UNION PACIFIC: Birth of a Railroad, 1862-1893 by Maury Klein

UNION PACIFIC: Birth of a Railroad, 1862-1893

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A massive first volume of a projected two-volume history of the Union Pacific railroad, by the author of The Life and Legend of Jay Gould. Klein tackles a subject that has had few historians. (The railroad companies have typically been lost in the shadows of the great moguls who manipulated them.) Klein reverses this trend by focusing on the travails of the company. (One caveat: this history was funded by the Union Pacific Corporation. Consequently, although Klein tries to record warts and all, he tends to downplay the nefariousness of such episodes as the Credit Mobilier scandal.) At the time the concept of a transcontinental railroad was broached, the nation possessed only 229 miles of railroad track. ""To Americans, in the Age of Jackson, the dimensions and obstacles of the project were as awesome as those of landing on the moon would be to a later generation."" But, undaunted by engineering obstacles and ""hard, dangerous work in a wilderness filled with hostile Indians,"" the scions of the Union Pacific carried on. By sheer courage, persistence, and sometimes good luck, the company succeeded in driving the golden spike at Promontory Point only four years from the date of the laying of the first rail. The author takes the story through Jay Gould's leadership, that of the intellectual Charles Francis Adams, the return of Gould, and, then, finally, the company's low point, the receivership days of the 1890's. One awaits the second volume of a story that continues even to this day, as Union Pacific buys out other western railroads in consolidating its modem-day position of strength. On-track history, definitive in scope, of a great corporation.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday