Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE GREAT IRON LINK by Rosemary Laughlin


The Building of the Central Pacific Railroad

by Rosemary Laughlin

Pub Date: July 15th, 1996
ISBN: 1-883846-14-5

In this entry in the Great Projects series, Laughlin (Trouble on the Shoshone, 1989, not reviewed) takes a fairly negative view of the railroad business and provides disjointed, unpolished biographies of the five men who joined forces to build the western section of the first transcontinental railroad. The book begins with a brief portrait of each man, then moves on to the specifics of the building of the Central Pacific Railroad: how the route was chosen, how Chinese laborers were chosen, how ten miles of track were laid in one day to win a $10,000 bet. Once the railroad was built, the founders eliminated all competitors, charged users ``all the traffic would bear,'' and paid off politicians to keep the railroad's monopoly status. This presentation never captures the tremendous engineering accomplishments, the spirit of the Old West, or the perseverance required for this project. Instead, offer readers Rhoda Blumberg's Full Steam Ahead (p. 742) and Leonard Everett Fisher's Tracks Across America (1992). (maps, b&w photos and reproductions, notes, chronology, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12+)