The first global history of the epic early days of the iron railway
Railways, in simple wooden or stone form, have existed since prehistory. But from the 1750s onward the introduction of iron rails led to a dramatic technological evolution—one that would truly change the world.
In this rich new history, David Gwyn tells the neglected story of the early iron railway from a global perspective. Driven by a combination of ruthless enterprise, brilliant experimenters, and international cooperation, railway construction began to expand across the world with astonishing rapidity. From Britain to Australia, Russia to America, railways would bind together cities, nations, and entire continents. Rail was a tool of industry and empire as well as, eventually, passenger transport, and developments in technology occurred at breakneck speed—even if the first locomotive in America could muster only 6 mph.
The Coming of the Railway explores these fascinating developments, documenting the early railway’s outsize social, political, and economic impact—carving out the shape of the global economy as we know it today.
David Gwyn is a historian of the industrial and modern period. He is actively involved in the railway heritage movement, serving as a trustee of the Ffestiniog Railway and as chairman of the Bala Lake Railway Company.
“One does not have to be a train-spotter to read it: it tells a crucial story of our social and economic history, and does so with recourse to exceptional scholarship.”—Simon Heffer, The Telegraph
“Written with great confidence and considerable aplomb, The Coming of the Railway is a must for the train enthusiast.”—Jeremy Black, New Criterion
“The iron railway truly made the modern world. . . . [An] authoritative, superbly footnoted account.”—Jack Watkins, Country Life
“Even for those who have a library of books on railways this is a good addition. It is strongly recommended.”—Rev Dr Peter Howson, Methodist Recorder
"This is the sort of book for which the word 'masterly' was coined.”—Roger Backhouse, Welsh Railways Research Circle
“The nineteenth century was defined by the railway. In this compelling new book David Gwyn weaves together the disparate strands that led to its emergence as the singular new technology of its age; a monumental study, erudite, authoritative, and full of wider historical insights.”—Sir Neil Cossons, former director of the Science Museum London
“This book is a real eye-opener for rail enthusiasts and scholars with a detailed and well researched account of the dawn of the railways. The rapid advancement in technology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the railways brought our society is truly astounding.”—Siddy Holloway, historian and presenter
“A fresh perspective on the early railway story across time and world space, with a wealth of intriguing details. Gwyn ably demonstrates the role played by overlapping technologies, harmonising under the influence of shaping forces.”—Susan Major, author of Early Victorian Railway Excursions
“The railways were the most important invention of the nineteenth century, but they only emerged thanks to a series of technological developments. This book documents these in a thorough and revealing way which makes it essential reading for anyone interested in the origins of this great invention.”—Christian Wolmar, author of The Great Railway Revolution
Sign up to the Yale newsletter for book news, offers, free extracts and more
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.