Railway Mania

Fake news and conspiracy theories are nothing new.

In fact, they have probably been around since the news began, which was goodness knows when!

In the first half of the 19th century, as the Industrial Revolution brought untold progress, and ushered in a period of rapid change, many people struggled to come to grips with the way in which life was changing.

Take the railways, for instance.

Suddenly, journeys that previously would have taken days to complete could be accomplished in a matter of hours, and at speeds that were undreamt of at the beginning of the century.

The only problem was, people became nervous about the effects that travelling at such high speeds would have on the human mind and body.

The dangers of rail travel occupied people’s minds throughout most of the century.

The situation wasn’t helped by stories that were appearing in the newspapers, such as the following gem, that appeared in The Derbyshire Courier on Saturday the 4th of May 1839:-


A new disease appears to have broken out amongst railway travellers, in consequence of the velocity of speed.

A gentleman of great experience in the old way of travelling, who resides not twenty miles from High-lane [in Stockport], observed to us, the other day, that this disease will in time completely upset the intellect of such of her majesty’s subjects as are so unfortunate as to adopt this expeditious way of “whirling their bodies” from one end of the kingdom to the other.


The worthy gentleman above alluded to offered to make a considerable wager, that he would take his stand in Market-street, Manchester, and could instantly find out from the passengers in that thoroughfare, all such of them as had just left the railway, and were proceeding to business.

He describes them as being so full of speed and motion, that though they are mounted on their own pedestals in the streets, yet they fancy they are still on the railway, and like the Merchant of Rotterdam, with his cork leg unable to control their speed.

He asserts that he actually saw one gentleman so full of velocity, that, in attempting to turn the corner of the Royal Hotel, to get into Mosley-street, he ran his head against one of the gas lamp posts, and broke the iron pillar to shivers.

Most men would have thought the head would have broke, but such was not the fact, as could be abundantly proved by many persons on the spot.


The anti-railroad gentleman further stated, as a fact notorious, that many persons had confessed to him, that they had frequently gone to Liverpool and London on the railway and from the extreme velocity of travelling  forgot what they went for, and had actually to write to their Manchester friends to be informed what they were sent to town for.


The subject appears to demand the serious attentions of “philosophy”, and all professors of the “march of intellect” to endeavour to stop the disease in its infancy, and preserve to our fellow countrymen what little sanity they may have left since the passing of the reform bill.

Her majesty’s ministers are infected by the rapid railroad method of legislation, as may be satisfactorily proved by the sagacity and integrity of their proceedings.