‘Try to Think of a World Before the Railway’
Travel Blog • Michael Yessis • 01.06.11 | 1:36 PM ET
Imagine “the meaning of distance and the impediment it imposed when the time it took to travel from, for example, Paris to Rome—and the means employed to do so—had changed little for two millennia,” writes the late Tony Judt in a terrific two-part piece in the New York Review of Books.
Above all, think of how different the world looked to men and women before the coming of the railways. In part this was a function of restricted perception. Until 1830, few people knew what unfamiliar landscapes, distant towns, or foreign lands looked like because they had no opportunity or reason to visit them. But in part, too, the world before the railways appeared so very different from what came afterward and from what we know today because the railways did more than just facilitate travel and thereby change the way the world was seen and depicted. They transformed the very landscape itself.
Not to mention train travel’s impact on literature.