Railway Towns: a Long-term Global Perspective

  • 1 Spain


Railway towns, in their essence, are a specific evolution of the system of company towns, which disseminated during the 19th and 20th centuries. These company towns were characterised by communities of workers employed by the same company or group of companies, which owned the houses and infrastructures and exerted some sort of control over the town’s economic and social living. The model of a garden-city, under which most of the examples studied were developed, was the most common, although not the only one. Despite the relevance of these processes, there are no papers that analyse them in a global perspective and in the long run, but only studies that focus on particular cases with barely any contextualisation. Lest we forget that railway towns grew in tandem with the rail networks all over the world, from the most industrialised and populated areas to the new regions targeted for colonisation. In order to overcome this set of isolated reports of individual railway towns, in this paper, I group the most significant references and studies about railway towns created by different companies in different countries to propose a broader interpretation of the overall phenomenon. Amidst the features intended to be analysed, I highlight the origin and nature of these towns, their forms and urban structures, the most notable case studies, and their future as industrial heritage (questioning the reasons for the current status of the towns, some devoid of their railway functions, others with a lesser presence of the railway, and others almost depopulated).

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