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Road against Rail

The Debate on Transport Policy in Belgium, 1920-1940

Donald Weber

When new motorized means of transport, such as buses, vans, and lorries, captured part of the transport market in Belgium in the interwar period, the rail companies engaged in a political fight to restrict the new modes of road transport. Attempts were made to introduce fiscal and administrative measures aimed at limiting road transport. This coincided with an intense debate on transport policy, both in the press and in parliament. The article focuses on the discourse driving this debate. It is argued that the positions taken were motivated by economic issues, but that there were underlying cultural motivations, different perceptions of what transport should represent in the lives of the users and the whole of society. The focus on the so-called coordination debate is widened beyond the conflict between trains and vans in the 1930s, to include the conflict between automobiles, buses, and trams in the 1920s.

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Jennifer Foster

This paper considers the transformation of two decommissioned rail lines, in Paris and New York City, into ecologically-oriented green space. Situating the restoration of these rail lines within dominant trajectories of urbanization helps to understand how ecological restoration projects may function as financial instruments that intensify experiences of social injustice. This paper considers how the design and aesthetics of New York's High Line and Paris' Sentier Nature construct ecologies that also produce environmental subjectivities, and how these spaces reflect uneven investment in nature across urban landscapes. While the two case studies are aesthetically distinct, they are both woven into existing global patterns of urban transformation, and their evolution from disused industrial space to public park shares an emotional attachment to safety that demands removal of threatening inhabitants.

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Imperial Mobility

Circulation as History in East Asia under Empire

Kate McDonald

Histories of modern mobility often assume that modern forms of movement arrived in East Asia as part of a universal process of historical development. This article shows that the valorization of modern mobility in East Asia emerged out of the specific context of Euro-American imperial encroachment and Japanese imperial expansion. Through an examination of the tropes of opening and connecting, the article argues that the mobility of the modern can be understood as an “imperial” mobility in two senses: one, as a key component in European, American, and Japanese arguments for the legitimacy of empire; and two, as a global theory of history that constituted circulation as a measure of historical difference.

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Elena Salerno

By the mid-nineteenth century, the territory of present-day Argentina was still a sparsely settled network of towns beyond which lived some native peoples. In 1860 the incomplete Martin de Moussy survey estimated a total population of about 1 million inhabitants; a decade later the first national census recorded about 1.8 million. Halperin Donghi summarizes the situation in “A Nation for the Argentine Desert,” the prologue to his classic work about this period.1 At that time, the country lacked roads, and the traditional transport system, as Enrique M. Barba describes in a pioneering book, consisted of cart tracks that were impassable during the rainy season, and some staging posts that provided rudimentary services for long-distances travelers.2 Indigenous trails trodden by livestock, called rastrilladas, supplemented them.3 Years later, Cristian Werckenthie studied the traditional transport of the pampas. Bullock carts were the principal means of transport; elsewhere, mule trains were the norm.

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The Far Eastern Railway in the 1930s

Relations and Reactions to the Repressions in the USSR

Elena Gnatovskaya and Alexander Kim

This article evaluates the relationship among the railroad staff of the Far East during the most dramatic events in the political life of the country at that time—repressions. As a rule, Russian academic literature indicates that few workers perceived the Soviet state’s mechanisms of pressure negatively. This article demonstrates that the railroad staff’s position was far more diverse than traditionally argued, which is a result of the broad variety of social groups working for the railroad in the Far East. The article demonstrates this diversity of opinions by focusing on those events that affected a significant number of railroad workers.

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Public Policy or Popular Demand?

Why Californians Shifted from Trains to Autos (and Not Buses), 1910-1941

Gregory Thompson

This essay examines the transition from a rail-based intercity transportation system in California in 1910 to a road/private auto-based system thirty years later, with hypotheses that the transition could be explained by either corporate and state decisions for supplying infrastructure or by public demand. The essay examines trends of automobile ownership, road investment, bus organization and service provision, intercity passenger rail service provision, and intercity rail revenues, both within California and to and from California in each of the three decades. It concludes that public preference for private automobility explains most of the transition but that unserved demand remained for fast passenger train service between the state's large metropolitan areas. Failure to serve that demand derived from California's legacy of popular disdain for the private railroad industry.

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The ethnographic negative

Capturing the impress of boredom and inactivity

Bruce O’Neill

overlooking the parking lot of the Gara de Nord railway station in Bucharest, Romania. Dani, Razvan, and Razvan’s partner, Ioana, met at “the Gara” a decade earlier as young teenagers. They had fled deepening poverty and immiseration in the countryside as

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Rolf-Ulrich Kunze

God created the Earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands, albeit with only a limited role for the railway. Any railway museum in this country invented by and dependent on hydraulic engineering must creatively solve the problem of portraying a technology of mobility which was not central to the Waterstaat (hydro-engineering) identity and the nation’s sociotechnological construction, but one which initially was secondary and subsidiary and, above all, delayed. On the face of it, the story to be told here appears to be that of how, in a northwestern part of Europe where thorough industrialization was late to come, railway-based mobility established itself against the omnipresence of shipping and evolved from seaport-catering surface logistics into an integral element of everyday transportation in twentieth-century Netherlands. The Utrecht Spoorwegmuseum (railway museum) impressively shows that this is not even half the truth, behind which might be, at best, the grumbling resentment of an 1890 boatman.

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Trains of Thought

The Challenges of Mobility in the Work of Rhoda Broughton

Anna Despotopoulou

This article examines women's mobility in the work of Rhoda Broughton, looking closely at her use of the railway as a means of rendering not only the movement but also the drifting consciousness of her heroines. Combining privacy and publicity, movement and stasis, the railway in Broughton's work affects the subjectivity and everyday routine of women, becoming a literary means of exploring woman's complex response to the transitory nature of experience, the rapidly shifting states of consciousness, and modernity's fleeting images - all of which are reflected in Broughton's idiosyncratic style.

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Vilma Hastaoglou-Martindis

The conditions of peace in Europe after 1815 – with the end of the Napoleonic Wars, along with thriving industrialization, instigated journeys. From the 1840s, the novel means of transportation, railways and steamers, unified geographical space and fuelled a trend of travelling that was to increase exponentially to dimensions of mass tourism by the beginning of the twentieth century.