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The Iron Road: An Illustrated History of the Railroad

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Written by Christian Wolmar, author of the critically acclaimed The Great Railroad Revolution, The Iron Road is a richly illustrated account of the rise of the rails across the world. From the historic moment in September 1830 when the first train ran between Liverpool and Manchester, to the high speed trains bulleting across Asia and Europe, The Iron Road: An Illustrated Written by Christian Wolmar, author of the critically acclaimed The Great Railroad Revolution, The Iron Road is a richly illustrated account of the rise of the rails across the world. From the historic moment in September 1830 when the first train ran between Liverpool and Manchester, to the high speed trains bulleting across Asia and Europe, The Iron Road: An Illustrated History of the Railroad looks at how railroads have changed the world. Photographs, maps, paintings, and illustrations bring events and locations to life, adding a unique visual quality to the stories of great invention, feats of mind-boggling engineering, groundbreaking changes in trade and commerce, and tales of adventurers, visionaries, and rogues. The Iron Road is the third title in DK's successful illustrated histories format, which combines text-rich narratives with beautiful visual design.


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Written by Christian Wolmar, author of the critically acclaimed The Great Railroad Revolution, The Iron Road is a richly illustrated account of the rise of the rails across the world. From the historic moment in September 1830 when the first train ran between Liverpool and Manchester, to the high speed trains bulleting across Asia and Europe, The Iron Road: An Illustrated Written by Christian Wolmar, author of the critically acclaimed The Great Railroad Revolution, The Iron Road is a richly illustrated account of the rise of the rails across the world. From the historic moment in September 1830 when the first train ran between Liverpool and Manchester, to the high speed trains bulleting across Asia and Europe, The Iron Road: An Illustrated History of the Railroad looks at how railroads have changed the world. Photographs, maps, paintings, and illustrations bring events and locations to life, adding a unique visual quality to the stories of great invention, feats of mind-boggling engineering, groundbreaking changes in trade and commerce, and tales of adventurers, visionaries, and rogues. The Iron Road is the third title in DK's successful illustrated histories format, which combines text-rich narratives with beautiful visual design.

30 review for The Iron Road: An Illustrated History of the Railroad

  1. 4 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Railroading Over Time And Space Christian Wolmar's "The Iron Road: an Illustrated History of the Railroad" (2014) manages the rare accomplishment of being informative, thoughtful, and entertaining at the same time. The book is true to its subtitle and offers an overview of the railroad from its beginnings in the early 19th Century to its future in the early 21st Century. Wolmar is a British-based writer on transportation who has written many book on railroad history covering among other things Br Railroading Over Time And Space Christian Wolmar's "The Iron Road: an Illustrated History of the Railroad" (2014) manages the rare accomplishment of being informative, thoughtful, and entertaining at the same time. The book is true to its subtitle and offers an overview of the railroad from its beginnings in the early 19th Century to its future in the early 21st Century. Wolmar is a British-based writer on transportation who has written many book on railroad history covering among other things British railroads, American railroads, Russian railroads and railroads in war. These and many other subjects find a place in this new broad survey of railroad history. The book consists of about 400 pages evenly divided between text and illustrations and maps. Wolmar's writing throughout is engaging and non-technical. He brings the knowledge of a specialist and the love of a railfan in enthusiasm that is everywhere apparent. The illustrations are beautiful, wide-ranging, and stunning. Wolmar begins with an introductory essay which sets out concisely the importance of the railroads and the changes they produced in economics, demography, social structure, and politics throughout the world. Railroads bridged distances, increased communication among people of different places, promoted engineering and technological accomplishments of an unprecedented scope, and fostered both capitalism and trade unionism. "Of all the great inventions of the Industrial Revolution, the railroads had the most impact", Wolmar explains. In five chapters, Wolmar covers the origins of the railroads in 19th Century Britain and America and their early expansion. Subsequent chapters cover the "spread" of the railroads, technologically and geographically, the glory days of the railroads when they enjoyed a near-monopoly on long-distance land transportation, the role of the railroads in war, and the current and future state of the iron rails. In the course of the book, Wolmar discusses and illustrates, for example, the workings of a steam engine, electric engine, and an air brake, signaling, tunneling and bridging and more. The text is interspersed with specific facts and figures giving content to the broader discussion. The most interesting aspects of this book are its focus on people and on geographic scope. Wolmar discusses the individuals who built the rails, some visionary and idealistic, some common swindlers, and some a mixture of both. He discusses the workers on the rails and the extraordinary hardships they endured in constructing railroads in the mountains, in both hot and frigid deserts, and under the sea. Wolmar makes clear that the advance of the rails came at a high human cost in death and suffering. The book shows railroads and planned railroads that most people in the United States or Britain will probably have little opportunity to see. Wolmar discusses a planned transcontinental line linking the south and north of Africa which narrowly missed completion. He discusses railroads in the upper reaches of the Andes and the Alps and across the Indian subcontinent. He explores the world's highest railroad, newly constructed, linking China and Tibet. He explores the technological accomplishment of creating a rail line under the English Channel. He offers detailed discussions of the two transcontinental railroads through Siberia constructed at frightening human and economic cost. Wolmar discusses rails in Cuba and Ireland. In its relatively short scope, the book shows a great deal about railroading in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Japan, China, and elsewhere. Many people who have little else in the way of technological knowledge love the railroads. The term "railfan" captures an interest in railroading by amateurs which is not duplicated by a base of people who love other large industries (with the possible exception of maritime transportation)."The Iron Road" will appeal to readers with any degree of interest in railroading, from newcomers to lifelong railfans. Wolmar's interest in social, economic, and technology will broaden the appeal of the book to readers without a particular passion for the rails. The book includes a useful glossary of terms used in railroading and a good basic bibliography of books on railroading that will interest the non-specialist reader. All told, this is an inspiring and delightful book. Robin Friedman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Igor

