Reaktion, £16.95

Railway, By George Revill

 

The oddly singular title is explained when you learn the book is the latest addition to a series called Objekt, which "explores a range of types… that have captured the imagination of modernist designers, makers and theorists". Unlike other titles in the series – Dam, Factory, School, Factory, Chair – Railway has inspired wide affection and a host of cultural responses.

Revill's exploration of the art of the train is impressive in scope. His survey of rail poetry includes Thomas's bucolic Adlestrop, Betjeman's suburbia, Larkin's "Whitsun" journey and Auden's "Night Mail", whose final line ("For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?") presages today's mania for mobiles. Along with rail's greatest painters Turner, Monet and Pissaro, Revill adds a lovely Eric Ravilious landscape framed by the window of a Third Class carriage and George Inness's 1855 panorama of a train cheerily chuffing through the Lackawanna Valley in Pennsylvania.

Get money off this book at the Independent book shop

Touching on more directly related railway aesthetics, Revill singles out the majestic stations of Helsinki and Antwerp. He also features the art deco masterpiece of Cincinnati Union railway station and the Romanesque castle of St Louis, Missouri (once the largest station in the world), both now successfully converted to new roles like the Gare d'Orsay in Paris.

Despite their inclusion in the Objekt series, railways do not emerge as a hotbed of modernist design, aside from Harry Beck's London Tube map based on electrical circuit diagrams and Raymond Loewy's streamlined locos that astounded Thirties America and remain the epitome of modernity.

Written in slightly academic prose, Revill's wide-ranging account is freighted with interest and reaches an optimistic, balanced conclusion, though enthusiasm occasionally derails meaning: "Railways seem to have a fortunate knack of embodying the apparent separation of humans and nature while providing a route to their psychic and cultural resolution."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash