Mark was kind enough to write a guest post for us on how he came to write the book:
"The backstory to the book was that even though I thought I had a reasonable knowledge about rail history, doing the research for this book brought it home to me about how absolutely crucial railway building was to the opening up of the great landmasses and the siting of human settlement: the Trans-Siberian and the thousands of branches across the US & Canada are a kind of "MetroLand" on a continental scale.
"It had never really dawned on me that (at least until the age of the plane) you just cannot build a large an inland city without rail track delivering heavy building materials, supplying industry and importing fresh produce and people.
"More so railways were effectively THE driving force of the industrial revolution and it's been great to re-credit them with how humanity developed the modern world because it seems like - at least during the car-dominated second half of the 20th century - many people, myself included had forgotten or lost sight of that.
"The surveying of the new railways also drove the science of cartography, gave us the world time zones and mass travel for pleasure!
"The other great revelation from preparing the book has been what an enormous revival there is currently underway in rail construction! Though most of it is centred around high-speed with literally thousands of km of new tracks being built and planned for, there are certainly benefits to traditional lines being upgraded, more urban rail and more undergrounds also on the way."