    Not exactly a book, but still very usefull. It contains many paragraphs focusing in different aspects, influential people, countries, eras and technologies of the rail roads. For me, who is trying to understand the Industrial Revolution, was extremely useful. I am readind/listening the following books as well: 1) by David Nasaw; 2) by Daniel Yergin; 3) by David McCullough; 4) by Patrick N. Allitt; 5) by T.J. Stiles. And there are more on the list. Not exactly a book, but still very usefull. It contains many paragraphs focusing in different aspects, influential people, countries, eras and technologies of the rail roads. For me, who is trying to understand the Industrial Revolution, was extremely useful. I am readind/listening the following books as well: 1) by David Nasaw; 2) by Daniel Yergin; 3) by David McCullough; 4) by Patrick N. Allitt; 5) by T.J. Stiles. And there are more on the list.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    This well- illustrated book is world history aboard trains. For me, interested in Chinese railroad workers, interesting to find out that after building American railroads some 5,000 Chinese went to Peru to build railroads. In Panama it was opium that helped the Chinese maintain their grueling work. The book ends describing some of the most advanced railroads in the world... now in China. The development of American sleeper cars is fun to read and the pictures of engines, bridges, and types of ra This well- illustrated book is world history aboard trains. For me, interested in Chinese railroad workers, interesting to find out that after building American railroads some 5,000 Chinese went to Peru to build railroads. In Panama it was opium that helped the Chinese maintain their grueling work. The book ends describing some of the most advanced railroads in the world... now in China. The development of American sleeper cars is fun to read and the pictures of engines, bridges, and types of railroad tracks is fascinating. Hopefully in this era of rubber-tire gridlock and air pollution there will be a push to restore railroad tracks, train technology and develop once again appealing railroad travel. It's time for a revival.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ralph L. Meyer

    Extensive book on railroads, well illustrated. I chose this book for the illustrations, but found it gives an extensive discussion of railroads, their history and technology as well,and the illustrations are excellent.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri T

    Worth Every Penny as a Rail Enthusiast As a 101 into the history of railway, this was a must-read and worth every penny. Very easy to read and informative. Highly recommend.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Allen

