Posted: March 12, 2014 in book reviews, books, christian wolmar, history, moscow, railways, russia, siberia, textbooks, the trans-siberian railway, transport
Tags: book reviews, books, christian wolmar, history, moscow, railways, russia, siberia, textbooks, the trans-siberian railway, transport
The book I read to research this post was To The Edge Of The World by Christian Wolmar which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book is about the Trans-Siberian Railway and its history. Although when we think of the Trans-Siberian Railway we the railway line from Moscow to Vladivostok which is the one that is wholly in Russia & Siberia there are actually several Trans-Siberian Railways including one that was built earlier and linked up with the Chinese Eastern Railway for part of its route. The railway had to be rebuilt wholly within the Soviet Union because there were concerns the Chinese might close the stretch of line they owned stranding Vladivostok. The distance from Moscow to Vladivostok is approximately 5,750 miles although a few miles has been shaved off the original route by installing some straighter curves along with bridges and tunnels in places. When the original line was built it was considered too expensive to build any tunnels and in some cases whole mountains were dynamited and removed to make way for the railway. It’s interesting that the distance from Saint Petersburg to Kamchatka is 9,000 so the railway only stretches for 2/3 of the total stretch of the Soviet Union. Having said that in terms of railway building it’s the biggest achievement ever undertaken and was built in an amazingly short period. The Russians were determined to open up Siberia and try to populate it. Anyway sent to prison in Siberia was allowed to become a resident there after serving their sentence which normally be from 4-20 years. Of course most of these people died in captivity. Before the railway was built there existed a railway from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and then on to Chelyansk. This meant 4,500 miles of track had to be layed to Vladivostok. Vladivostok was little more than a village at that time. 1/7 of the Soviet GDP was spent on building this railway which is a huge amount. In those days Russia had very few universities which meant people like engineers and architects had to be brought in from abroad. These people also had to teach Russian people their skills so they could eventually take over although this didn’t happen until the 1850′s. They used a gauge of 5 feet although not all the railways in Russia shared this gauge which meant when the Japanese invaded in Siberia they couldn’t just travel to Moscow on the train and hampered there attempted invasion no end. A lot of the reason for building this railway was a military one to enable the rapid mobilization of troops and later on there were even train based missile launchers in the Cold War although not that many. The Russian Czar did build a railway to Warsaw before the Crimean War as he thought any war would come from that direction in Britain & France attacked and was caught out a bit when the attack came via Stevatopol in the Crimea. The British built the first military railway to get supplies to the front line. This is a great book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Christian is apparently of Russian descent although he lives in Britain and I have reviewed other books by him all of which were consistently good.
Posted: March 4, 2014 in america, american civil war, book reviews, books, history, textbooks, US history, usa, warfare
Tags: america, american civil war, book reviews, books, history, textbooks, us history, usa, warfare
The book I read to research this post was The American Civil War by John Keegan which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book must be one of the if not the definitive books on the American Civil War and I can’t praise it enough. It reads almost like a thriller and goes into almost every aspect of the war in great detail. Over a million people died in this war so in terms of casualties it is one of the worst wars ever on a par with the 2 world wars. The Union & the Confederacy where quite mismatched with the northern states having the lion’s share of resources and population. America was only starting to become industrialized but most of this had been in the north. In the south wealth was regarded as being measured by how many slaves and an able bodied male slave would sell for around a thousand dollars. The vast majority of people didn’t have many slaves and if they had plantations they tended to be quite small. Only the very elite had the kind of wealth portrayed in the film Gone With The Wind. One of the big factors in the war was the Confederacy taking a huge portion of land from Mexico which was actually a bigger country both in area and population wise but lost the war they fought. Another factor was their was a slave taken to one of the northern states where slavery was abolished and he went to court to try and get his freedom because he was still a slave. The court which was in the south tried to change the law to get the verdict they wanted which resulted in quite a backlash from the Union. Of course the last straw was the Confederacy proclaiming independence. This book which is a pretty big book depicts the war battle by battle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it is a great book. John Keegan has written quite a lot of history books and I have read several and reviewed them. His books always seem to be really good.
