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Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow
by Dee Brown
The heroes in this extraordinary epic are the Irish labourers and Chinese coolies; the villains, the avaricious bankers and the corrupt politicians. Before the undertaking was complete, more than 155 million acres of land had been given away to railway magnates, the Indian tribes had been massacred and the buffalo driven from the Great Plains, millions of settlers had been ...more
Published August 1st 2002 by Vintage
(first published 1977)
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I stumbled upon this book a few weeks ago in the basement of a used bookstore, and was excited to see something else by Dee Brown (Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.) And though I would have like Brown to be a little more caustic at times, he does a really thorough job of explaining the trans-continental railroad with an analysis that covers the major categories I wanted it to: railroads as a main form of controlling, devastating and modernizing the west; Indian resistance to railroads; the robber b ...more
In a striking case of honesty, the back cover text tells us most of what we would need to know about the book’s approach. It reads: “In February 1854 the first railroad from the East reached the Mississippi. By the end of the nineteenth century, five major transcontinental railroads linked the East Coast with the Pacific Ocean, and thousands of miles of tracks crisscrossed the West, a vast and virginal land just a few years before. The building of America’s transcontinental railroads is a story ...more
Great history of the crossing of the American West by railroad builders, either a great triumph for the industrial world or a great tragedy for the natural world. Brown judges it as neither, merely telling the story with all its literal and figurative twists and turns.
While this non-fiction tale of the early railroads in the west was dry at times, I found it a fascinating read. I especially enjoyed how the author wove politics and western expansion into the story. It was a bit dated (my copy was from 1979), yet reminded me of the Koch brothers of today. I would have appreciated more insight into how the railroads fared during the 20th century when autos and airplanes took over, as well as the realities of the lasting impacts in contemporary times (especially ...more
Feb 19, 2012 Jason Mills rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who still trusts governments and corporations...
It's the 1860s and the West is just opening up: there are gold-digging settlements in California, the odd ranching town, but essentially the huge sweep of the mid-West remains home "only" to Native Americans and buffalo. Control and settlement of this vast country urgently requires infrastructure, to enable faster, safer and higher-volume transport than can be achieved by wagon train or long shipping routes. The land is ripe for the picking when the railroad men step in, hastily throwing down th ...more
I read this book because I am now in Kansas and we have railroad routes all over the state. We have tracks and we are on the delivery route of many things. When first founded we were a stopping point for cattle going to Dodge City. In Dodge City they get the cattle and have a lot of rail tracks there.
A good history, as long as one is prepared for the author's political/social views sometimes obscuring the narrative (and I share these views almost completely, but it was still a lot). A revisionist story, but at a time when that was even more necessary than it is now. Plus, what else would one read for a short one-volume history of the American railroads? Stephen Ambrose? Please. GTFO with that mess.
Oct 20, 2010 David R. rated it liked it · review of another edition
Like an underpowered locomotive, it started strong and then ground to a halt. The opening chapters pertinent to the laying down of the western railways are solid, workmanlike, and riveting. The last three are a dismal screed with minimal attention to detail.
This book chonicles not only the Trancontinental Railroad building but also various other railroading efforts and has touches of what travel was like on these lines for both the wealthy and the poor. Interesting and fun history that sometimes takes you right there.
Some books by their very name create an aura that, when read, is completely dispelled to reveal a new reality. This book reveals how U.S. politics and business was created. All we need now is volume two revealing where all the politics an business went.
Dorris Alexander “Dee” Brown (1908–2002) was a celebrated author of both fiction and nonfiction, whose classic study Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is widely credited with exposing the systematic destruction of American Indian tribes to a world audience. Brown was born in Louisiana and grew up in Arkansas. He worked as a reporter and a printer before enrolling at Arkansas State Teachers College, wh ...moreMore about Dee Brown...