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Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad
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Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  83 ratings  ·  15 reviews
From acclaimed historian Walter R. Borneman comes a dazzling account of the battle to build America’s transcontinental rail lines. Rival Rails is an action-packed epic of how an empire was born—and the remarkable men who made it happen.

After the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the rest of the country was up for grabs, and the race was on. The pri
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Random House (first published September 22nd 2010)
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Jim Gallen
“Rival Rails” tells the story of the intense corporate competition to knit the west together into a web of rails. Author Walter Borneman takes us on the ride from the political and engineering maneuvers to pick the most advantageous routes through the building challenges, the financial scandals, wartime disruptions and Twenty-first Century revivals. Readers race through the fabled names of the past: Colis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Jay Gould and Fred Harvey, Central Pacific, Union Pacific, ...more
Nicole Marble
There are people who say government should not interfere, should stay out of the way. Well, this book tells the story of how the U.S. government, taxpayers, surveyed various routes for railroads. And then gave land to railroad companies to compensate them for building those rail roads. Which is as clear an example of government creating wealth as ever was.
Kind of as an aside, does anyone know of any railroad histories that include women and minorities? I ask this because, as entertaining as this book was at times, it focused almost entirely on the men who ran things. And I'm even more interested in the boots-on-the-ground aspect of history.

As Borneman points out, though, most accounts of the history of railroad-building in the U.S. focus on the first big push to run a transcontinental railroad, and stop after that. The wheeling-and-dealing afterw
Sadly, Rival Rails was a disappointment. It's immaculately researched and well presented, but the pacing is anything but consistent, and the sheer amount of information is both enough to overwhelm you at first, and leave you wishing for more at the end. At first, you're overloaded with information, on different comany names, dates, their movers and shakers, and so on, and by the end entire decades seem to be skipped over in short order as though rushing to tell everything in. And how does he com ...more
Very comprehensive history of railroads and their role in the settlement of the southwestern US. I found it interesting as a resident of the region, in understanding how many of the cities and settlements in the region came to be. While railroad enthusiasts and people interested in the history of the southwest will probably be most interested in the book, it's also fascinating to see the disproportionate power wielded by the railroads in the 19th century, and how it shaped local and federal poli ...more
Adam Carman
A little dense with all the comings and doings of different railroads but some interesting facts about railroads' power--for instance, in the 1870s a whole town was moved because the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe had it on their map four miles from its actual location!! Train afficionados will find its detail about the first truly transcontinental railroad fascinating.
The maps are small and all too often the key part is hidng in the centre crease, and the photos have almost all been published elsewhere better. Still, I give this book full marks for readability and making a difficult subject entertaining and understandable. I am a hard core railway enthusiast but you don't need to be to enjoy this book.
As the cliche says: "I want the time back I spent on this...." Hackneyed, disjointed and pedantic to the degree you'd like to put your head down on the rail and wait for the Special, this turns a fascinating story into a pile of details and disconnections. Do you get the feeling I was disappointed?
This felt very inaccessible to someone who doesn't have the train obsession. Yes, trains are cool, but this seemed like something for someone who's truly obsessed with the subject. But I don't regret reading this because now, I'm completely fascinated by the story of Nellie Bly.
Chris Aylott
There are some interesting tidbits in this history of how the railroads of the West were won, but there are too many names and dates and not enough economics, scenery, or personality. Not bad, but just okay.
There was so much detail, I would often get lost in what railroad owned what or was going where. I needed to have paid more attention.
David Nusinow
I'm not really a railroad person, and I think someone who's more into their history would have enjoyed this book more.
Terrific well-documented stories with very helpful maps. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
A little dry at times, but overall a solid history book.
Really, really enjoyed.
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Walter R. Borneman, b.1952, an American historian and lawyer, is the author of well-known popular books on 18th and 19th century United States history. He received his B.A. in 1974 from Western State College of Colorado, and received an M.A. in history there in 1975 for a thesis on "Irwin : silver camp of the Ruby Mountains"; in 1981 he received a law degree from the University of Denver, and prac ...more
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