Fire and Steam (2008)

A New History of the Railways in Britain
– 1st Take (DVD edition)
– Atlantic Books; 2008; 384 pages; ISBN 978-1843546306 (Paperback)
– Atlantic Books; 2007; 384 pages; ISBN 978-1843546290 (Hardback)

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This is the first comprehensive general history of Britain’s railways for over 30 years. Fire and Steam sets out the story of the people and events that shaped the world’s first railway network: one of the most impressive engineering achievements in history.

The railways and proper sewers were the two great creations of the Victorians which changed the face of Britain. Christian Wolmar brings the era of railway mania alive: both the imagination and the daring that made it possible.’
David Dimbleby

The book covers the whole history of the railways from the difficult birth of the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway and of the railway mania which later ensued through to the chequered history of British Rail and the subsequent controversial privatisation. It shows how the railways changed Britain and stimulated the development of many facets of modern life from fish & chips to seaside holidays.

‘A magnificent sweep through the whole human history of railways.’
Hunter Davies

It is a wide-ranging history which celebrates the vision and determination of the Victorian pioneers who developed this revolutionary transport system and the men who cut through the land to enable a country-wide network to emerge.  From the early days of steam to electrification, via the railway’s contribution to twentieth-century industrial design and the precarious future of the train, Fire and Steam explores the cultural, social and economical importance of this brilliant invention and reveals how the railway helped to form the Britain of today.

 

Reviews about Fire and Steam

‘A fresh account of how our railways were made, that is by turns inspiring, fascinating and – when privatisation comes around – truly devastating. A book for the enthusiast, the commuter, and for anyone who wants to know more about the story of transport in Britain.’ Simon Bradley, author of St Pancras

‘A wonderful account of how our railways came to be and the extraordinary revelation that since the very beginning, whenever a train has met a politician coming down the track there has almost always been the most appalling pile-up.’ Jon Snow, presenter Channel 4 news

‘The railways and proper sewers were the two great creations of the Victorians which changed the face of Britain. Christian Wolmar brings the era of railway mania alive: both the imagination and the daring that made it possible.’ David Dimbleby

”The future is rail’: the final chapter in Christian Wolmar’s superb history of the UKrailway network ends on a whistle blow of hope. With the glam new St Pancras operating full steam ahead, and many travellers’ mushrooming guilt over the size of their carbon footprint, perhaps the iron horse will start looking less like an old nag than a white stallion. Having covered privatisation in 2005’s On The Wrong Track, this time round Wolmar is all about accentuating the positives: the invention and the expansion, the freedom and the egalitarianism. Just the ticket for a long slog in rush hour.’ Evening standard review of the paperback, published May 13th

‘A magnificent sweep through the whole human history of railways.’ Hunter Davies author of biography of George Stephenson

 

Review articles