You are hereEleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain by Matthew Engel

Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain by Matthew Engel


Starting off as an amusing and humorous account of Britain’s railways, Eleven Minutes Late resolves itself into a chronologically ordered account of the “two centuries of fiasco” that comprise our railway history. Our railways were always chaotic.

For half a century, we had two track gauges: the 4ft 8½in of George Stephenson and the 7ft of Brunel. Engel observes: “The point about the gauge - and this is hardly an abstruse technicality - is that it does not matter much which you choose as long as the whole network has the same one.

He relishes some of the more gothic aspects of Victorian train travel: the frequent crashes (or “smashes”, as they were enthusiastically known), and the lack of corridors in carriages that trapped passengers in their compartments, sometimes with undesirable companions.

Fascinating and sometimes troubling reading, at the end of Eleven Minutes you might agree with Engel's conclusion about today's rail services: “It is not the politicians, in the final analysis, who are responsible for the mess. It is us, because we let them do it.

 

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