Abraham Lincoln, prior to being elected president and at the time working as a railway lawyer, met future Civil War hero General Grenville Dodge, in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1859. According to historian Stephen Ambrose, Lincoln's first words were "Dodge, what's the best route for a Pacific railroad to the West?" Lincoln went on to become president, with the building of the transcontinental railroad second to the abolition of slavery on his agenda. Dodge became the chief engineer of Union Pacific, one of the two railway companies (the other being Central Pacific) to create a railroad that spanned 2,000 miles of American soil. In addition to its being one of the most remarkable feats of engineering in the nineteenth century, the railroad represented massive economic risks for the investors of this extraordinary project, and imminent danger for its laborers. UP and CP were pitted against each other in a Congress-mandated race whose winner received the greater share of land and government bonds, while immigrants from China and Ireland, as well as ex-soldiers from both the Union and the Confederacy, toiled under backbreaking working conditions.
Stephen Ambrose records the history of this incredible project, with attention to both the financial and bureaucratic wheeling and dealings, as well as the blood, sweat, and frequently enough lives lost by the men who laid the tracks. Renowned for his masculine prose and his skill at weaving firsthand accounts into compelling narrative, Ambrose presents an assured and well researched record of this milestone in American history. Kate, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
andlt;iandgt;Nothing Like It in the Worldandlt;/iandgt; gives the account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroadand#8212;the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;The U.S. government pitted two companiesand#8212;the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroadsand#8212;against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West or lugged across the country to the Plains. In Ambrose's hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle, and sweat, comes vibrantly to life.
"To critics who charge that the railroad magnates were corrupt and grew obscenely rich and powerful through land grants and government bonds, Ambrose replies that the land grants never brought in enough money to pay the bills and, further, that the bonds were loans, fully paid back with huge interest payments. But this argument fails to convince, partly because Ambrose does a superlative job of re-creating the grim conditions in which the tracks were laid." Publishers Weekly
"Relying on newspaper reportage, he presents the project through the eyes of the men working for the Union Pacific and Central Pacific and marvels at the blasting, gouging, grading, hauling, and more that transpire as the rival railroads punched through mountains, straddled gorges, and strode across the Plains in the race to link the continent....his hands every sledgehammer blow hits hard and every blast echoes." Library Journal
"This muscular yet flowing telling of the railroad's physical construction, will be a sure winner with the author's legions of readers." Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"It is when the human drama of the actual construction of the railroad begins that Ambrose's narrative picks up speed. Although not many first hand accounts exist from railroad workers, what material he does have is woven skillfully into the whole to create a picture of various ethnic groups working together (and frequently warring with each other as well).A master historian and writer takes on another pivotal epoch in American history." Kirkus Reviews
Henry Kisor andlt;Iandgt;The New York Times Book Reviewandlt;/Iandgt; Richly readable...[Stephen Ambrose] bears the reader on shoulders of wonder and excitement.
Climb aboard...this lively tale, a colorful, edifying story of U.S. history....Ambrose is the bard of American accomplishment.
This magnificent tale of high finance, low finagling, and workers hacking through 2,000 miles is magnificently told.
Stephen Ambrose has done it again....Ambrose should be read as much for his muscular prose and talent to get at the heart of the matter as for his research.
Richly readable...[Stephen Ambrose] bears the reader on shoulders of wonder and excitement.
About the Author
Dr. Stephen Ambrose
was a renowned historian and acclaimed author of more than 30 books. Among his New York Times
best-sellers are: Nothing Like It in the World, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, D-Day - June 6, 1944,
and Undaunted Courage
He was not only a great author, but also a captivating speaker, with the unique ability to provide insight into the future by employing his profound knowledge of the past. His stories demonstrate how leaders use trust, friendship and shared experiences to work together and thrive during conflict and change. His philosophy about keeping an audience engaged is put best in his own words:
As I sit at my computer, or stand at the podium, I think of myself as sitting around the campfire after a day on the trail, telling stories that I hope will have the members of the audience, or the readers, leaning forward just a bit, wanting to know what happens next.
Dr. Ambrose was a retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans. He was the Director Emeritus of the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans, and the founder of the National D-Day Museum. He was also a contributing editor for the Quarterly Journal of Military History, a member of the board of directors for American Rivers, and a member of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council Board.
His talents have not gone unnoticed by the film industry. Dr. Ambrose was the historical consultant for Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks purchased the film rights to his books Citizen Soldiers and Band of Brothers to make the 13-hour HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.
He has also participated in numerous national television programs, including ones for the History Channel and National Geographic.
Table of Contents
andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Bandgt;Contentsandlt;/Bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Introductionandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;ONE Picking the Route 1830-1860andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;TWO Getting to California 1848-1859andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;THREE The Birth of the Central Pacific 1860-1862andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;FOUR The Birth of the Union Pacific 1862-1864andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;FIVE Judah and the Elephant 1862-1864andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;SIX Laying Out the Union Pacific Line 1864-1865andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;SEVEN The Central Pacific Attacks the Sierra Nevada 1865andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;EIGHT The Union Pacific Across Nebraska 1866andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;NINE The Central Pacific Assaults the Sierra 1866andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;TEN The Union Pacific to the Rocky Mountains 1867andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;ELEVEN The Central Pacific Penetrates the Summit 1867andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;TWELVE The Union Pacific Across Wyoming 1868andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;THIRTEEN Brigham Young and the MormonsMake the Grade 1868andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;FOURTEEN The Central Pacific Goes Through Nevada 1868andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;FIFTEEN The Railroads Race into Utah January 1-April 10, 1869andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;SIXTEEN To the Summit April 11-May 7, 1869andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;SEVENTEEN Done May 8-10, 1869andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Epilogueandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Notesandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Bibliographyandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Indexandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Mapsandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;From Chicago to Omahaandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Nebraskaandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Wyomingandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Nevadaandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Utahandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Californiaandlt;/Iandgt;