Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways

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Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways

Series 1 - Episode 2

Tue 3 Dec 10:50am - 11:55am PBS America
See Repeats
Tue 3 Dec, 4:50pm - 6pm PBS America


We probably shouldn’t need too many lessons on the drawbacks of raw, unregulated capitalism, but if we did the railway boom (and bust) of the mid-19th century provides a cautionary tale. Dan Snow compares it to the dot-com boom — a new technology that transformed the economic landscape, but ruined investors — and draws out the lessons.

He’s good on cultural shifts, too: how railways changed what people ate (fresh veg arrived in London from the provinces) and read (William Henry Smith’s station bookstalls sold cheap literature) and did on their holidays (Thomas Cook took people on excursions to the seaside). It’s a heck of a story.


The historian and broadcaster examines the impact the railway had on London in the late 1830s, linking it to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. This was the start of a truly national network and one of the greatest civil engineering projects in history, while tycoons including Samuel Morton Peto and George Hudson made fortunes as the stock markets boomed. However, the bubble burst in 1847 and shares plummeted, leaving thousands of people facing bankruptcy courts.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Dan Snow
Director Helen Nixon
Executive Producer Eamon Hardy
Producer Helen Nixon
Series Producer Melanie Archer