Many changes come about almost unexpectedly to most of us but some come slowly and with a great deal of effort on the part of a few.  The Suffragettes began organising in 1903 to gain the vote for women on the same terms as men: this was finally achieved in 1928.  New Zealand gave all women the right to vote in 1893, the ability to stand for election came in 1919.  Many provinces in Canada and in other countries were ahead of Britain.  This may seem a detour from the railways, although not from the making of a nation.  I was delighted to see that a young woman, Liz McIvor presented this series of programmes with great skill and the ability to organise many factors into a coherent narrative.

     I was struck by the number of female academics and historians who appeared in the programme.  I believe that over 50% of undergraduates in British universities are now women, an amazing increase in my life-time. There was a time when academic education was thought completely beyond women, their brains could not cope with it.  Some male academics were convinced that this was simply a statement of fact. 

    The change in business methods; the accurate keeping of accounts, the organisation and training of the work force and the careful organisation of safety procedures.  All these were set up by the numerous private companies in the 1830s, 40s and 50s who decided that faster, more efficient transport could more profitably  be arranged if heavy goods like coal, iron ore and steel ran on wagons which ran on steel rails directly from production to required use.

    The first public  steam railway system was opened in September 1825 from Phoenix Pit, Old Etherley Colliery to Cottage row Stockton, with a half mile extension to Darlington.  It could be said that County Durham saw the birth of the railway system unaccountably this fact was missed out of Professor McIvor’s programme.

    The photography was superb, a few sketch maps could have been added to add to the understanding of the land covered.  The story  told was extremely well done.  Films are a wonderful addition to the story of how change takes place and the often unintended consequences.  Who could not be interested in history when the pictorial and the verbal explanations are married together so expertly?

I’ve seen another episode and there is still no mention of the Stockton, Darlington Railway.  This is beginning to look like another of those London-centric programmes, real Liz I thought better of you!



  1. The ‘experts’ used to think all women needed a man to tell them what to think!!! There is a movement now to get representation in Parliament 50/50 that would be a real step forward. Politicians can be and often are very disappointing they form a little village community in Westminster and forget about the people who put them there. Time for a petition!

  2. We thank those strong minded ladies who worked so hard to reach their goal. Suffrage is a good name for them for they certainly suffered outside and inside those prisons. Forceful food for example – what a horrible disgusting thing to do!

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