Steaming East: The 100 Year Saga of the Struggle to Forge Rail and Steamship Links Between Europe and India by Sarah Searight
At the beginning of the 19th century, it took months to get from England to India, clear at the other end of the Empire. Better communications were imperative. This is the story of how it was done - laboriously, stubbornly, sometimes misguidedly - by several generations of entrepeneurs, engineers, inventors and military men, first with steamships and then by railway. It is a story full of colourful anecdotes and even more colourful characters, from Captain Charles Chesney (who tried - and failed - to establish a steamship route on the Euphrates River to the founder of the Orient Express (who rejoiced in the name of Georges Nagelmackers) to Major James "Buster" Browne, builder of a rail line across a Northwest Indian desert so inhospitable that 32 soldiers died there of heat stroke when their train broke down. The account spans roughly a century, from the first tentative use of steam engines in ships to the decline of the great age of railways following World War I.