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Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain
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Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  171 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Britain gave railways to the world, yet its own network is the dearest (definitely) and the worst (probably) in Western Europe. Trains are deeply embedded in the national psyche and folklore—yet it is considered uncool to care about them. For Matthew Engel the railway system is the ultimate expression of Britishness. It represents all the nation's ingenuity, incompetence, ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Pan Macmillan (first published April 16th 2009)
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Brian Clegg
Jun 12, 2015 Brian Clegg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt distinctly misled by the blurb on the back of Eleven Minutes Late. I picked the book up from a pile occupying a whole table in a large bookseller, so it must be doing well (especially as I later discovered the book first came out in 2009, and this is only a lightly updated version) and thought it sounded ideal. The bumf made it sound like 'Bill Bryson does the railways' - as a lover of both, I thought it would be excellent. It was very good, but it didn't do what it said on the tin.

The au
May 26, 2014 Armelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
While I'm not sure where the "very funny" comments come from, I enjoyed this book. It was very interesting - and as we had just returned from our first visit to England since 1975 - it was fun to read about the stations we had passed through on our own journey.

I, too, thought it would be more of a travelogue than it turned out to be, but I still enjoyed it. There are a lot of facts, but the tone is light and fairly conversational. It wasn't a difficult read and it could have been considering how
Karan Singh
The most English of books, equal parts loathing, nostalgia, affection and disgust.
Benjamin Richards
I have to admit that the back cover blurp does not allude to just how much Matthew Engel would elaborate on his justified hatred of privatisation. But, I did not mind one bit. I found this book after becoming interested in the notion that renationalising the railways is not only possible, but could provide a cornerstone for a Labour victory at the next elections. Reading of how careless, neigh, calculated the tearing down of British Rail makes my blood boil. I recently read another book called, ...more
Fergus Moffat
May 17, 2017 Fergus Moffat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
…a railway history that is both salutary and funny. A great read. I recommend it. Here’s a review…
Derek Collett
Sep 16, 2016 Derek Collett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a life-long user (and lover) of the railways, I began reading this with great keenness and anticipation. I have derived huge pleasure over the years from travelling up and down the country by rail but have also suffered my fair share of annoyance and frustration (and I'm not just talking about leaves on the line or the wrong sort of snow). Matthew Engel would appear to be in much the same boat (sorry!) as me and, unless I have totally misunderstood his intentions, wrote this book both to cele ...more
Feb 21, 2017 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating reflection on the history of UK rail and what it says about life, politics and culture here in the UK
Harvey Tordoff
"Brilliant" said the Independent. "Very funny" said the Daily Telegraph. I beg to differ.

This is one man's account of the muddle and eccentricities of the railways in Britain. As such, perhaps it is no surprise to find that the book itself is muddled and eccentric. What starts out as a journey from one end of Britain to the other soon becomes a catalogue of odd facts, figures and opinions. And then, as if realising that he has shunted himself onto a siding for a couple of hundred pages, the auth
Not quite what I expected but I enjoyed it just the same. This was more historical than geographical. The book opens with a jaunt from Penzance to Thurso and doesn't quite hit the sweet spot in terms of atmosphere and description (but then, we are talking the modern British railway experience) Most of the book however is an account of railway system (not so much railway engine) history ancient and modern and only at the end do we get back to using Engel's fortnight go-anywhere pass. I was quite ...more
Ant Harrison
Oct 12, 2013 Ant Harrison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Eleven Minutes Late by Matthew Engel is billed as a train journey to the soul of Britain, but that's not a very accurate sub-title. Although it starts out describing an actual journey up and down the UK, after about a quarter of the way through it shifts from mildly entertaining travelogue to a mish-mash of railway history and ramblings about the reasons (in Engel's view) for the national joke status that British railways have enjoyed for so long.

This isn't a bad book, but on the whole I found
Oct 20, 2012 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a cross between the the development of the railways from the 1830's with the social and political factors that drove the expansion of the railways right up to the present day. I also learnt a fair bit of history and in particular the attitude to progress of the British politicians over the years.
As a regular rail user, I really enjoyed this book and from the comments of several conductors on the train I was reading it on, they enjoyed it too.
Gareth Evans
Dec 26, 2012 Gareth Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is many things: a potted history of railways in Britain; a reasonably detailed look at the later days of British Rail and its privatisation; a short rail travelogue; and, perhaps best of all, a bloody good whine. This history is entertaining (engel picks the juiciest parts). The privatisation section is well done and the interviewees are impressive. The rail travelogue is informative although he is not in the Bryson class. The whingening is sharp, funny and well aimed. Excellent.
Andy Malcolm
May 15, 2012 Andy Malcolm rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: railway
An interesting and broad history of the British railway system, mostly focusing on how incompetent our governments have been over the years (no surprise there). However, I preferred the sections of the book that were more about the current railway and Engel's travels. Unfortunately, the historical sections dominated.
Jul 17, 2016 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pleasant ramble through the current state of Britain's railways, which are both not anything like as bad as you thought they were, and, at one and the same time, f*cked-up beyond belief. Engel (a noted cricket writer) has a nice line in descriptive prose and understated humour, intelligently avoiding the easy gags, and it's nice to read something by a journo who has actually Done The Research.
Vikki Cau
Amusing at the start but then it got really dry and seemingly changed from him being on trains to long winded history and then finally back to the journey. Shame the goodness of the start and end couldn't be sustained.
Oct 01, 2014 Maggie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I spend 4 hours a day on trains and I liked learning about the history of railways in Britain. I thought the best parts were the personal travelogue bits, and would have liked more of that. (But I suppose I could reread Bill Bryson instead.) A good read, overall.
Matthew Graham
Oct 11, 2011 Matthew Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having just spent two weeks using trains to get around the UK (normally I get a hire car), I was surprised to see how much has changed in the 8 years since I left. This book resonated very strongly with my experiences.
Richard Weston
Very factual and full of historical content, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that he just doesn't like trains, especially British ones. Perhaps I'm just an old romatic where train travel is concerned.
Dec 12, 2014 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found the book to be very interesting, and amusing in places. The reader does not need to be a hardcore railway enthusiast to enjoy reading this book. A refreshing blend of history and travelogue, although not a journey to the soul of our country.
Sep 08, 2014 Tracey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Anyone reading this should bear in mind that this is the author's perspective; it's not intended to be a balanced account.

Like the author, I also have an interest in the rail network and there was much in this book that struck a chord.
Richard Peat
Aug 09, 2014 Richard Peat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not really a travel book, but equally not a history book either. Inspired by taking a trip around the UK by train the author explores the long history of the railways in Britain and our enduring love/hate relationship with them.
Aug 11, 2011 Nic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining and enlightening.
Apr 15, 2012 Sheli marked it as gave-up  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sheli by: Stephen
This book just wasn't for me. I couldn't get into it as I found it quite hardgoing.

I was recommended it, but think that non-fiction is a very personal thing. Not my thing.
Simon Williams
Jul 27, 2012 Simon Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interseting book. Dont have to be a rail buff to enjoy it..more a travelogue using the railway
Karl Hogg
Jun 25, 2011 Karl Hogg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not a train enthusiast, but to enjoy this book you don't need to be. An enjoyable read about development of railways in the UK and the contrasting neglect and decline to the present day
Mr P
Mr P rated it really liked it
Mar 21, 2016
Nick rated it it was amazing
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