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How Railways Transformed the World

Climb aboard for a thrilling ride through the amazing world of railways in this thoroughly delightful course. Learn how this one invention profoundly changed human life and reveal the great railway journeys that await you around the world.
How Railways Transformed the World is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 6.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Survey of Railways Transformational Impact Excellent survey of the impact of railways since inception to the present. As with most 24 - 30 minute lecture sets, the expert must compress much data into a limited 30 minute span. Professor Patrick N. Allitt delivers a captivating review of global railway evolution and development to current times. Dr. Allitt's presentation style is relaxing and easy listening, supported by outstanding video and graphics. This was my first experience with the Professor and found his British accent and voice modulation perfect for this lecture set. This set can be enjoyed while working out. The lecture set covers railway evolution and expansion globally and in most cases is supported by very engrossing video, photos or painting. As mentioned by an earlier reviewer, the series bushes over railway development impact on indigenous peoples, tribal cultures, and native races. This lecture set can easily motivate the learner to travel on some of the beautiful railways as it did with this reviewer. One point that should be mentioned relative to Repurposing the Railways is the residual Polychlorinated biphenyl contamination from the railway ties being saturated in oil for preservation. When these old ties are removed, typically there is PCB contamination which has permeated into the ground water and is a forever chemical. Expert due diligence is mandatory when repurposing old railway tracks. This was an excellent course with a very captivating lecturer and I plan to rewatch it. I highly recommend this course as it is with the investment!!
Date published: 2024-06-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great History For Enthusiasts nteresting and well-researched history (including the lecturer describing many of his train rides), but not a deep dive into transformation from a sociological perspective. Punctuality is mentioned several times, but not significant transformational dates, 18 Nov 1883 (railways) 22 Oct 1884 (Prime Meridian) or 19 Mar 1918 (US Congress) or how society was transformed. The building of the US transcontinental railways does not mention Indians beyond a cryptic mention of buffalo slaughter. (There is a brief mention later, in a painting.) No analysis of whether this transformation was going to happen without the railroads is attempted. Labour organising, especially pullman car porters is mentioned without deep discussion (perhaps beyond the scope of this course). Refreshingly, the lecturer admits the political bribery and stock scams from earliest British railways through the US railroads, to Chinese high-speeed trains but not whether this was transformational or just business as usual, expected for politicians and millionaires Three stars. Very interesting history, a treat for enthusiasts, but doesn't quite meet the promise of transformation made in the title. (Also; I've been on RENFE AVE and SNCF TGV trains- convenient and comfortable, but not particularly cheap.)
Date published: 2024-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of it I watched this program as a Great Courses Plus. My family worked on the Southern Railway (Now Norfolk Southern) for over 100 Years.
Date published: 2024-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great course Prof. Allitt is an excellent speaker. He talks conetinuously without notes and at a nice speed. His melodious English accent is very pleasant and easy to listen to. He never stutters or says UHHHHHH. . This is probably the most plesant of all the courses I have as it is very interesting and filled with information abot many museums and pictures of train engines. It is also a great travelogue as it shows scenery from around the world.
Date published: 2024-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Part History, Part Travel Guide This course, part history and part travel guide, is a labor of love by Dr. Allitt. He is a true railway enthusiast. (They call bird enthusiasts “birders” but I’m guessing that the term “trainer” was already taken.) There are many pictures in the course of Dr. Allitt at various railroad (or as he says, “railway”) museums and he is always clearly having a good time. The thrust of the course, then, is to show us how much fun are railroads and railroad history. There are caveats. First, although the title says “railways,” the course is predominantly about steam engines rather than diesel or electric engines. Second, although the title says “world,” the course is predominantly about England, the United States, and Europe. South Africa, Japan, China, Canada, and India are mentioned in passing and the rest of the globe is pretty much ignored. The first several lectures address the history of railways, primarily in England and the United States. This course builds on Dr. Allitt’s The Great Courses (TGC) course on the Industrial Revolution although the latter is not a prerequisite. The second half of the course is a travel guide showing active steam locomotives for enthusiasts, railroad museums, and interesting railroad stations in the United States, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, etc. There are plenty of pictures and videos of these points of interest, some of which show Dr. Allitt enjoying the occasion. There are also some hints about how you can enjoy these places as well. Frankly, I would not have bought this course were it not that Dr. Allitt teaches it. He is among the best teachers in the TGC Pantheon of Professors. (Dr. Allitt teaches the TGC course on Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator. He truly is a Master Educator.) The course guide is average by TGC standards. It is in paragraph format as opposed to outline or bullet format and it averages nearly 8 pages per lecture, a little above average by TGC standards. However, it has no maps (which were useful in the video) nor any appendices. I used the video streaming version. The many graphics, including maps, pictures, and diagrams, definitely enhance the course content. The course was published in 2024.
Date published: 2024-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Superb Course! An excellent history of railroads and of their economic, military and cultural impact. A must for any Railroad buff!
Date published: 2024-05-27
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Overview

Railways radically changed the way we experience the world. In this course, you’ll explore the story and impact of railways, as you track evolving rail technology; learn how railways galvanized industry, commerce, and tourism; note the roles of railroads in colonial empires and major wars; learn where you can enjoy the best of rail travel today; examine railways’ impact on art; and learn about future rail systems.

