In this pamphlet Molly Conisbee and David Wragg explore the world the railways built – through engineering, craftsmanship, aesthetics, enterprise, and the democratisation of travel. They consider the cultural history and politics of the railways, but also encourage people to ‘walk the line’ for themselves. Thousands of disused railway lines are now accessible as foot and cycle paths; many more rely on volunteers to reclaim them so that they can be enjoyed again.
This is not an uncritical examination of the railway age. The cost of building the railways was undeniably large in terms of loss of life, corrupt business dealings, and the irreparable impact on communities, often against their will. But the coming of the railways represented an epic era of mass-investment: in infrastructure, of confidence in engineering, and an ability to make lasting structures of utility, and sometimes quite extraordinary beauty.