The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America

The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America

by Christian Wolmar

Paperback(First Trade Paper Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610393478
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 10/08/2013
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 117,148
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster, specializing in transportation matters. He has written for major British newspapers for many years and has contributed to many other publications, including the New York Times and Newsday. His most recent books are Blood, Iron, and Gold and Engines of War.


Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations vii

Maps x

Introduction xix

1 The Railroads Win Out 1

2 A Passionate Affair 25

3 The Railroads Take Hold 51

4 The Battle Lines 89

5 Harnessing the Elephant 121

6 Railroads to Everywhere 159

7 Getting Better All the Time 181

8 The End of the Affair 215

9 All Kinds of Train 259

10 The Roots of Decline 293

11 A Narrow Escape 321

13 Renaissance without Passengers 341

Notes 362

A Note on Sources 379

Index 383

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Daily Telegraph (UK)
“This is the ninth book that Wolmar has written about trains of various kinds.  It is certainly among the best, incorporating, alongside some gripping and downright bizarre reports upon a century-long stretch of vastly improved transport and soaring economic growth… an account of the ‘sheer, almost unbelievable scale of corruption and graft’ from which brutal opportunists like Huntington, Stanford and Gould minted their undeserved millions... Enjoyably anecdotal.”

Sunday Times (UK)"(A) passionate and masterly history." The Guardian“Christian Wolmar is in love with railways. He writes constantly and passionately about them. He is their wisest, most detailed historian and a constant prophet of their rebirth. So America, from 1830 on, from a few, tentative miles of track to a quarter of a million miles only 80 years later, is a story that grips his imagination… the tangle of failure, frailty and faint-heartedness he unpicks here goes far beyond mere romance: it resonates and crosses borders of national experience; it tells us something vital about the nature of railways we still struggle to learn to this day… If you love the hum of the wheels and of history, then Christian Wolmar is your man.”

Camden  New Journal (London, UK) “In his new book, his ninth, a comprehensive, compulsive and compelling epic story of the American railroad, Christian Wolmar reveals how that revolution actually fuelled the nation’s rise to a world-status power with its new found ability to glue itself together into a cohesive economic force…. Wolmar’s magnificent saga tells graphically how it all happened, then collapsed as man’s love affair with trains transferred first to cars, then to airplanes and possibly next lock on to rockets into space….What is outstanding in his fascinating research is the detail, an encyclopedia of railway lore, myth and anecdote that could – and has – sustained many a film, TV series and novel.”

Publishers Weekly
“In a volume that will delight train buffs—and hopefully others—English historian and railway expert Wolmar… examines the rise and fall of railroads in America, with a detailed look at how they influenced and directed the growth of the country for more than a century. …The end result is a fascinating, even indispensable look at one of America’s essential historical components."

Kirkus Reviews
“Wolmar, it seems, has no purpose other than crafting a critical but admiring study of a triumph of engineering, and in this he has succeeded. A solid and, yes, concise look at the railroad’s past, with a rousing call at the end for a new and improved rail system to carry the nation forward.”

“Wolmar is clearly in love with his subject—it’s easy to imagine him as a sort of walking encyclopedia of railroad lore—and his enthusiasm for his material shines through on every page. He finds the decline and increasing irrelevance of the railroad—especially the passenger rails—a deeply saddening aspect of contemporary life, and he makes a convincing case that, in losing rail travel as a fundamental human experience, we’ve lost a hugely important part of ourselves and our history.”

Australian Financial Review
“Without the railroads, Wolmar contends, there would have been no United States. … The really interesting suggestion is that robber barons are a necessary evil, the drivers stoking the engine of American capitalism.”

Wall Street Journal“’The Great Railroad Revolution’ succeeds in showing how, ‘without the railroads, the United States would not have become the United States.’”

Christian Science Monitor“Readers… get to take a broad voyage through railroad vs. railroad battles (even including espionage), the Civil War (in which trains were crucial), and the ultimate decline of trains.”
Library Journal
“As he did for global railroad history in his Blood, Iron, and Gold, Wolmar masterfully condenses the history of American rail into a lively and lucid work that is highly recommended to all.”

Washington Independent Review of Books”Wolmar clearly wishes the railroads had remained more of a social, economic and transportation force in the United States. His fine book will likely make many feel the same way.”

The New Yorker“Wolmar’s sweeping history of railroads in America is rich in drama…He makes a good case that the rail system helped create not only America’s economy but its character.”

Oxford Times“Above it all is the pioneering vision that grips the reader. Wolmar is so passionate about his subject that one cannot help but be swept along. Certainly there was romance and great adventure, but this is also a story of danger as each section was laid across trestled bridge and wilderness.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“A highly readable history of an industry that helped make America great.”

Providence Journal by Edward Achorn“Nevertheless, the book — which captures the grand sweep of the railroads' story from the beginning — is hardly a screed against government intervention in railroads. To the contrary.”

Fredericksburg, VA Freelance-Star“As a concise history of American railroads…it’s an interesting trip.”

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The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
CENY More than 1 year ago
Fascinating and well-researched history of US railroads and their competition, and government responses to railroads. I have a niche interest in certain aspects of railroading, but this book is so expansive and so interesting that I've definitely expanded my knowledge base by reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An unbiased and very complete presentation of North American railroad history and technology with commentary as to their significance. Well written and the way other history books ought to be written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable reading about the history of railroads in the United States. The best railroad history book I've read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good read - not withstanding a few cheap shots several Republican officials
Anonymous More than 1 year ago