The naturalisation of nineteenth-century German Railways as depicted in visual discourse

Zef Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the dramatic effect of the railway age on the natural surroundings, it was not seen necessarily as destructive to nature. Railways were both the epitome of progress as well as integral features in pastoral landscapes. This seemingly paradoxical perception of railways is partially explained by historicising the “naturalisation” of the German train system. This article describes the rapid transformation of the German train from a symbol of dynamic industrialisation to an integral part of the landscape. Visual images, such as lithographs and postcards, were the catalysts in this process. Railway companies, local elites and travel guide publishers promoted the process of “naturalisation” for economic reasons, but the iconography was a result of visual discourse in nineteenth-century German culture. This paper shows that unlike American, British and French depictions of railways, German artists portrayed a railway system, which rather than conquering nature, was blending peacefully into an existing natural landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-255
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Transport History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Railway history
  • landscape art
  • nature
  • nineteenth century
  • postcards


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