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Christian Wolmar_ Great Exhibition_1851

 

Christian Wolmar, Fire & Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain (2007; Atlantic Books, London), 112.

 

‘The Great Exhibition marked a turning point in the public’s attitude towards the railways, helping them overcome the stigma they had suffered as a result of the [railway] mania and its collapse. The brainchild of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, the Exhibition was conceived to celebrate Britain’s technological progress and, especially, its dominant position in the world. This “somewhat arrogant parading of accomplishments” was the first ever international exhibition and was intended to be a major tourist attraction luring visitors from both home and abroad. Early in the planning process, the organizers realized that the railways would play a key role in transporting the millions of visitors needed to make the exhibition viable. The 13,000 exhibits were housed in a huge glass building, dubbed the Crystal Palace, erected in London’s Hyde Park. Over six months it attracted a staggering 6,200,000 people (a third of the population of England and Wales), including 110,000 on the busiest day. The whole nation was gripped by Exhibition fever and entire towns and villages would form “Exhibition clubs” which organized excursion trains up to the capital – for many, their first-ever train journey.’

 

 

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