About

Patrick N. Allitt

We live in a world that has created many new incentives for us to become lifelong learners. Luckily, lifelong learning is a pleasure.

INSTITUTION

Emory University

Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. He received his PhD in American History from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and Princeton University. He is a widely published author whose books include A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism; The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities throughout American History; and Religion in America since 1945: A History.

By This Professor

The Industrial Revolution
854
The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales
854
The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy
854
America after the Cold War: The First 30 Years
854
The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator
854
How Railways Transformed the World
854
How Railways Transformed the World

Trailer

The Idea of Railways

01: The Idea of Railways

Begin with an overview of the history and impact of railways, as a revolutionary technology that produced a superbly efficient means of transport. Grasp how railroads have been central to industrial societies, and have influenced politics, urbanization, social life, modern business, and more. Note the decline of trains in the later 20th century, followed by their astonishing comeback.

29 min
Britain’s Railway Pioneers

02: Britain’s Railway Pioneers

Learn about early steam technology, and the mounting of steam engines on vehicles, producing the first locomotives. Follow the rise of the first railways in Britain in the 1820s, and the brilliant engineers behind them. See how the proliferation of railways altered the landscape of Britain, accelerating urbanization, and observe the many ways that railways changed British life in the 19th century.

31 min
The First American Railroads

03: The First American Railroads

Following the British model, railroads quickly took root in America. Chart the groundbreaking lines, such as the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the challenges they faced in the great distances and rugged landscapes of the United States. Witness the developing railway technology in the United States, and the dangers and high accident rates in the 19th century owing to subpar equipment and standards.

29 min
Early European Ventures

04: Early European Ventures

Trace the rapid spread of railroads in Europe from the 1830s, amid a politically volatile landscape. See how British engineers jump-started railways throughout Europe, starting with Belgium and Germany. Follow the creation of nationalized rail systems by Germany and France. Also take account of 19th-century engineering marvels on railways, such as extraordinary viaducts, bridges, and tunnels.

28 min
Railways Go to War

05: Railways Go to War

Grasp the core roles of railways in military conflicts in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Observe how the building of a railway transformed the British campaign in the Crimean War, and how cooperation between railroads and Union forces in the US Civil War was a major force in the Union war effort. Note the critical influence of railways in the Franco-Prussian, Boer, and Russo-Japanese wars.

30 min
America’s Transcontinental Railroads

06: America’s Transcontinental Railroads

Visualize the vast engineering project that linked the two coasts of the United States by rail, and the motives behind it. Learn how two companies built the first completed line, followed by other transcontinental routes, driving settlement and agricultural output across the United States. Assess the financial realities and abuses of these railroads, and the serious economic and ecological problems they provoked.

30 min
Railways and Colonialism

07: Railways and Colonialism

Observe how the building of railroads in India, by the British, strengthened British rule and commerce, yet also contributed to Indian nationalism and the movement for independence. Explore British, German, and French colonial railways within Africa and Vietnam, as they served the economic ends of empire. In Canada and Australia, see how railroad-building and nation-building were closely linked.

29 min
Mountain Railways

08: Mountain Railways

Here, investigate the fascinating approaches railway engineers have taken to the problems of steep gradients and mountainous terrain, creating some of the most amazing and enjoyable railroads in the world. Delve into examples of circuitous lines, spirals, zigzags, and rack and pinion railways, and travel with Professor Allitt on a few of the breathtaking mountain railroads of Switzerland.

28 min
The Invention of Tourism

09: The Invention of Tourism

Discover that the global tourism industry was largely an invention of railways. Encounter tourism pioneers Thomas Cook, Fred Harvey, and others who forged modern leisure travel principally using railroads. Witness the advent of US tourism, and the development of Florida, via railways. Then glimpse delightful and relaxing railway excursions in Switzerland, Norway, Spain, and Canada.

30 min
Railway Workers and Unions

10: Railway Workers and Unions

Railways were integrally involved in the rise of labor unions. Gauge the many dangers early railroad workers faced, and the oppressive working conditions that led them to organize in Britain and the United States. Take stock of the intense labor disputes with employers, the many strikes and violent confrontations, and the process by which workers ultimately gained recognition and better working conditions.

28 min
Urban Railways above and below Ground

11: Urban Railways above and below Ground

Look into the ways in which railway technology has been used within cities, to provide mass transit in urban areas. Witness the rise of streetcars, first horse-drawn and later electrified; cable cars; and the advent of under/overground railways in London, New York, and other cities. Take account of subways which were designed to be elegant and beautiful, such as in Moscow, Paris, and Stockholm.