    I enjoyed this overview of how railroads came to be and emerged. It’s a good primer on the subject for anyone who is interested in railroads.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    The Iron Road An Illustrated History of the Railroad Author: Christian Wolmar Publisher: DK Publishing Published In: New York City, NY Date: 2014 Pgs: 389 REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS Summary: The history of the railroad is a tale of ingenuity, social change, and bold vision. From the earliest steam engines to the high-speed bullet trains of today. The Iron Road reveals the hidden stories of the railroads--the inspired engineering; the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the construction of the tracks; The Iron Road An Illustrated History of the Railroad Author: Christian Wolmar Publisher: DK Publishing Published In: New York City, NY Date: 2014 Pgs: 389 REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS Summary: The history of the railroad is a tale of ingenuity, social change, and bold vision. From the earliest steam engines to the high-speed bullet trains of today. The Iron Road reveals the hidden stories of the railroads--the inspired engineering; the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the construction of the tracks; the groundbreaking innovations behind the trains that traveled them; and the triumphs and tragedies of the people who made the railroad what it is. Packed with lavish photographs, diagrams, and maps to illustrate and illuminate, this is the biography of the machines that carried us into the modern era. Genre: Culture History Non-fiction Society Why this book: Railroads...trains...I’m in. ______________________________________________________________________________ Hmm Moments: Cuba having the most miles of track per inhabitant in the mid 1800s. Placed in context with the sugar barons driving the development, it makes sense. Even with the many miles of track, they were focused closely on the sugar industry and weren’t situated to support other industrial development, a one-trick pony despite their pervasiveness. It’s amazing how much history evolved and devolved around the railroads; their birth, heydey, and decline. The graft at the heart of the railroad expansion across America flavored much of modern American business. The government wanted the railroad built, so they subsidized it. The rail barons formed companies to build the railroads that they would own when they were completed, charged exorbitant rates to the government, and pocketed huge dividends and made money out of both the construction and the finished product. I wondered if the author would shy away from the dark aspects of railroad history. But they were confronted head on. The story of the Holocaust and the slave labor building of the Siam-to-Burma railroad are both here. Horror though they are, they belong in this if it hopes to be a definitive look at the history of the railroads. Why isn’t there a screenplay? The Panama Railroad, the Derienni, Ran Runnels, and George Totten would make a helluva movie. ______________________________________________________________________________ Last Page Sound: And...trains. Author Assessment: Well researched and well written history. Knee Jerk Reaction: glad I read it Disposition of Book: Irving Public Library - South Irving, TX Dewey Decimal System: 385.09 WOL Would recommend to: genre fans ______________________________________________________________________________

  8. 4 out of 5

    James Banzer

    The railroad impacted our lives in ways little realized. British author Christian Wolmar has written a compelling history of the phenomenon born in the early part of the 19th century. We are taken through the building of the rails country by country all the way to the present day. At the end of the book, there is a glimpse of travel by bullet trains. This work details the wonders of railroad construction. Railroads changed life forever. It is hard now to imagine what things were like before the The railroad impacted our lives in ways little realized. British author Christian Wolmar has written a compelling history of the phenomenon born in the early part of the 19th century. We are taken through the building of the rails country by country all the way to the present day. At the end of the book, there is a glimpse of travel by bullet trains. This work details the wonders of railroad construction. Railroads changed life forever. It is hard now to imagine what things were like before the railroad. People were often confined permanently to small geographic areas. Travel was simply too difficult to make long trips feasible. It was nearly certain that one's future spouse would be someone who lived nearby. I was surprised to learn that time zones everywhere, as we know them, came about because of the railroads. There are many stories embedded within this narrative. The railroad made a few people very wealthy, and provided jobs for many. Construction of the lines saw many deaths, some by suicide and others accidental. There was luxurious travel afforded by rail, thanks in no small part to a man named George Pullman. The Pullman sleeping car gave travelers a way to get a good night's rest, while Pullman's dining car afforded the opportunity for a first-class meal aboard the train. The story of The Iron Road: An Illustrated History of the Railroad, is hard to put down. There are fantastic illustrations and photographs throughout. I am grateful to have received my free review copy thanks to Goodreads First Reads.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bob H

    This is a well-illustrated history of railroads that is much more than a coffee-table book. Although very well-illustrated -- photos, maps, diagrams -- the text, in a series of brief (2-8 pp. usually) articles, chart the history of world railroading from its obscure beginnings in the 18th Century to the present day. It charts the technology from early steam to maglev trains, the industry from the early ventures to transcontinental adventures in America and Siberia, to the new ventures like the C This is a well-illustrated history of railroads that is much more than a coffee-table book. Although very well-illustrated -- photos, maps, diagrams -- the text, in a series of brief (2-8 pp. usually) articles, chart the history of world railroading from its obscure beginnings in the 18th Century to the present day. It charts the technology from early steam to maglev trains, the industry from the early ventures to transcontinental adventures in America and Siberia, to the new ventures like the Channel tunnel and the Tibet railroad. The book doesn't shy away from controversy and worse -- the rail barons' financial misbehavior, the rail disasters, the railroad atrocities in WWII involving the Burma-Siam railroad and the Nazi Holocaust. It talks about engineering marvels in the Alps and India, and economic drivers like the Cuba sugar railways. There's even a technical glossary in the appendix. Highly recommend. It's well-written, well-edited, well-designed in layout and flow. It never seems dull. This book can serve as a gift for a general audience, all ages, and as a must-have for those interested in railroading -- especially as one of the first railroad books on a new shelf.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This is a nice book to pick up and read at intervals and it's an excellent book to give to the lovers of old trains as a gift. I know there are several area clubs around here for steam engine enthusiasts. They would love a book like this. Instead of just American trains, or European trains, this books covers historic moments from all over the world. One of my favorite photos is of a train car peddled like a bicycle with the Europeans sitting in the back, wearing pith helmets, and looking just lik This is a nice book to pick up and read at intervals and it's an excellent book to give to the lovers of old trains as a gift. I know there are several area clubs around here for steam engine enthusiasts. They would love a book like this. Instead of just American trains, or European trains, this books covers historic moments from all over the world. One of my favorite photos is of a train car peddled like a bicycle with the Europeans sitting in the back, wearing pith helmets, and looking just like real versions of our visions of "steampunk." Well, this isn't steampunk but the real deal. If you like old steam engines, history, and sometimes unusual photographs, you'll like The Iron Road. Instead of a long history of trains, it is shorter historical moments, which is nice to pick up if you have a short time to read or like to read during shorter periods, like during a train ride!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dave Tucker