Posted: February 25, 2014 in book reviews, books, british history, colin g maggs, great britain, history, railways, steam locomotives, steam trains, textbooks, worcestershire
Tags: book reviews, books, british history, colin g maggs, great britain, history, railways, steam locomotives, steam trains, textbooks, worcestershire
The book I read to research this post was The Branch Lines Of Worcestershire by Colin G Maggs which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. Colin is a railway author who tends to specialize in the West Country region and Worcestershire isn’t too far from that region. There have been quite a few railways closed in this county and sadly he covers the routes with in the county which is a shame because there are lines like the Tenbury line & Severn Valley Railway which extend quite considerably beyond the boundaries and I’m sure lots of information was left out. Apparently the branch from Stourbridge Junction to Droitwich was almost closed due to competition from the more direct Bromsgrove line with both going from Birmingham to Worcester. What saved it was the high speed trains going from Birmingham to Gloucester and beyond which needed the Bromsgrove line and a local service had to go on the Stourbridge Junction line as a result. The Tenbury line was one of several in the country called the bluebell line on account of it being quite a scenic route. The Severn Valley Railway although it has charitable status is quite successful as a privately run steam enthusiasts railway and one of the longest in the country. There was a branch line that took in the industrial town of Halesowen linking Stourbridge Junction to Barnt Green. There was also a branch line from Evesham to Leominster which are both small market towns. Of course a lot of these lines were making a loss but fed traffic to the major lines and gradually more and more lines were closed as traffic fell. I was born in Kidderminster on the Stourbridge Junction line which was an important terminus on account of its carpet manufacturing so this book is very interesting to me. The book itself is a little bit short but is an enjoyable read.
Posted: February 20, 2014 in biblical history, book reviews, books, christianity, history, judaism, religion, textbooks, the bible, Uncategorized
Tags: biblical history, book reviews, books, christianity, history, judaism, religion, textbooks, the bible
The book I read to research this post was The Second Messiah by Christopher Knight et al which is a very good book which I bought from Amazon. This book is similar to the kinds of books Andrew Collins & Graham Philips write in that they have taken the information in the bible and looked at what the evidence suggests. The book mainly focuses on the Turin Shroud & Jesus. According to this book Jesus never claimed to be God and the idea of son of god is a mystical one applying to everyone else as well. Jesus founded a church called the Jerusalem and when he died his successor was James both one of the apostles and his brother. Peter was a bit of a heretic who taught Jesus was God and what he taught appealed to the Greeks & Romans. When Jesus died he wasn’t very popular but when James was put to death there was a massive uprising which ended in the Romans putting to death and expelling the Jews from Israel. The Turin Shroud according to the authors contains the image of a crusader put to death possibly by the Saracens. The shroud didn’t come into contact with the poor man but apparently it contains predominantly lactic acid which came into contact with oxygen and reacted to form the image. It goes into how it was created but it’s quite complex. I’m not sure if I agree with everything in the book but it is definitely an interesting read. I do enjoy reading these kind of books.
Posted: February 18, 2014 in american civil war, book reviews, books, history, racism, slavery, textbooks, the enlightenment, US history
Tags: american civil war, book reviews, books, history, racism, slavery, textbooks, the enlightenment, us history
The book I read to research this post was The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. This book which won the Pulitzer Prize for best history book covers the period from the emancipation of slavery through the American Civil War through to the First World War. It covers quite a lot of schools of thought from that period and the title isn’t referring to a single group of intellectuals but quite a lot. Some of the arguments against the abolition of slavery included that they couldn’t sustain the American economy if they had to pay everyone a living wage, that the people who were employees rather than slaves would find their wages would fall as more people came onto the employment market and rather stupidly they argued that humans would become extinct because the children of mixed relationships would be sterile. Of course there was absolutely no evidence for the last reason. At the Battle of Antietam twice as Americans died as in all the other wars on American soil combined. At the beginning of the American Civil War the Union troops were badly organized and it looked unlikely they would beat the Confederates. Other schools of thought in this book include Spiritualism which started with the Fox sisters and became a religion in its own right and although it has been claimed the sisters were frauds Spiritualism is probably bigger than ever. It has been claimed for example the sisters cracked their knee joints to simulate tapping although the answers they gave were generally very accurate. Yet another school of thought is Darwinism which is more or less accepted as fact by modern society. The Origin Of The Species which Darwin wrote is still in print and I think is a free e-book on kindle.
