Although the public railway and the application of steam power to transport were pre-Victorian concepts, the widespread development of local, national and international railway networks was a Victorian phenomenon. The combination of great public enthusiasm, massive investment, highly skilled engineering and the application of modern technology ensured the rapid growth of railways in Britain and abroad. By 1850, 6000 miles of railway were in use, and throughout Victoria's reign British engineers were involved in railway construction and operation in many parts of the world, which in turn created new export markets for British locomotive and vehicle builders.
Emily has made herself mistress of the necessary degree of knowledge for conducting the matter, by dint of carefully reading every paragraph & every advertisement in the news-papers that related to rail-roads and as we have abstained from all gambling, all mere speculative buying-in & selling-out—we have got on very dcently. claredunkle
"January 30th, 1846.
"MY DEAR MISS WOOLER, - I have not yet paid my visit to ----; it is, indeed, more than a year since I was there, but I frequently hear from E., and she did not fail to tell me that you were gone into Worcestershire; she was unable, however, to give me your exact address. Had I known it, I should have written to you long since.
I thought you would wonder how we were getting on, when you heard of the railway panic, and you may be sure that I am very glad to be able to answer your kind inquiries by an assurance that our small capital is as yet undiminished. The York and Midland is, as you say, a very good line; yet, I confess to you, I should wish, for my own part, to be wise in time. I cannot think that even the very best lines will continue for many years at their present premiums; and I have been most anxious for us to sell our shares ere it be too late, and to secure the proceeds in some safer, if, for the present, less profitable investment. I cannot, however, persuade my sisters to regard the affair precisely from my point of view; and I feel as if I would rather run the risk of loss than hurt Emily's feelings by acting in direct opposition to her opinion. C.B.
Charlotte Bronte could aﬀord a relatively calm view of the situation, since by the time of that letter she had achieved literary success, with her novel Jane Eyre one of the bestsellers of 1847. But most railway shareholders could not, and neither could she have had a
few years earlier.