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The Railway Builders: Lives and Works of the Victorian Railway Contractors
David & Charles

The Railway Builders: Lives and Works of the Victorian Railway Contractors

Regular price £6.00 £0.00 Unit price per

The moving spirits behind many of our rail- ways were the railway contractors, a tough, fast-moving and colourful group of men who masterminded feats of intensive human endeavour on a scale that eclipsed all previous construction achievements. They managed a large and unruly labour force, raised huge sums of capital, built and probably over-built the dense railway network of Britain, as well as thousands of miles abroad across mountains, through jungles and over and under mighty rivers. Many went bankrupt in the pro- cess, but they laid the foundations for today's civil engineering firms, such as McAlpine, Wimpey, Monk and Mowlem. Without their specialist knowledge and reliability, the engineers would not have been able to design so daringly. At their peak the contractors provided work for a quarter of a million men and made the motorway construction programme of this century seem like the enter- prise of snails. They consorted with royals and ministers, ran many other large businesses, yet were often of lowly origin, rising to the top by tenacity and drive. The example of George Stephenson is well known; the fer- vent Baptist Samuel Morton Peto began his career by laying 800 bricks a day, albeit as an apprentice to his uncle, and became the owner of the colossal Somerleyton Hall; Joseph Firbank was the son of a Durham miner, went down the pits at seven, and came to own a fine neo-classical house near Newport and serve as Deputy Lieutenant of Monmouthshire. Interesting smaller firms and their problems also receive attention when building some of our fascinating rail- way byways. Eye-witness accounts, contemporary comment and letters and diaries of the period add spice to the story of some of the world's greatest builders.

The book examines the predecessors of the railway contractors, in terms of contracting arrangements, and goes on to describe the pioneering days of the early tramroads and the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the effect of the Railway Mania, the frequent bankruptcies of contractors, the situation in Wales, the chief protagonists of the contracting world, and the actual methods of construction. Throughout, the book contains many anecdotes and examples from all over Great Britain, and abroad, to give added life and interest to an already fascinating and under-studied subject.

Hardback with dust jacket, 14x21cm, 200 pages, black & white photographs

Condition: Good/Very Good

ISBN: 9780715379592

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Updated: 2 April 2024