Posted: February 15, 2014 in book reviews, books, british history, history, locomotives, pendolinos, railways, textbooks, trains, transport, virgin trains
Tags: book reviews, books, british history, history, locomotives, pendolinos, railways, textbooks, trains, transport, virgin trains
The book I read to research this post was Virgin Trains by John Balmforth which is a very good book which I bought from a local bookstore. This book is around 80 pages and has some wonderful photos of Virgin Trains but sadly doesn’t have much information which is a shame as I am sure there is plenty of potentially interesting information they could write about this subject. When Virgin took over the West Coast & Cross Country in 1998 the railway stock was mostly from the 60′s & 70′s and in bad need of replacing and they agreed to upgrade the stock to Pendolinos, Voyagers & Super Voyagers by 2002 and were successful in doing this. Even the renamed HST’s foremerly Inter City 125′s were retired from there main routes completely from 2004. Much of the signalling in Britain is limited to only letting trains go at a maximum of 125 mph when they are capable of 140 mph upwards. Britain has more tilting trains than any other country in the world largely thanks to Virgin. They have had reliability problems with these tilting trains but this has mostly been sorted out. There has been controversy over the number of slots they have at Birmingham New Street which has meant some of the local trains have had to be transferred to Snow Hill although this has meant you can catch a local train from Stourbridge all the way to Stratford Upon Avon as the same trains goes on both lines so its not all bad. I think linking 2 local lines and another example is the train from Lichfield to Redditch is a good idea and passengers are bound to travel to the further destination if they can do it on one train. I did enjoy reading this book and Virgin has had some initiatives like recycling tickets and timetables as well as old uniforms which has probably not caught on although they are trying. I’d recommend this book for the wonderful photo’s.
Posted: February 15, 2014 in armed forces, book reviews, books, france, germany, history, military history, normandy, textbooks, world war 2
Tags: book reviews, books, france, germany, history, military history, normandy, textbooks, warfare, world war 2
The book I read to research this post was Tigers In Normandy by Wolfgang Schneider which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. The tigers were German tanks that were probably the finest tanks of World War 2. The Allies had no equivalent of this tank which started to be deployed in 1944 and perhaps sadly was never manufactured on a huge scale although I suppose that might have changed the outcome of the war which would be bad. Their turrets had different markings and camouflage according to what regiment they were sent to. When D-Day happened the Tiger tanks did well but were overwhelmed by the numbers of tanks etc in the opposing armies. There was a German soldier called Wittman who worked as a gunner on tigers and before that on anti-tank guns and at the time he was a hero to the Germans. Legend has it that he wiped out 25 tanks but despite turning the tide at The Battle Of Goodwood and winning an Iron Cross it’s thought his total number of kills is probably more like 7. To get an Iron Cross you didn’t necessarily have to kill loads of enemies but they had to think you were instrumental to the outcome of the battle. At Caen just after D-Day Mongomery got 3 complete motorized divisions landed nearby to sort out the enemy and the sheer amount in that fighting force was unheard of in any previous campaign. The Germans inflicted heavy losses in terms of destroying tanks but the men tended to survive and it was simple enough to transfer them to other tanks. The Allies thought losing tanks was preferable to losing men in terms of fighting their campaign. Many of the tiger tanks had to travel long distances to fight and the mechanics often had to travel about 50 km to get from one tank to another so were heavily stretched. This book does contain lots of sumptious photos of tiger tanks and I really enjoyed reading it.