Iron Rails, Iron Men
"The reporter could only stare in wonder at the scene before
him. Here, on the vast American prairie, hundreds of workmen, with
nothing but miles of grassland in front of them, were laying tracks.
But it was not just the task; it was the way they were doing it, as he
would later state, that filled him with 'amusement, curiosity,' and
above all else, 'profound respect.'"
These days (at least in America) a lot of people think of
railroads as kind of passé. We do have planes. We've even put people
on the moon. It's hard to imagine what a long shot and test of
engineering skills building a transcontinental railroad seemed like
back in the day when going west involved a lengthy and hazerdous trek
by stagecoach. Martin W. Sandler's Iron Rails, Iron Men, And The Race
To Link The Nation: The Story of The Transcontinental Railroad,
richly illustrated with period photographs, is like a time travel back
to those days.
We're going back to a time when it took six months to cross the
USA because over 2/3 of its terrain was only traversed by covered
wagons and horses. A railroad had been suggested as early as 1932.
When this idea was pitched to Congress about ten years later many
office holders claimed such a task to be impossible while others
stated they'd have no part of it unless their states had a piece of
the action. (Sound familiar?)
What caused government to change its collective mind? The same
thing that works today: the prospect of big money. The gold rush
happened in California. Perhaps a railroad would enable the
government to get a piece of the action.
Finally in 1862 President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway
Act. The Central Pacific Railroad and the newly formed Union Pacific
Railroad Company would start at opposite ends of the proposed route
and work toward one another. In addition to money they were able to
gain large amounts of land they could sell to settlers. In doing
this, Lincoln set the stage for a collosal rivalry.
Iron Rails, Iron Men tells this saga in an intimate, detailed
fashion. Switching between the two companies, it tells of the
challenges they faced and the ways in which they met them. Colorful
sidebars give the life histories of some of the most important people
in this narrative.
Fortunately the darker side of this progress is also revealed.
Dangerous working claimed many lives. Racial prejudice was alive and
well. And acts such as the widespread slaughter of the buffalo had a
devastating effect on our nation's original inhabitants.
"The coming of the railroad would leave the world of the West
forever changed. It would bring more and more European-American
settlers to the plains, resulting in forced removals, bloodshed, legal
battles, and, ultimately, the destruction of the Plains Indians' way
I'd say this fine book is a must acquire for all school and
On a personal note, my Mothers Day gift from Amber and Brian was a
crafting day at their home. I made two necklaces and worked on a
cross stitch piece while Amber crafted decorations for her upcoming
birthday party. We all had taco soup and homemade bread toast for
lunch. That was for sure quality time.
A great big shout out goes out to Amber and Brian.
Sent from my iPod