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In the preface the authors describe their approach, ‘In examining the social history of railway stations we were concerned to treat them not as inanimate objects, but as living, breathing places which, better than any other building type of the last 150 years, reflected the societies around them, public buildings which people used in all sorts of ways and whose significance they instantly recognized when depicted in the theatre, the cinema, paintings, photographs, poetry, novels, and travel works. For this reason we have chosen to allow other voices to tell part of the story, to illustrate through quotation the central, but often differing, role of the station in so many societies and so many lives.’
They succeed triumphantly in this aim. After the introduction aptly called ‘The Mystique of the Railway Station’ there are fifteen absorbing chapters covering: The Station in Architecture (three chapters); The Station and Society; The Station in Politics; Class, Race, and Sex; Some Station Types; The Station in the Economy (two chapters); The Station as Place of Work; The Station in Wartime (two chapters); The Usual Offices; The Station in Painting and Poetry, Postcard and Poster; and The Station in Literature and Film. The scope is comprehensive, the achievement magnificent.
‘written with great enthusiasm . . . packed with rich detail. This is real social history.’ Asa Briggs
‘full of good quotations, and (the authors) write with the infectious enthusiasm of addicts, captivated by the romance of railways’ Times Literary Supplement
‘remarkable . . . the railway station in all its aspects’ A. N. Wilson.
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