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Reworking Appropriation

The Language of Paris Railways, 1870–1914

Peter Soppelsa

By tracking railway language through periodicals and poetry, this article examines the words and images used to make sense of Paris's new subway and streetcars between 1870 and 1914. It proposes a new threefold approach to understanding the appropriation of technology, which reworks its agents, sites, and chronologies. It maintains that appropriation takes both material and symbolic forms, and that appropriation processes transform both appropriated objects and their cultural contexts. Language anchors appropriation as it operates through circulating texts. For Paris, railways were both transportation technologies and versatile tools for making meaning. Railways set spaces, customs, identities, and images adrift, which traditionalists found threatening, progressives found promising, and avant-gardists found inspiring. Fitting Paris with railways required both reimagining and rebuilding the city, and reshaping what railways could be. The article concludes that appropriation is neither linear nor complete, but rather an ongoing and unfinished negotiation of the meaning of technologies.

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Robert Lee

Australian railway historiography, like its railway history and indeed like Australia itself, poses a curious paradox. Why is such a fortunate and civil polity so parochial and so divided geographically? It is now more than 230 years since British colonisation began. Ever since, Australia has been prosperous; relatively egalitarian, at least for its white population; generally free from civil strife; and efficiently and effectively governed. The temperature of its debates and conflicts rarely has risen above levels characterised by civil disobedience and strikes, which have been controlled by police and courts within usual legal frameworks.

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Stéphanie Sauget

Though railway stations originated in nineteenth-century Europe, they have inspired renewed interest worldwide since the 1980s. To be convinced of that suggestion, one need only consider major projects such as Washington DC’s Union Station (1988), Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (2006), St Pancras International (2007), or the complete renovation of Gare du Nord in Paris since 1998.

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Eduardo Oliveira

To introduce recent historical research on railways in Brazil, the case of one of its states makes a useful example. Concentrating on railway history in São Paulo will permit a more historiographical and thematic point of view. The São Paulo state railway is of particular significance in Brazil. At 4,041 km in 1907, it accounted for more than one-fifth of the total extent of all Brazilian railways (17,605 km), well ahead of runners up in the states of Minas Gerais (3,932 km) and Rio de Janeiro (2,422 km).2 The state of São Paulo also led in cargo transportation. The São Paulo Railway Company alone transported 1.9 million tons of cargo. Among the six most profitable transportation companies in Brazil, four were in São Paulo: São Paulo Railway Company, Sorocabana Railway Company, Paulista Railway Company (Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro) and Mogiana Railway Company (Companhia Mogiana de Estradas de Ferro). Doctoral theses and academic papers on the history of Brazilian railways have grown in the last ten years, and studies of São Paulo predominate.

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Hugo Silveira Pereira

This article aims to describe the evolution of Portuguese railway historiography and to speculate on which research trends could be further developed in the future. The author lists and performs a short critical appraisal of some works that illustrate the major lines of research thus far. He then pinpoints areas that could benefit from further research and that could become investigation trends in a near future, despite the budget cuts that universities and research as a whole are currently undergoing.

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The Firedrake

Local Society and Train Transport in Zhejiang Province in the 1930s

Ding Xianyong

The Hangzhou-Jiangshan railway across Zhejiang province was built in the early 1930s, connecting the mountainous interior to the coastal area. The construction in the context of military strategy enjoyed high government attention and was implemented with personnel and a workforce brought into the area. Drawing on literary writings, archival documents, and oral histories, this article traces the range of attitudes, reactions, and activities among the inhabitants of rural towns and villages in the area of Quzhou and Jinhua as well as migrants who had left for cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou. The name “redrake” created by locals captures attitudes of mingled apprehension in the fact that a dragon, which is always associated with water, becomes a re-creature; curiosity and excitement in the association with dragon lantern processions; and practical usefulness in the closeness to the train that is literally a “re-vehicle” in Chinese.

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'Greater good' in transit

The unwieldy career of a Swedish rail tunnel project

Åsa Boholm

Large-scale technological projects are born as visions among politicians and leaders of industry. For such visions to become real, they must be transformed from a virtual existence in the minds of their creators to a reality that can be accepted, even welcomed, by the public, not least by the communities who will become neighbors to those projects. Democracy implies that political decisions over the expenditure of public funds should answer not merely to the partial interests of stakeholders but should be accountable to the 'greater good' of society at large. Since a technological project materializes in what Latour calls a 'variable ontology-world', the greater good associated with it can be expected to be dynamic and shifting. The Hallandsås railway tunnel in southwestern Sweden illustrates how the very premises of the project's organizational logic have changed over time, the discourse of the greater good moving from an economical focus to an environmental one.

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Alejandro Rascovan

The invention of railways in the nineteenth century changed the world, displacing older technologies and modifying how humans perceived space and time. Further, the implementation of the railroad coincided with the institutionalization of nation-states in Europe and the Americas. The creation of a nation consisted of three major tasks—formalizing national borders, creating institutions, and capitalizing on the international division of labor. Railways played a major role in each of these endeavors. They played a key role in aiding politicians and entrepreneurs in efforts to achieve specific economic growth and political consolidation. They also structured each country’s territory via infrastructural connection. Argentina and its neighbor countries each experienced these elements of railroad construction.

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Mauro Tebaldi

On 5 December 2009, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, together with

the director-general of the Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), Mauro Moretti,

officially opened the new high-speed/high-capacity railway line, linking

Turin, Milan, and Salerno at the central station in Milan. The

work, which had taken almost 40 years to complete, had involved

the laying of just less than 1,000 kilometers of track that is specially

designed to carry high-speed trains. The following day, the high-speed

train service provided by Trenitalia began operating on the line with

the latest ETR (Elettro Treno Rapido) 500 Frecciarossa and ETR 600

Frecciargento trains. The year 2010, therefore, marked the official

operational start of the project that had first been drawn up by FS in

the early 1960s with the aim of providing high-speed rail links for the

main Italian cities along a north-south axis in response to two clear

challenges—the growing competition from airlines and an increasing

preference for road use.

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Beyond Blank Spaces

Five Tracks to Late Nineteenth-Century Beltana

Samia Khatun

From the 1860s, the colonial settlement of Beltana in the northern deserts of South Australia emerged as a transportation hub atop an existing, cosmopolitan center of Aboriginal trade. Viewing a colonial settlement on Kuyani land through a mobilities paradigm, this article examines intersecting settler and Aboriginal trajectories of movement through Beltana, illuminating their complex entanglements. Challenging the imperial myth of emptiness that shaped how Europeans saw the lands they invaded, this article renders visible the multiple imaginative geographies that existed at every colonial settlement. Examining mobility along Kuyani and Wangkangurru tracks alongside British mobilities, this article makes a methodological argument for writing multiaxial histories of settler colonialism.