and Gold is an absorbing story of the railway as an instrument for nation and empire building. It complements his previous book dealing with the equally quirky nature of the railway network development of Britain, Fire & Steam. In this new book Wolmar provides the worldwide examples that demonstrate the rightness of taking into account `promoters' bias'. This phenomena always underestimates the likely costs and risks and overemphasises the commercial and economic influence of new railway infrastructure. From the book, the instances where one or more of these factors has been overlooked and where the railway still succeeds are amazing. The book provides plentiful examples for potential promoters and funders of new lines across the world that will allow them to avoid making the same mistakes again.
The Wolmar style (Bill Bryson of railway books) delivers the stories and messages clearly and continent by continent. The narrative is alive with wonderful examples of bravery, daring and unbelievable self delusion. A good read and very readable.
Wolmar's enthusiasm for railways and his columnist's scepticism makes this book the best of his railway-centred books.
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on 26 June 2010
Personally I found the Cairo-Cape chapter much the most exciting because it's one of the few with an associated map. More often it's difficult to get there with the author because he knows where he's going but I don't.

Suggestion for second edition: add 50 small maps pertinent to the text.
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