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The Birth of a Commuter Society: Workingmen's Trains in Belgium, 1870-1914

Donald Weber (UGent)
Author
Organization
Abstract
In 1870 the so-called workingmen’s trains made their appearance on the Belgian railway network, special trains that ran in the morning and in the evening and that took thousands of labourers from the countryside to the factories in the big cities. For very little money a worker could buy a weekly pass for such trains, and bring high industry wages home to his family without having to move to the depraved cities. Around 1900 one out of five Belgian industrial workers was using the workers pass. With state support the whole country was thus reshaped into one large labour market. But there was an unexpected ricochet: the unskilled worker from the countryside took a deep breath of city air, got to know how train stations and suburbs worked, cashed in on industry wages, and listened to socialist propaganda on the way back home. What had been started as a measure to protect and preserve a rural lifestyle, over time led to the emergence of another kind of lifestyle: the modern-day middle-class commuter in his or her suburbian kitchen garden.
Keywords
history social mobility train railway commuter workingmen

Citation

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Chicago
Weber, Donald. 2018. “The Birth of a Commuter Society: Workingmen’s Trains in Belgium, 1870-1914.” In The City and the Railway in the World 19th to 21st Centuries, ed. Ralf Roth and Paul Van Heesvelde. Taylor & Francis.
APA
Weber, D. (2018). The Birth of a Commuter Society: Workingmen’s Trains in Belgium, 1870-1914. In R. Roth & P. Van Heesvelde (Eds.), The City and the Railway in the World 19th to 21st Centuries. Taylor & Francis.
Vancouver
1.
Weber D. The Birth of a Commuter Society: Workingmen’s Trains in Belgium, 1870-1914. In: Roth R, Van Heesvelde P, editors. The City and the Railway in the World 19th to 21st Centuries. Taylor & Francis; 2018.
MLA
Weber, Donald. “The Birth of a Commuter Society: Workingmen’s Trains in Belgium, 1870-1914.” The City and the Railway in the World 19th to 21st Centuries. Ed. Ralf Roth & Paul Van Heesvelde. Taylor & Francis, 2018. Print.
@incollection{8123247,
  abstract     = {In 1870 the so-called workingmen{\textquoteright}s trains made their appearance on the Belgian railway network, special trains that ran in the morning and in the evening and that took thousands of labourers from the countryside to the factories in the big cities. For very little money a worker could buy a weekly pass for such trains, and bring high industry wages home to his family without having to move to the depraved cities. Around 1900 one out of five Belgian industrial workers was using the workers pass.
With state support the whole country was thus reshaped into one large labour market. But there was an unexpected ricochet: the unskilled worker from the countryside took a deep breath of city air, got to know how train stations and suburbs worked, cashed in on industry wages, and listened to socialist propaganda on the way back home. What had been started as a measure to protect and preserve a rural lifestyle, over time led to the emergence of another kind of lifestyle: the modern-day middle-class commuter in his or her suburbian kitchen garden.},
  author       = {Weber, Donald},
  booktitle    = {The City and the Railway in the World 19th to 21st Centuries},
  editor       = {Roth, Ralf and Van Heesvelde, Paul},
  isbn         = {1472449614},
  keyword      = {history social mobility train railway commuter workingmen},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {Taylor \& Francis},
  series       = {Modern Economic and Social History Series},
  title        = {The Birth of a Commuter Society: Workingmen's Trains in Belgium, 1870-1914},
  year         = {2018},
}