    Got my copy at National Railway Museum in York, yes I'm becoming a "loco-spotter"! (actually, with a work motivation). Excellent history by renowned author, very accessible for non-train enthusiasts. Great job done by DK, famous for their painstakingly illustrated tomes. My wife said it looks childish - not true, well designed diagrams etc to show how locos work and the text sections are really well written. So I agree fully with the 4-5 star ratings below. This won't go to the charity shop in m Got my copy at National Railway Museum in York, yes I'm becoming a "loco-spotter"! (actually, with a work motivation). Excellent history by renowned author, very accessible for non-train enthusiasts. Great job done by DK, famous for their painstakingly illustrated tomes. My wife said it looks childish - not true, well designed diagrams etc to show how locos work and the text sections are really well written. So I agree fully with the 4-5 star ratings below. This won't go to the charity shop in my lifetime.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

    As with his last book I read by Christian Wolmar this is another excellent read. Well detailed and thoroughly interesting look at and history of trains and the relation of the transportation service in the future. Unfortunately in North America it is hard to see there is a positive future for trains. Nevertheless this book is a great way to see the importance of trains in the past and how they are still important in the future. It is an extraordinary read. Highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jbondandrews

    I really enjoyed this marvellously written book. Christian Wolmar wrote about the history of trains around the world and provided many interesting pictures to his text. Anyone who is interested in history or transportation will enjoy reading this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    Interesting, because I like trains. Sometimes the writing seemed to jump around. I would have liked more content about trains I experienced (California Zephyr in the '60s), and some speculation on whether the U.S. would have been better off without the interstate highway system. Interesting, because I like trains. Sometimes the writing seemed to jump around. I would have liked more content about trains I experienced (California Zephyr in the '60s), and some speculation on whether the U.S. would have been better off without the interstate highway system.

  15. 5 out of 5

    The Advocate

    "If you enjoy riding the rails, watching trains, or are a railroad enthusiast in any way, this is a great book for you." Read more here. "If you enjoy riding the rails, watching trains, or are a railroad enthusiast in any way, this is a great book for you." Read more here.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Beautifully written. Interesting and wonderfully illustrated. Great for history and train buffs.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan Walker

    This is a great book for Railroad enthusiasts or history buffs. Lots of wonderful old pictures too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Meyer

    This book was great because it's easy to read, lots of smaller sections, and plenty of pictures. I really enjoyed it. It had a great overview of the history of railroads anyone can understand. This book was great because it's easy to read, lots of smaller sections, and plenty of pictures. I really enjoyed it. It had a great overview of the history of railroads anyone can understand.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Galloway

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ray Elliott

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Gibb

  22. 5 out of 5

    Antoine Vanner

  23. 5 out of 5

    James Kelley

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jay Walsh

  25. 5 out of 5

    Toby

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peter Baker

  27. 5 out of 5

    Exapno Mapcase

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christian Cederberg

  29. 5 out of 5

    Randy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Keen

    This was a really enjoyable read with plenty of colourful and clear illustrations which really help bring the places to life and gives us a genuine feel for the featured trains and locations. Wolmar obviously loves his subject and it shows. As well as some interesting features about the US and UK trains we also get really engaging pieces on Australia, Africa and of course the Trans Siberian. I found it particularly interesting to learn what China and Saudi Arabia are currently doing in terms of This was a really enjoyable read with plenty of colourful and clear illustrations which really help bring the places to life and gives us a genuine feel for the featured trains and locations. Wolmar obviously loves his subject and it shows. As well as some interesting features about the US and UK trains we also get really engaging pieces on Australia, Africa and of course the Trans Siberian. I found it particularly interesting to learn what China and Saudi Arabia are currently doing in terms of modern railway infrastructure. An all round really interesting journey.

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