THE RAILWAY BARONS by David Mountfield


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An undemanding, unexciting account of the ""business"" of early British and American railroads. Englishman David Mountfield begins with a quick review of the Industrial Revolution--factory towns and child labor--which led to improved transportation. After stage-coaches and canals came a railway mania, temporarily halted by the 1837 recession, but renewed thereafter. British ""Barons"" include George Hudson, whose success with the York and North Midland Railway made him Lord Mayor of York and later an M.P. until stock fraud ruined him; and contractor Thomas Brassey who built railways all over Europe, Asia, Latin America, the U.S., and Canada. Mountfield then crosses the Atlantic, takes a light look at American history--like the ""purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon""--and depicts railroad-building here. For example, backers of the LaCrosse and Milwaukee Road spent nearly $1 million bribing local politicians in the 1850s. Mountfield centers on the Erie (Daniel Drew, Jay Gould, and Jim Fisk) trying to stave off Cornelius Vanderbilt's New York Central; James Hill, whose St. Paul and Pacific became the Great Northern; and Harriman and Morgan who joined Hill in the transcontinental jousting. The emphasis is on stock manipulation and other ledger problems, not on the ""Barons"" themselves, and none of this will be news to railway-history buffs; but it could provide a factual grounding--leavened with period illustrations--for interested history students.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1980
Publisher: Norton