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QUOTE What was the economic case for a railway, I wondered, that could have demanded such huge expenditure on engineering miracles?

I think the thing we forget is how cheap labour was in those days. Many of the engineering feats that were builts during the victorian era would no longer be economically viable. I was watching a dvd about building of the Forth bridge the other day and wondered if something like that could ever be done today. You can't get away with paying men peanuts to risk their lives building and tunneling like you could back then.
 
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