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Great Victorian Railway Journeys (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 19. Januar 2012

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* 'A colourful insight into Britain over the last 150 years' - National Geographic Traveller * 'The train...has transcended mere utility to become an icon. The history of Britain's on-off affair with the train is a history of Britain itself' - Lonely Planet Magazine

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HASH(0x95ddb750) von 5 Sternen Excellent book but sometimes strays far from topic 24. Januar 2012
Von Peter Durward Harris - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
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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