Cultural Impact of the Railway of Victorian England

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Introduction At the beginning of the industrial revolution in England during the mid-nineteenth century, the railroad was the most innovative mode of transportation known. The British Rail system was a forerunner in railroad technology, uses, and underground engineering. Though the rail system was extremely slow at first and prohibitively expensive to build and run, the British were not to be dissuaded in their pursuit of non-animal driven transportation. The most advanced mode of transportation prior to the introduction of the rail system was the horse drawn omnibus on a track, called a tram. This paper will examine the rail system from a cultural perspective, presenting the impact the railway had on everyday lives in Victorian London and its surrounding communities. History Though there was over 350 miles of railway laid throughout England in 1801, there was no commercially viable railway implemented before the 1830's. Some rails were still made of wood, others iron and the first trains traveled at the pace of 3.5 miles per hour, significantly slower than the horse drawn coach which traveled at a speed of 9-10 miles per hour. According to Jack Simmons in his book, The Railway in England and Wales, 1840-1914, the Manchester-Liverpool line is notable to mention because it did three things no other railway to date had: 1) all traction was mechanical for the first time; 2) the Company carried both passengers and freight; and 3) the linkage of two commercial towns was exceptional. The concept that a man could leave his town to conduct business in another town and be back in his own home the same day was unheard of. People found this aspect of the railway very enticing. Simmons writes, "There was no doubt at the time about the... ... middle of paper ... ...lume 1, The System and its Working. Leicester University Press. Leicester, England. 1978. Kellett, John R. The Impact of Railways on Victorian Cities. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. 1969. Head, F. B. Stokers and Pokers (or the London and North Western Railway, The Electric Telegraph and The Railway Clearing-House. Augustus M. Kelley, New York. 1969 . Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. 1848. London: Penguin Classics, 1985. Pollins, Harold. "Transport Lines and Social Divisions" from London Aspects of Change: Edited by the Centre for Urban Studies. MacGibbon & Kee, London. 1964. MacKenzie, John M. and Richards, Jeffrey. The Railway Station, A Social History. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 1986. London Times, November 1839. Footnotes 1. George Pryme, Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge, as quoted by Jack Simmons 2. Punch 44 (1863) 184.

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