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.
Landscapes of Englishness in the Postwar Railway Poetry of John Betjeman and Philip Larkin
Spatial and Social Alienation in the Documentary Film El tren blanco
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.
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.
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
The Language of Paris Railways, 1870–1914
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.
Local Society and Train Transport in Zhejiang Province in the 1930s
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.
Five Tracks to Late Nineteenth-Century Beltana
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.
The Debate on Transport Policy in Belgium, 1920-1940
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.
Circulation as History in East Asia under Empire
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.
Why Californians Shifted from Trains to Autos (and Not Buses), 1910-1941
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.