Archive for the ‘industrial revolution’ Category

The book I read to research this post was Thomas Telford by L T C Rolt which is an excellent book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Telford has the unusual distinction that the new town of Telford is named after him. He is also one of the greatest British people of all time. He isn’t as well known as Brunel but where as Brunel did much in the Industrial Revolution, Telford built fine roads, canals and bridges. Telford also lived near the beginning of the Industrial Age but for example didn’t see the full potential of the steam engine. He started out as an architect who later learned about engineering. Among his early work the bridge that spans the River Severn at Bewdley in Worcestershire is his finest. He raised the entire bridge in one season which was unheard of. There was a church at Shrewsbury in Shropshire and he was asked to repair the roof. He realised the foundations weren’t adequate and graves had undermined what foundations there were. He reported this and they thought he was trying to create work for himself. The church collapsed soon afterwards. He built the Ellesmere Canal, the Gotha Canal in sweden, the liverpool & Birmingham Junction Canal & the Shrewsbury to Holyhead road. The Gotha canal cuts straight through Sweden. He built a formidable bridge for Holyhead across the Menai Straits. He died before the Liverpool & Birmingham Junction Canal could be completed. He built many harbours and bridges in his native Scotland. At that time the Highlands were largely inaccessable. He was asked to judge designs for a Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Severn and turned down a design by a young Brunel along with all the others and submitted his own design. Interestingly Rolt has also written a book about Brunel.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: York by Ken Hoole which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. This is a fascinating book about a railway super centre York. It’s often called the capital of Northern England & for many years was the regional headquarters of first the North Eastern Railways & then the Eastern Railways. In the very early days of railways there was a line from Leeds to Selby & York was linked to this railway at Mitford. George Hudson was the big railway boss in this area for many years & didn’t do anything by half measures. He built the glorious station here. Everyone saw the potential of linking Edinburgh to London via York. Initially they had to settle for a Gateshead to Darlington then York line. York had a huge railway works and was the best place in the country for train spotters. Scarborough which isn’t too far away became one of the first seaside towns. Prior to the railway it was very difficult to get there and you had to be very rich. In the summer there were trains from far away to that destination. In winter there was just trains from Leeds via York. York houses the National Railway Museum which I was told among its highlights has a carriage from the Japanese Shinkansen or Bullet Train.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Reading which is a very good book which I bought from Amazon. This book tells you all about the history of Reading as a destination on the British rail network. Reading is the county town of Berkshire and the biggest city in that county. The railway came to Reading quite early on in 1840 in fact. Gradually they wanted to get a link to London, Paddington. Before that there was a temporary station at Hungerford in 1847. Later on there was a train from Paddington that split up at Ascot with a certain portion of the train going to Reading & the rest going to Camberley & Aldershot. Eventually there would be a line linking Bristol to Paddington via Reading. There was also lines to Oxford & Guilford among other places. In 1938 diesel trains were introduced. Also when GWR owned the line it was broad gauge and this was changed to the standard gauge we have today. There was a gas works at Reading and later natural would be piped from Southampton.


The book I read to research this post was Welsh Coal Mines which is a very good book which I bought from a car boot sale. This book has lots of pictures of welsh coal mines but is rather short and hasn’t got a lot of information. There was a large coalfield in South Wales which was in most of Gwent & Glamorgan & extended under Swansea & Carmarthen Bays into Dyfed. A lot of this coal was near the surface. My dad who was an ex coal miner told me much of this coal was anthracite the highest grade of coal which burnt at a high temperature. Also a lot of these coal mines were open cast. Ponies were often used in the underground coal mines and probably were at there peak around 1914 although even in 1974 they numbered several hundred. There is also a coal field in North Wales which is smaller & that extended to near Chester & Oswestry in Britain. Almost all the mines in Britain have closed except for a few open cast mines. The price of coal went very low & although it recovered a little bit and it became feasible to open some of the pits in Kent there is nothing like the coal production of years ago.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Brighton by B K Cooper which is a very good book which I bought from Amazon. Brighton was probably the first really popular seaside resort in Britain. It was found that the seawater had medicinal qualities & George the 4th whilst still a prince was a regular visitor. There was a horse & coach service as early as 1816 & passengers got their money back if they were slow so a lot of the horses died of exhaustion & similiar things. A railway to Brighton followed & it grew from a village to a big town. The first railway station was on the outskirts & passengers to places like Portsmouth & Hastings often had to via Brighton. There was a locomotive works here & one of the owners of the railways had the idea of streamlining production to 6 classes of train & having many interchangeable parts between the models. Prior to this they had to carry a vast array of parts. There was also a ferry from nearby Newhaven to Dieppe that often would stop at the end of Brighton Pier en route. This was the fastest route to the Continent at one time. Of course in 2000 Brighton was declared a city & with that coupled with its seaside resort status is as popular as ever.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Bristol by Colin G Maggs which is a very good book which I bought from a secondhand bookstore. This book is of course part of the Rail Centres series of books about important destinations on the rail network in Britain. Bristol was at one time the second biggest city in the British Empire. It was on an important junction between London & South Wales & between the South West & the Midlands. Temple Meads the main station had the biggest marshalling yard in the country. The first railway company to use Bristol was the Bristol & Gloucestershire Railway Company which linked up some of the local coal mines with Bristol. At first these were horse drawn and later they used steam engines. Later this company merged with the Great Western which many would identify with Bristol. Much of the coal from South Wales would pass through Bristol and when many of these mines were closed it had an affect. Bristol was a very important port. In 1972 Bristol Parkway was built to try and alleviate the traffic that passed through Temple Meads.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Oxford by Laurence Waters which is an excellent book which I bought from a local secondhand shop. This book which is part of the Rail Centres series is an interesting guide to the history of the railways in Oxford. It’s most famous for its university which is one of the greatest universities in the world. It’s also famous for its Morris cars which were later merged with British Leyland. Oxford in the 19th century was a centre for a large surrounding network of railways. It was unique in that all the 4 big railway companies ran trains here. It’s also a very beautiful city that attracts millions of tourists every year. The railway history starts in 1837 when a railway to Abingdon was suggested the university was against it. In fact in the early days of the railway only those with at least a Masters degree from the university could travel on it. In 1837 the planning permission was turned down and they would have to wait another 20 years. That time the university agreed as long as they could send someone to the station to enforce the ban on non MA’s travelling. The most famous express train that runs through Oxford is the Cathedrals Express from London to Hereford. That train still runs as a service. Many of the railway lines going out from Oxford were closed but funnily enough with the government being concerned about pollution there are plans to re open some of the lines.