The Great Iron Trail

27 January 2010

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.

The homepage of my American history site (27 books, 13,000 pages of print, 600 images in 1700+ webpages) is here.

Confederate Railroads

7 January 2010

One more addition to American railroad history, in the same journal issue as the previous item, and the pendant to it: The Confederate Government and the Railroads, April, 1861. The South had less to start with, and the more libertarian and states’ rights approach by the central government made matters worse; it didn’t stand a chance.

The paper, by the way, is by Charles Ramsdell, who by the time of his death would become the dean of Southern historians.

The homepage of my American history site (26 books, 12,000 pages of print, 600 images in 800+ webpages) is here.

Epic of the Overland

26 November 2009

Not the book I promised a coupla posts ago, but another railroad item just the same: Robert Lardin Fulton’s Epic of the Overland, a short account of the human side of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, by a man who worked on it; there are a couple of hilarious stories in it, as well as some rather somber stories of hangings and scalpings, and then those poor itchy buffaloes: it’s a good read, and includes a detailed map of the line from Omaha to San Francisco. [In sum, to use a railroad image, I got sidetracked. The (much longer, more technical) book I promised otter be finished in a day or two; a few images remain to be scanned.]

The homepage of my American history site (26 books, 12,000 pages of print, 600 images in 800+ webpages) is here.

American railroad history

1 November 2009

One of the most important and characteristic aspects of American history is how we managed to expand so fast over an entire continent, and a key element in that expansion was the building of America’s railroads. One would think therefore that the story of the railroads’ rôle in that expansion would be well represented online, but it isn’t really — so I intend to do my six bits’ worth in filling up that gap. Today’s item, maybe I didn’t choose so well, since it’s already online in three or four other places; but the book was so short that it took me less than 4 days to input it and proofread it, and then I include the maps, which the other sites out there kissed off, or at least those that I looked at. More on American railroad history is on its way, including of course, now that I’ve done my research a bit better, stuff not online anywhere. For now, though: John Moody’s The Railroad Builders.

The homepage of my American history site (25 books, 12,000 pages of print, 600 images in 800+ webpages) is here.