A more substantial addition this time to American railroad history: Robert West Howard’s The Great Iron Trail. The book is about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. It’s atrociously written, as I point out on my orientation page (and I’m not the first to do so); but it’s a book of solid worth nevertheless, not so much for its detailing of the technical aspects of that great American enterprise, but mostly because it seats its subject firmly in the wider context of American history, paying attention not only to the nuts and bolts and the financial shenanigans of the principals, but to the economic, political and cultural currents of the time.
California has by now become firmly celebrated for its car chases: some nut or hoodlum at one end, the local authorities at the other; the latter winning out, almost always. Hollywood knows we like car chases. Today’s item, The Itata Incident, is a celebrated boat chase of 1891, with an arms-laden boat — two of them actually — and as chases go, it was a long one, of several thousand miles down the west coast of the Americas. We nearly went to war with Chile over it. (I wonder why it hasn’t been made into a movie; or, more seriously, there are many points in common with marine chases today that could have grave consequences to our national security.)