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Section 1: War with rude nature
TOPIC SECTION:
War with rude nature
As the railways spread they despoiled the countryside and bro
iMAGE: Chat Moss, 1831
This stretch of railway at Chat Moss was designed by George Stephenson and built through a bog.
NRM/Science & Society Picture Library
ught urban, industrial society to the heart of rural Britain. They were resisted by landowners, some of them motivated by greed and self-interest, and by early environmentalists, many of whom were inspired by the Romantics’ love of nature. Proposals to build lines in the Lake District prompted vociferous complaint from William Wordsworth and John Ruskin. But once they were built rural railways made the poets’ dramatic perspectives accessible to the wider public.

The railways transformed the wider rural landsc
Proposals to build lines in the Lake District prompted vociferous complaint from William Wordsworth
ape, too, by changing agricultural society. For instance, farming in the Fens intensified as expanding railway links ensured that farmers could provide fruit and vegetables for London, rather than local markets. Rural industries, too, particularly mining and mineral extraction, expanded rapidly with the coming of railways. When the main lines reached Blaenau Ffestiniog in the 1860s, for example, Welsh slate was sold across the country and an entire mountainside was destroyed.

The experience of the train journey also changed travellers’ perceptions of lan
image: North Church tunnel, 1837
The construction of a tunnel at Berkhamsted for the London  & Birmingham line. This line was the first to connect London to another major city
Credit: NRM/Science & Society Picture Library
dscape. They no longer encountered it at first hand, moving slowly along lanes and byways, but viewed it at speed, framed by the carriage and partially obscured by smoke. For early train travellers this often proved strangely dislocating, as they became accustomed to what one observer called the ‘evanescent landscape’.

So railways remade the countryside, but perhaps their greatest impact was on the cityscape.

 
 
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Topic section 2: Cathedrals of steam
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The impact of railways on the urban environment was mixed. They brought trade, industry and new buildings to towns and cities, but with them came slums, squalor, and pollution  > more

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Topic section 3: Greenscapes?
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How green are the railways? Popular perception is that trains are the environmentally friendly form of transport, and that they enhance the landscape. However, as we travel more, railway technology continues to impact on the environment  > more
 
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