A railway guide from this world to the next

‘The object of this guide is to afford an accurate description of the various competing lines from Time to Eternity, as well as of the country through which they pass; to instruct all passengers in a familiar, sometimes humourous, but always sober and rational manner; and thereby to assist the judgement in the choice of lines, so as to ensure safe and expeditious travelling. It is designed not only for travellers by rail, but for all without distinction’.

The guide mentioned in the introduction to ‘The new railway guide, or thoughts for thinkers on the road from this World to the next’ is a small 32 page book which accompanies one of the strangest maps in the Bodleian. By taking different paths from the ‘City of the World’ the traveller can find themselves either in the land of Glory or Perdition either by going through the countries of ‘Holylivingshire’ and Sanctificationshire’, or the lands of ‘Follyshire’ or ‘Evilhabitshire’. Both journeys first have to go through the rather unpleasant sounding ‘Natural Depravityshire’ , a land of swamps and strange creatures that adhere themselves to the carriages. There are 6 lines that leave the City of the World for Perdition; ignorance, superstition, infidelity, hypocrisy, fashion and intemperance lines. These are matched by the lines that leave for Glory; Popery,  Protestant, Independent, Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Methodist lines.

Despite the comic aspect to the map and the title there is a clear moral message to take from the book, which is set out early in the text. ‘The accompanying map…affords a general view of the country through which the lines pass from time to eternity. There is constant traffic between the two places; and as the reader will probably have to pass at some period from the one to the other, he will do well to cast his eye over the map beforehand’.

Maps such as this are a common feature in books of the time, either travel guides, battlefield guides or books on history. This map has been cleverly designed to give, along with the accompanying text, the illusion of a real place with religious instruction and moral guidance the intended destination.

The guide then goes onto describe the countries passed through to the two destinations, giving the good points on one hand, the bad on the other. The book and map have been designed to look like  standard railway guide of the time. Information is given on the quality of the carriages, gauges, prices and times of each different line as well as details of the various countries passed through. This closely mirrors authentic railway guides of the time, as can be seen from the examples here, taken from Fowler’s Railway Traveller’s Guide from circa 1840

 

The new railway guide, or thoughts for thinkers on the road from this World to the next…accompanied by an accurate map of the principal competing lines. 1848, 48.1515.