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The Great Railway Revolution: The Epic Story of the American Railroad

The Great Railway Revolution: The Epic Story of the American Railroad [Kindle Edition]

Christian Wolmar
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

In the 1830s, The United States underwent a second revolution. The opening of the Baltimore & Ohio line, the first American railroad, set in motion a process which, by the end of the century, would enmesh the vast country in a latticework of railroad lines, small-town stations and magisterial termini, built and controlled the biggest corporations in America.

By the middle of the twentieth century, however, as the automobile and the aeroplane came to dominate American journey-making, the historic importance of the railroads began to be erased from America's hearts and minds. In The Great Railway Revolution, Christian Wolmar tells us the extraordinary one-hundred-and-eighty-year story of the rise, fall and ultimate shattering of the greatest of all American endeavours, of technological triumph and human tragedy, of visionary pioneers and venal and rapacious railway barons. He also argues that while America has largely disowned this heritage, now is the time to celebrate, reclaim and reinstate it.

The growth of the US railroads was much more than just a revolution in mode, speed and convenience. They united the far-flung components of a vast and disparate country and supercharged the economic development that fuelled its rise to world-power status. America was created by its railroads and the massive expansion of trade, industry and freedom of communication that they engendered came to be an integral part of the American dream itself.

About the Author

Christian Wolmar is Britain's foremost writer and broadcaster on transport matters. He writes regularly for a wide variety of publications including the Independent, Evening Standard and Rail magazine, and appears frequently on TV and radio as a commentator. His previous books include the widely-acclaimed The Subterranean Railway, Fire and Steam, Blood, Iron and Gold and Engines of War.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2308 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (10 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A25OJVE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #40,163 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster, principally on transport matters. He writes regularly for a wide variety of publications including the Independent, Evening Standard and Rail magazine, and appears frequently on TV and radio as a commentator. His previous books include the widely-acclaimed The Subterranean Railway, a history of the London underground and Fire and Steam, a history of how the railways transformed Britain.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excelent history 14 May 2012
By monimbo
Christian Wolmar is an expert on the railways but is also, first and foremost, a very good writer, who is able to bend what might be dry and technical material into an entertaining narrative, in which the technicalities are subservient to the story, and history is enlivened with many vignettes and anecdotes.

This is the case with his previous railway history books, but in his latest he has excelled himself. The book is a compelling read, offering as it does a whole series of insights into two hundred years or so of United States' history, both economic and social. The close links between America and Britain were no closer than in the development of the railways in both countries, and he shows what these links meant but also contrasts the differences in how two major transport systems developed. He shows how in many respects the railways made the two countries into what they were, at least until the time of the railway heyday on both sides of the Atlantic. He also entertainingly shows how differences between the two systems (especially in the treatment of passengers) were emblematic of the two diverging cultures.

In contrast to Europe, the US railroads developed in an almost totally haphazard way, reflecting in part the reluctance of government to intervene but showing how judicious intervention might have benefitted everyone. To some extent this happened in the civil war, and Wolmar shows what a crucial role the railways played in it. His chapter on the scandals and achievements of the first transcontinental railway is also particularly entertaining.

To enjoy this book you don't need to be a railway buff although they, of course, will enjoy it too.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Railway Dream 15 Nov 2012
Christian Wolmar's latest railway book is the best yet. The complex story of the creation, development and decline of the American national railway network is a vital but sad story. Wolmar's ability to cut through the chaff to find the seminal moments, quotations and documents that defined the magnitude and social impacts of the almost wholly-private railway system is engaging. The narrative has benefited from his journalistic style and incisiveness. Earlier books on the subject are, by comparison, just too detailed to provide the political and social trends that Wolmar has successfully perceived.
Who can imagine that the American railway network could have been un-ready for both world wars of the last century due to lack of government understanding of the system's legislative and financial needs and inter-state commercial restrictions? Who can imagine the present need to create another railway network for high-speed passenger trains where so many rights of way had existed between the larger cities, albeit unfenced?
Wolmar has provided useful comparisons between American and UK/European railway networks so that the sheer scale of the American system can be appreciated.
He provides a series of interesting digressions like his description of the demise of the inter-urban street-car lines exemplifying, as it did, the struggle between the growth of motor traffic and the use of railways and a cameo appearance of Robert Louis Stevenson travelling on the Transcontinental.
I hope that Wolmar will, in the future, provide an analysis of the Chinese Railway network.
This has been a great read and should be part of any serious railway library.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, well-written book 11 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a VERY readable history of railways in the USA. The author also devotes a substantial amount of space to the social and historical background. Of particular interest to this reviewer was the detailed description of the damage inflicted on the railways by government regulators on one hand, and by the trade unions on the other.

