Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest TranscontinentalRailroad

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Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest TranscontinentalRailroad
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Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest TranscontinentalRailroad
Albi, Charles
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:17:04 AM] Home Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental RailroadRival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental RailroadSubmitted by nwharton on 11-3-2011 10:18 AMAuthor: Walter R. Borneman. Publishing: New York: Random House, 2010. Black and white photographs, index, bibliography, endnotes. xiii + 406 pages. 9" x 6". $28.00 hardcover. Reviewer: Charles Albi Innumerable books, both scholarly and popular, have been published about building the first transcontinental railroad. In recent years histories of the later routes also have been written, but one still had to read numerous volumes to understand the entire story of railroading. The Rival Rails is an account of railroad development in an entire region from the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast and from the Colorado Rockies south into northern Mexico. It focuses on the rivalry of three lines: the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, and Denver & Rio Grande during the years 1853 to 1909. It is a fascinating narrative of the intertwining political, geographic, economic, and engineering aspects of the competing interests. For example, Civil Warera politics could outweigh practical considerations in choosing a route with the most favorable grades and operating conditions. At the beginning, knowledge of the territory was so sparse that William Jackson Palmer once believed the Grand Canyon to be narrow enough at one place for a bridge. While Palmer, Collis P. Huntington, Jay and George Gould, and Edward H. Harriman are more well known, Thomas Scott and Thomas Nickerson of the Santa Fe were just as shrewd in staking out their empires. A quote on page 118 provides a sense of how these railroaders schemed,We must split Tom Scott wide open if we can and get rid of him, an associate reported to Huntington. He is the head and front at this time of all the devilment against the C.P. & S.P. He is today the most active and practical enemy we have in the world. Bornemans scholarship is impeccable, and he has a flair for words that makes his book a delight to read. His sense of history goes beyond the economic and political to include the huge challenges overcome by now-forgotten surveyors and engineers like William Raymond Morley and A. A. Robinson, as well as all the construction workers and operating crews. He provides reasonable accounts of such legendary personalities as Fred Harvey, Butch Cassidy, Death Valley Scotty, and Mary Jane Colter. His account of the fatal attempt to survey an improbable route through Glen and Grand Canyons for the impressively named Denver, Colorado Canyon & Pacific Railroad is better that any fictional adventure story. A chronology, cast of characters, list of railroad names, and several clear maps help the reader in following events. The photo selection is above average. It is the authors thesis that the Santa Fe route ultimately proved to be the best and fastest from Chicago to southern California. Perhaps this was foreseen in 1890 by one of its officials, who predicted at the time, EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanIn 1893, Colorado became the first state in the union to allow women the right to vote through popular election.


Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:17:04 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us when the population of Los Angeles was barely 50,000, that people will continue to come here until the whole country becomes one of the most densely populated sections of the United States (265). Borneman devotes a chapter to the superb passenger service Santa Fe maintained from the days of Fred Harvey through the era of the Super Chief and even into the first years of Amtrak. A footnote on page 382 demonstrates both the railroads attention to detail and the authors thorough research: most other ads in the Saturday Evening Post of December 17, 1949, were less than a full page in black and white. Santa Fes was full page and full color. The final chapter brings the story to the present day, with the Santa Fe, now part of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, in the forefront of the renaissance of North American freight railroads in the twenty-first century. One has only to spend a night at the beautifully restored (by an independent owner) Mary Colterdesigned La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, and to give up counting the endless parade of freight trains en route to and from Chicago and the port of Los Angeles. Little wonder that Warren Buffett bought the railroad in 2010. Reviewer Info: Charles Albi is a Colorado native who has spent a lifetime studying western history. He served as executive director of the Colorado Railroad Museum for twelve years and, until 2009, as editor of the museums Colorado Rail Annual He volunteers at Denver Public Librarys Western History Department. Add new comment