THE RAILROADS by Leonard Everett Fisher


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This begins more auspiciously than The Factories (above) with the building of the first, contested railroad bridge across the Mississippi; rings in Abraham Lincoln as its defender in court; and then switches to the transcontinental railroad scheme itself--which the Civil War both fostered (by creating an immediate need, the movement of troops) and facilitated (by removing southern opposition to a northern route) and in which Lincoln also had a hand. This is familiar stuff, of course, and so--on a less elevated, less instructive level--are the topics that turn up thereafter: Little Big Horn and the need to control the railroad route; Buffalo Bill and the need to feed railroad-construction workers; Bat Masterson and the feuding between railroad lines; the James brothers and the lure of ""railroad riches."" From the desperadoes and dangers we shift abruptly to a reprise of steam mechanics and assorted incidentals--like railway manners and mores, the maneuvers of railway moguls, and so on; but without a coherent point of view, without the order and specificity that earlier books have exhibited, this is a pastiche at least half of which is hot air. ""Were it not for the mechanical ingenuity of the industrial nineteenth century American,"" Fisher writes typically, ""no amount of financial wizardry and manipulation could have produced that wonder of wonders, the Iron Horse, the fire-breathing, earth-shaking, monster builder of an 'empire and an epic' that took America where she wanted to go most of all--West!

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1979
Publisher: Holiday House