Death Rode the Rails: American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828-1965

Overview

For most of the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, railroads dominated American transportation. They transformed life and captured the imagination. Yet by 1907 railroads had also become the largest cause of violent death in the country, that year claiming the lives of nearly twelve thousand passengers, workers, and others. In Death Rode the Rails Mark Aldrich explores the evolution of railroad safety in the United States by examining a variety of incidents: spectacular train wrecks, smaller accidents...

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Death Rode the Rails: American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828-1965

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Overview

For most of the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, railroads dominated American transportation. They transformed life and captured the imagination. Yet by 1907 railroads had also become the largest cause of violent death in the country, that year claiming the lives of nearly twelve thousand passengers, workers, and others. In Death Rode the Rails Mark Aldrich explores the evolution of railroad safety in the United States by examining a variety of incidents: spectacular train wrecks, smaller accidents in shops and yards that devastated the lives of workers and their families, and the deaths of thousands of women and children killed while walking on or crossing the street-grade tracks.

A fascinating account of one of America's most important industries and its dangers, Death Rode the Rails will appeal to scholars of economics and the history of transportation, technology, labor, regulation, safety, and business, as well as to railroad enthusiasts.

"A masterful study of the complex evolution of railroad safety."— American Historical Review

"Students of rail safety, and today's Class I railroad managers, need to read this volume."— Trains

"Aldrich has created a masterpiece. His research is extensive, drawing on a rich variety of obscure yet relevant sources."— Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"One of the first large-scale scholarly studies of railroad safety in America... I recommend this book without qualifications."— Railroad History

"A thought-provoking and well-grounded contribution to the history of American economic development."— Journal of American History

"Pioneering... A central message of Aldrich's book is that 'little accidents' played a crucial though until now largely hidden role in the gradual evolution of a risk society."— Technology and Culture

"A work of merit... essential reading for historians of transport safety, business, and technology."— Journal of Transport History

"Impressive and thoroughly researched... Demonstrates how railroad safety evolved from the intersection of market pressures, technology, and public sentiment."— Journal of Southern History

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Scitech Book News
A well-made book such as this one stands out as a rare exception.
Scale Rails
A fascinating account of one of America's most important industries and its dangers.
Trains - Ray Weart
Students of rail safety, and today's Class I railroad managers, need to read this volume.
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society - H. Roger Grant
Aldrich has created a masterpiece. His research is extensive, drawing on a rich variety of obscure yet relevant sources.
History: Reviews of New Books - Jack W. Traylor
Aldrich... has done an excellent and thorough job of explaining and analyzing the evolution of rail safety over nearly two hundred years.
Railroad History - Imre E. Quastler
One of the first large-scale scholarly studies of railroad safety in America... I recommend this book without qualifications.
Enterprise and Society - Russell D. Jones
An excellent narrative of the evolution of public and industry focus on industrial safety.
Business History Review - Marc J. Stern
Important new book... A significant contribution to the study of both industrial safety and consumer safety as exemplified by one of the most important industries in our nation's history.
Journal of American History - James L. Hunt
A thought-provoking and well-grounded contribution to the history of American economic development.
Technology and Culture - Bill Luckin
Pioneering... A central message of Aldrich's book is that 'little accidents' played a crucial though until now largely hidden role in the gradual evolution of a risk society.
Journal of Transport History - Mike Esbester
A work of merit... Essential reading for historians of transport safety, business, and technology.
Journal of Southern History - James B. McSwain
Impressive and thoroughly researched... Demonstrates how railroad safety evolved from the intersection of market pressures, technology, and public sentiment.
Annals of Iowa - John Williams-Searle
Aldrich has written the field-defining work on railroad safety... An important corrective to the simplistic notion that railroad companies wanted nothing to do with safety before the era of federal regulation.
American Historical Review - James W. Ely
A masterful study of the complex evolution of railroad safety.
Scitech Book News

A well-made book such as this one stands out as a rare exception.

James W. Ely

A masterful study of the complex evolution of railroad safety.

H. Roger Grant

Aldrich has created a masterpiece. His research is extensive, drawing on a rich variety of obscure yet relevant sources.

Scale Rails

A fascinating account of one of America's most important industries and its dangers.

James B. McSwain

Impressive and thoroughly researched... Demonstrates how railroad safety evolved from the intersection of market pressures, technology, and public sentiment.

Ray Weart

Students of rail safety, and today's Class I railroad managers, need to read this volume.

Jack W. Traylor

Aldrich... has done an excellent and thorough job of explaining and analyzing the evolution of rail safety over nearly two hundred years.

Imre E. Quastler

One of the first large-scale scholarly studies of railroad safety in America... I recommend this book without qualifications.

Russell D. Jones

An excellent narrative of the evolution of public and industry focus on industrial safety.

Marc J. Stern

Important new book... A significant contribution to the study of both industrial safety and consumer safety as exemplified by one of the most important industries in our nation's history.

James L. Hunt

A thought-provoking and well-grounded contribution to the history of American economic development.

Bill Luckin

Pioneering... A central message of Aldrich's book is that 'little accidents' played a crucial though until now largely hidden role in the gradual evolution of a risk society.

Mike Esbester

A work of merit... Essential reading for historians of transport safety, business, and technology.

John Williams-Searle

Aldrich has written the field-defining work on railroad safety... An important corrective to the simplistic notion that railroad companies wanted nothing to do with safety before the era of federal regulation.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801894022
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 1,001,672
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Aldrich is the Marilyn Carlson Nelson Professor of Economics Emeritus at Smith College and the author of Safety First: Technology, Labor, and Business in the Building of American Work Safety, 1870–1939, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

1 In the beginning : American railroad dangers and safety, 1828-1873 10
2 Off the tracks : the changing pattern of derailments, 1873-1900 42
3 Collisions and the rise of regulation, 1873-1900 70
4 The major risks from minor accidents, 1873-1900 97
5 Engineering success and disaster : bridge design and failure, 1840-1900 130
6 Coping with the casualties : companies, workers, and injuries, 1850-1900 155
7 Safety crisis and safety first, 1900-1920 181
8 Lobbying for regulation : transporting hazardous substances, 1903-1930 216
9 Private enterprise and public regulation : safety between the wars, 1922-1939 237
10 Safety in war and decline, 1940-1965 271
Conclusion : the political economy of railroad safety, 1830-1965 303
App. 1 Nineteenth-century railroad accident and casualty statistics 309
App. 2 Casualties and accidents from Interstate Commerce Commission statistics, 1888-1965 321
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