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Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  43 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Before the nineteenth century, armies had to rely on slow and unreliable methods of transportation to move soldiers and equipment during times of conflict. But with the birth of the railroad in the early 1830s, the way wars were fought would change forever.

In Engines of War, renowned expert Christian Wolmar tells the story of that transformation, examining all the engagem
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2010)
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Tom Stallard
Having not read Christian Wolmar, my expectations were perhaps lower than they should have been. I feared that the book would be too tuned towards the narrow rail enthusiast, and my reading was specifically an odd, perhaps momentary, interest in the effect of steam on war.

I'm glad to say that the book was written in a surprisingly accessible way. It moved methodically through the initial stages in using rail to make the war zone more accessible, through the development of these links and then t
Christian Wolmer's "Blood,Iron and Gold:How Railways Transformed the World" is one of the best full size one volume summaries of how the advent of railways changed the way we live. I was therefore really looking forward to his latest book,"Engines of War" brought out in 2010 on how wars were won and lost on railways.

This book does not live up to its great predecessors. He gives away the game at the beginning of the biography,"This is a pitifully short biography.I have used various standard textb
Margaret Sankey
From the moment in 1830 when they were useful for moving troops in Britain, rail lines have been vital infrastructure of war, although as Wolmar lays out, not always understood (gauge differences are as much a disadvantage as a protection), used effectively (a mostly single-track Trans-Siberian) or planned well (why do the Germans keep building engines to the clearances on *French* bridges?). Wolmar misses the American rail strike/National Guard Armory connection, but does well with Soviet missi ...more
A very detailed history of railroads in military operations from Russia and the US Civil War until the end of World War Two. I was very impressed by depth of information in this book. The photo plates in the book are very interesting as well.
A good read with plenty of detail and interesting ideas . Weak point book is somewhat repetitive but still very enjoyable
Jim Wilson
A detailed, almost obsessive, history of the use of railroads during wartime. An attempt at a comprehensive retelling of how railroads were utilized, in wartime from their development to the present. Lots of interesting details and lots of connections that I had not previously thought of. As with many authors. Wolmar is sure that railroads were the decisive determining factor in most military situations. You don't have to accept that premise to enjoy the book.
I am a big fan of Christian Wolmar to the extent that he is listed on this site as one of my favourite authors and normally his books are 4 or 5 stars. This one however is a bit of a disapointment as it doesn't flow as much as the others. I think it was because there was more history of the wars and conflicts themselves therfore leaving less time/space for the railway info. OK but not quite the book I was looking forward to!!
Wolmar's awesome book "Blood, Iron & Gold" had me fired and excited for another engaging narrative about how railroads changed the world. But while I did learn about the key role railroads played in war, "Engines of War" was far from an easy read.

Note: My rating reflects a comparison of "Blood" to "Engines."

A good overview of an interesting and neglected subject by a very informed writer. This could be considered more of an introduction to the subject matter rather than a detailed analysis. Good references are given for those who wish to learn more.
Alex Sarll
Yes, that's two books about railways I've read this month, but I am not a trainspotter, dammit. More part of the 'How [everyday thing] changed history' subgenre, really.
Clay Davis
I learned how militaries used the railroads. Very good information.
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