The Roots of Progress

Nothing Like It In the World

The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869

Stephen E. Ambrose

A history of the transcontinental railroad, built in the US in the 1860s. Two private companies built the road, one from Sacramento building east, and one from Omaha building west; they met in the middle near the Great Salt Lake, Utah.

I enjoyed this book, although like many history books I found it to have too much needless detail, while simultaneously omitting many details I thought would be interesting. In particular, I was left wondering about the surveyors: how they did their jobs, what tools and methods they used, what output they produced. I did, however, learn about the basic methods of railroad construction (grading, fills and cuts, etc.), and something about how they built the tunnels (short answer: lots of dynamite). There were also interesting details about how and why a large number of Chinese workers immigrated to work on the railroad.

Recommended for the serious student of industrial history.

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