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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 4.8 out of 5 by 18.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome Course I was wondering, how interesting could a detailed course on the history of railroads be? This course was chocked with lots of detail about the people, places, engineering and history around the development of one of the key factors accelerating the establishment and growth of the industrial revolution. Very interesting and very passionate professor! I didn't expect to enjoy this course as much as I did!
Date published: 2024-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Broadened my view of trains and railways I previously viewed trains as a way to get from place to place and didn't think much about what changes in societies they brought about. This course is easy to get caught up in even if you don't think of yourself as a train enthusiast. Others have mentioned the countries not included, but I think the point is likely the same world-wide and Prof Allitt uses what he knows best - UK and US systems - as the primary examples. I enjoyed other courses by Prof Allitt (the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian age). This seemed less academic (don't know if a university would include this material) but was very educational and thought provoking
Date published: 2024-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent - Informative and fun! I'm just old enough to remember steam engines in all their noisy, dirty glory, and have been a train enthusiast all of my life. Prof. Allit is a gifted academic who combines a solid, well researched historical presentation with great enthusiasm for his subject. I learned much from the course and greatly enjoyed the sometimes spectacular scenery. It's gratifying to watch a lecture series in which the presenter has personally experienced the subject. Highly recommended! PS. I've watched over 50 courses, and this is the first one in which the presenter acknowledged his production crew and friends - bravo!
Date published: 2024-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A delightful "Journey" As the review title suggests, this course of learning is as much a memorable travel experience as it is a learning program. Having actually visited and/or participated in many of the places and activities described by the presenter served to enhance the value derived from viewing the various course "classes". Recommendation: just sit back and enjoy the "Journey".
Date published: 2024-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and informative This series on railways was both enjoyable and informative. The lecturer clearly loves trains and the rail industry.
Date published: 2024-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Irresistible Series I have enjoyed many lecture series on The Great Courses, but not one could surpass Professor Allitt's on railroads. His knowledge and sheer enthusiasm made this thoroughly enjoyable. As a youngster, I was fascinated by trains and Prof. Allitt has reawakened my interest. I hope to one day ride some of the lines and visit some of the museums he covers so well.
Date published: 2024-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The course I didn't know I needed I am not an avid railroad enthusiast, so I approached this course with a little trepidation. I figured I'd watch an episode or two and go from there. I was captivated from the get go. Dr. Allitt is a terrific lecturer-- personable and easy to understand. The material was absolutely chalk full of history and information. There were many photos and clips to augment the lectures. Just a terrific course all the way around.
Date published: 2024-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant! Wonderful course. This is a fantastic course about railways and their impact on culture, history, ecology and society. This is one of the best courses that I have studied throughout the years. The visuals are excellent and the professor is fantastic. I learned more in this course than any other. Each chapter was a treat. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2024-06-28
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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
The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator
854
How Railways Transformed the World
854
America after the Cold War: The First 30 Years
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