The book is clearly aimed at the British reader, with numerous comparisons between the ways things were done in the UK and the USA. References to developments in other European countries are also provided. To the reviewer's regret technical details of steam engines, signalling &c are not covered in this book.

All in all, it's a thoroughly enjoyable, well-written and educational book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all aboard! 9 April 2013
A couple of years ago I enjoyed the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad museum: lots to see including a monstrous `Allegheny' 2-6-6-6. Knowing nothing about US railroad history I tried a big bookstore hoping to find a Christian Wolmar-type volume on the subject. That means coverage of the politics, economics, business, civil engineering and historical context - and not much O S Nock-ish minutiae about superheater tubes and suchlike. Nothing doing but soon afterwards exactly what I needed appeared as `The Great Railway Revolution'. The subject must be vast, but Wolmar selects and paces the story to give an enjoyable and right-length read. Endnotes and a bibliography make the book feel rigorous without being too scholarly. Recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
As a renowned international railway historian, Wolmar chronicles how the American railway system followed - and diverged from - its European counterparts. He illustrates how events such as the Civil War, the exploitation of the west and the depressions and reconstruction programmes influenced, and were influenced by, the expanding rail network, and how the phenomenal growth of air and road traffic since the mid twentieth century nearly killed it. Wolmar concludes that the USA can never sustain an European style national rail network, and that the future of the American rail system will concentrate on freight and on suburban and shorter inter-city passenger journeys.

The text is well written, although it could have been better illustrated with more and better maps.

This is a worthwhile read, not only for railway enthusiasts, but anyone interested in the social and political history of the USA.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars 'I can hear the trains go by'
Wolmar is one of those historians who can take a big complex subject and summarize it well and make an entertaining read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bownham
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating
Great history and made sense of all that stuff about robber barons. As well as debunking a lot of things you vaguely believed.
Published 4 months ago by Chris Rust
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent title from the master
Absorbing, warmly written and highly informative as we can always expect from the master of railway books. Covers entire history of America's railroads and their key players. Read more
Published 4 months ago by C. Bale
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going at times.
Having read a couple of Christian Wolmar's books I have come to the conclusion he isn't really a particularly good writer. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Loz
5.0 out of 5 stars A potted history of America.
A great way to understand America form 1800 on, unraveled the mystery of the civil war and put American railways into context- including the emergence of Amtrac. Read more
Published 5 months ago by phil clement
4.0 out of 5 stars Decently-written, decent account of one of the great American epics
This is a comprehensive, long but not languid history of the railways in America: the triumphs of nineteenth-century capital and the nervous system that spread along the first... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. T. O. Womack
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear and concise story
Like his story of the British love to hate relationship with the railroads, Christian Wolmar paints a clear picture of the importance of the railroads in the development of the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Steve_Morris
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Railways.
A very comprehensive and well written book. Full of facts relating to several of the early lines. Very interesting indeed.
Published 6 months ago by Dormouse210
5.0 out of 5 stars epic story
Excellent and itleresting tale of the American railroads from the beginning up to date. Well written and long but gripping.
Published 6 months ago by clayderman
5.0 out of 5 stars Bands of steel that brought USA together
If you want an in site into how the States evolved, look no further. From big business and its influence on trade, government and misuse of power, it is all here. Read more
Published 7 months ago by George Lazur
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