This is the story of the building of the Panama railroad, called the Yankee Strip, from 1849 to 1855. It took much longer, but this is the record of the incredible effort, payment in lives, battles against swamp, forest, disease and the rain season. Also, by the time the line was finished, the Yankee was the object of almost religious hatred by the Panamanians. And when it was done, it was a pretty existential railroad, forty-seven miles of quirkily disappearing tracks that cost $20,000 a mile annually to maintain in good repair. Not so oddly, the railway was an instrument of the States' manifest destiny, so that Easterners could go West without rounding Cape Horn. Biggest impetus to the project was the California gold rush in '49, to which the line offered the fastest route. Commercially, the line was fantastically meaningful, opening trade between Western South America and the Eastern States and the Western States with Eastern South America.... Sam Spiegel should buy this book for one of his Peter O'Toole epics; it is an extraordinarily fascinating, offbeat story.