29 min
Great Railway Stations of the World

12: Great Railway Stations of the World

Enjoy the remarkable tradition that produced railway stations as majestic and glorious architecture, reflecting their cultural centrality and rivalling the grandeur of other great urban buildings. Tour stations both large and small from the golden era of station design, roughly 1840 to 1930, with visits to terminals ranging from London, New York, and Paris to Milan, Helsinki, Mumbai, and beyond.

30 min
The Challenge of Cars, Trucks, and Planes

13: The Challenge of Cars, Trucks, and Planes

In the early 20th century, railroad policies drew fire from the public and legislators. Trace the effects of government regulation and antitrust legislation aimed at curtailing unfair practices by railroad companies. As of the 1920s, chart the competition posed by motor vehicles and aircraft, and how railroads responded with improved speeds, service, and technology, from streamlining to diesel power.

30 min
Railways in the Two World Wars

14: Railways in the Two World Wars

Take note of the centrality of railroads in World War I, in German military strategy and French defense, and their roles in the British campaign against the Ottomans and the Russian Revolution. In World War II, witness how Hitler’s misconception of railway logistics compromised the Nazi war effort, and observe how railways were used by the Soviets, during the Holocaust, and in the D-day invasion.

28 min
Railways in Literature

15: Railways in Literature

From the early years of railroads, novelists saw dramatic possibilities in rail travel. Discover how fiction writers used trains and train travel in their writings, highlighting novels by Dickens, Eliot, Tolstoy, Lewis, and many others. See how writers assessed the societal impact of railroads and used them to develop themes of time; social class; displacement; and a changing, industrial world.

27 min
Railways in Art and Photography

16: Railways in Art and Photography

Many artists responded to the cultural presence of railways. View the railway paintings of Turner, Monet, and others, as they explored the visual and human impact of trains and stations. Explore railway art that focused on the passengers and the social reality of train travel. Consider the challenges of photographing trains, and the masterful and evocative images of railroad photographers.

26 min
Railways in Cinema

17: Railways in Cinema

Since the beginnings of cinema, railroads have been a memorable and constant backdrop for films. In the silent era, trace the brilliant use of railroad settings in films by Buster Keaton, John Ford, and others. Note the inherent drama of train journeys in sound railway films, from La Bête Humaine and Hitchcock’s train films to the railway films of High Noon; Brief Encounter; and Runaway Train.

26 min
Nationalization and Decline in Britain

18: Nationalization and Decline in Britain

Track the fortunes of British railways from the 1940s to the present. Following their major role in World War II, learn about the postwar nationalization of railways and their later re-privatization, the end of the steam era and change to diesel and electric power, the reorganization of rail services for greater economy and efficiency in the 1960s, and enjoy some of the great railway routes of Britain.

29 min
Railroads in Postwar America

19: Railroads in Postwar America

In the postwar United States, take a look into at the severe decline of passenger rail traffic; the new focus on freight service; and the remaking of the railway industry through mergers, deregulation, and skillful management. See how government intervened, creating Amtrak and Conrail as viable passenger services, and learn about the operations of freight trains today, as the planet's “greenest” bulk transport.

29 min
High-Speed Trains in Europe and Asia

20: High-Speed Trains in Europe and Asia

High-speed offers yet another possibility for rail travel. Chart the development of the first “bullet” trains in Japan, reaching speeds of 200 mph, followed by similar vehicles in France, Spain, and the extensive network in China. Take note of the Eurostar trains which cross under the English Channel, and futuristic plans for train travel, such as “magnetic levitation” and “hyperloop” railways.

29 min
Nostalgia and Railway Preservation in Britain

21: Nostalgia and Railway Preservation in Britain

Within a remarkable tradition of railway heritage, enjoy a spectrum of Britain’s historic rail lines and trains. Among 150 preservation societies and museums, visit operating heritage railways in Wales and England, preservation workshops, and great railway museums at Didcot, York, and Swindon. Take the measure of the public’s love and veneration for British railway history.

29 min
Railroad Nostalgia in America

22: Railroad Nostalgia in America

Among a rich range of preserved historic railroads in the United States, stop at Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvania, home to stunning historic trains, including the largest steam locomotive ever built, and the equally impressive Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. In Colorado, take in the sights of the Georgetown Loop Railroad, the Royal Gorge Railway, and the extraordinary Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

28 min
Enjoying Europe’s Railway Heritage

23: Enjoying Europe’s Railway Heritage

Join Professor Allitt for a trip across Western Europe, stopping first at some of the best new railway stations. View the luminous spaces of the Hauptbahnhof (Berlin), Frankfurt, and Liège stations. Then, take in the phenomenal Cité du Train museum in Alsace, and great railway museums in Belgium, Germany, and Austria. Consider the remarkable convenience and pleasures of the continent’s railway system.

28 min
Repurposed Railways

24: Repurposed Railways

Finish with a look at creative uses of disused railways. Learn about the repurposing of old rail lines as walking and cycling trails across the United States and Europe, enriching rural and urban communities. Observe the conversion of unused stations into public venues, from art museums to conference centers, hotels, and more. Conclude with reflections on the remarkable staying power of railways.

33 min