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J.L. Black

In the debates surrounding the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway was used as a model. This article traces how eyewitness accounts of Canadian settlement patterns were used by Russian entrepreneurs to argue the case for the financing and organisation of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Given the tense international political climate at the end of the 19th century, the Trans-Siberian also became a focus for imperial rivalry. This article gives a good overview of comparative colonial enterprise in two great continental colonies.

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“Behind the backs of houses”

Landscapes of Englishness in the Postwar Railway Poetry of John Betjeman and Philip Larkin

Heather Joyce

Railways in John Betjeman's and Philip Larkin's poems of the 1950s and 1960s function as provocative signifiers that interrogate and encourage definition of what constitutes the modern English landscape. Through their works, which recognize how railways have been held to register the cultural health of the nation from their inception, it becomes clear that the panoramic perception that railways make possible aptly represents the self-conscious cultural gaze filtered through crisis that critics argue prevails in the postwar context. Betjeman's and Larkin's speakers reveal the capacity for railway travel to disrupt the settled vision of nationhood at the heart of heritage-based Englishness; at the same time, railways – and they themselves – are not outside of this discourse. For Betjeman and, to a greater extent, Larkin, it is the possibility of double return embodied by the railway system that perhaps proffers a desirable mode of inhabiting the modern English nation.

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Stalin's railway to nowhere

'The Dead Road' (1947-1953)

Victor L. Mote

The uncompleted railway across Northern Siberia was one of the most shameful projects of the post-war era, involving many deaths and huge discomforts. Hailed by Stalin himself as a major part of his 'Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature', the scheme was dropped at his death in 1953. By that time, less than 600 kilometres were in working operation, even though up to 300,000 persons had been involved and about a third of them had perished, while more than 40 billion rubles of capital investment had been wasted. Ghostly labour camps, rusting rolling stock and rails, hundreds of bridges remain in what has been called 'an open air museum of human technology', preserved by nature's refrigerator - the tundra. The article describes the reasons for the railway project and the 'Great Plan', the organization involved, and the conditions in which the enslaved workforce struggled for survival and died.

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Traveling by the Book

New South Wales Railway Guides and the "Tourist Gaze"

Colin Symes

Travel guidebooks are a dominant form of tourist literature, of which one early example was the railway guide. It is commonly asserted that among the many transformations wrought by rail was that it changed the way the landscape was perceived from trains. Utilizing picturesque discourses railway guides contributed to this transformation. They also helped propel railway-allied tourism, particularly in New South Wales during the second half of the nineteenth century and led to the publication of guides focusing more on destinations than journeys.

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Couchsurfing Along the Trans-Siberian Railway and Beyond

Cosmopolitan Learning through Hospitality in Siberia

Dennis Zuev

This article focuses on the process of cosmopolitan learning among hosts in a hospitality couchsurfing network in Siberia. The data making up the empirical basis for the study were collected during fieldwork in Siberia: between 2007 and 2011 in Krasnoiarsk and Novosibirsk and from 2010 to 2012 in Irkutsk and Vladivostok. The article argues that the interactional dynamics between hosts and guests in cosmopolitan learning are determined by the combination of emotive and cognitive rewards. The primary emotional charge occurs as a result of the first interaction with the visitor, while a cognitive “bonus“ is represented by the opportunity to practice a foreign language in the home environment. In addition, hosts reflect on such aspects as the exchange of lifestyle ideas, the exposure to everyday habitual practices, and the realization of commonality and difference. These reflections leading to self-discovery in the comfort of one's own home constitute an important element in the process of cosmopolitan learning.

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Ritika Prasad

Focusing on the wide-ranging scholarship on how railway technology, travel, and infrastructure has affected South Asia‚ this article highlights recent interventions and shifts. It discusses how questions about land‚ labor‚ capital‚ and markets are being increasingly integrated with questions about how railways affected society‚ culture‚ and politics. It also stresses the increasing interest in comparative work‚ both in terms of locating railways within wider structures of transport and mobility as well as analyzing how South Asia’s engagement relates to the global impact of this technology.

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Urban Railways in Buenos Aires

Spatial and Social Alienation in the Documentary Film El tren blanco

Benjamin Fraser

Mixing transportation studies, film analysis, and urban geography, this article looks at El tren blanco (The white train), a documentary film from 2003 by directors Nahuel García, Sheila Pérez Giménez, and Ramiro García. In light of work by train theorist Wolfgang Schivelbusch and urban geographer Henri Lefebvre, the documentary's interviews with cartoneros—cardboard workers who ride daily into central Buenos Aires to pick up recyclable goods—speak to the alienation and spatialization of class that characterize the contemporary urban experience. Following an urban cultural studies approach, attention is balanced between the social context of Buenos Aires itself and the film as an item of aesthetic value. In the end, it is important to pay attention both to the train car as a space in itself and to the historical and contemporary positioning of the train in larger-scale urban shifts.

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Rail Networks, Mobility, and the Cultures of Cities

Introduction to the Special Section

Steven D. Spalding

Scholars writing about railway mobility have pointed to the rails' impact on the culture of cities, while urban theorists and critics have cited the crucial importance of movement and mobility to how cities are lived. A truly interdisciplinary approach, which balances the priorities of mobility studies and urban studies, and informs itself through compelling cultural artifacts (including visual, literary, or other media) offers insight into the processes of urban cultural production and their close link to the discursive valences of urban rail mobility.

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A Historical Railroad Journey

Review of the Railway Museum in Saitama City, Japan

Jessamyn R. Abel

The Railway Museum, Ōnari 3-47, Ōmiya Ward, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan Admission: ¥1000/500/200 http://www.railway-museum.jp/en/index.html

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Dhan Zunino Singh

Considering ‘urban mobility as an important everyday life practice that produces meaning and culture,’ the present review discusses underground railway history in cultural terms. Following Colin Divall and George Revill, culture is understood here as representations and practices, and the underground railway ‘as mediation between the imaginable and the material.’ This review does not cover the prolific literature about this topic, but gathers perspectives from within and beyond transport or mobility history to contribute to a historical and comparative assessment of spatial representations and practices related to the production and uses of this subterranean mode of transport. The sources of these perspectives are Benson Bobrick’s Labyrinths of Iron, Rosalind Williams’s Notes on the Underground, Michael Brooks’s Subway City, David Pike’s Subterranean Cities, and Andrew Jenks’s A Metro of the Mount.