York, Swindon, Crewe, Derby, Peterborough, Wolverton and Eastleigh are very different places, cities and towns spread across Britain. From ancient cathedral cities to metropolises that barely existed two centuries ago, they all share one thing; they are amongst Britain’s railway towns.
Railway towns owed their economic success and booming populations to the arrival and patronage of the railways. To be a true railway town, it wasn’t enough to be served by the railways; instead, the railways forged entire communities by concentrating factories, workshops and repair yards in a single location.
It isn’t surprising that the railways had the power to create towns and even cities: by 1900 over 620,000 people (just under 5% of the entire population) worked for the railways. Millions more were dependent on their wages, spending and the ancillary economic growth they brought.