BBC One documentary to explore how railways sparked a social revolution

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

A new documentary exploring Britain’s Rail network in the North West will air this Wednesday on BBC One.

In Railways: The Making of a Nation, historian Liz McIvor explores how Britain’s expanding rail network was the spark to a social revolution, starting in the 1800s and through to modern times.

Filmed at a range of locations across the North West including the Chester Racecourse, Manchester Piccadilly Station, Sankey Viaduct, Blackpool, Lake Windermere, Old Trafford and Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway Station, the documentary explores how the idea of an excursion to distant places became popular from the 1840s onwards.

McIvor said: “A fast system of transportation shaped many areas of our industrial nation – from what we eat to where we live, work and play. The railways generated economic activity but they also changed the nature of business itself. They even changed attitudes to time and how we set our clocks! Our railways reflected deep class divisions, but they also brought people together and helped forge a new sense of national identity.

“Before the railways most people lived local lives and had little, if any, interaction with people from other regions with different accents and cultures. With an expanding network people became to mix and learned to co-exist with their fellow countrymen and women.

“This documentary tells the story of how the railways changed the way we live – giving us a modern, industrial, suburban, consumer nation. This is a social, cultural and economic history of the railways.”

The episode is part of a six-part documentary series which will broadcast weekly on BBC Four from this Thursday. The series takes a look at how the railways were key to our modern world of speed, communication and inter-connectivity.

Railways: The Making of a Nation will be available to watch on BBC One in the North West at 7.30pm on Wednesday 28 September, and on BBC iPlayer thereafter.

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