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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

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  124 Ratings  ·  22 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 pr
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Random House (first published September 22nd 2010)
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Nicole Marble
Dec 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Jim Gallen
Apr 23, 2014 rated it liked it
“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
Jul 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suspect that to do full justice to the forging of rail connections throughout the Southwest would require several volumes, but this does seem a good overview treatment of the subject. For example, there is a tiny vignette about a joke that went around that the engineer could pass his tobacco plug to the brakeman on some of the really tight switchbacks. A fine description, but the author never really gives a good description of the actual grade/rail construction that would give meaning to such ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
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?
BAM The Bibliomaniac
I debated-3 or 4? Couldn't really decide
The author started really well timeline, noted personalities all explained
Events begin antebellum period so the true beginning of the railways
But eventually they all start running together and the author is in no way to blame. It's those damn avaricious rail Barons eating away at territory and the small establishments.
But this book is truly an excellent historical reference. As the rails are built, wars are fought, laws are passed, presidents are elect
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good description of the complex planning, financing, expansion, of the initial railroad system for this country. There was certainly no central planning and a there was a free-for-all mentality which seems so typically American.
Books like this are helpful for research.
More about the main organizers, financiers, than about people who worked on the construction.
This book would be complemented by some of the documentaries on the transcontinental effort which can be found on YouTube.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it
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
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
John Behle
Apr 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: skip
I disembarked from this torturous train ride. Walter Borneman's tome would be better suited for a presentation at (many consecutive) rail buff seminars. The endless geographical detail, poorly matched up maps and textbook style prose made me jump this rail car.

I gave it a chance.
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 30, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely chock full of stories and tidbits, personalities and fun! Worth a read, even if you are just a casual observer of railroad history.
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really, really enjoyed.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Just couldn't get into it.
David Nusinow
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
I'm not really a railroad person, and I think someone who's more into their history would have enjoyed this book more.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Terrific well-documented stories with very helpful maps. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A little dry at times, but overall a solid history book.
rated it really liked it
Mar 05, 2016
Charles Nickerson
rated it it was amazing
Jul 25, 2012
rated it liked it
Sep 14, 2012
Mark Long
rated it it was amazing
Nov 21, 2015
Doug Haskin
rated it really liked it
Oct 24, 2012
rated it liked it
Aug 09, 2011
Nick Jones
rated it liked it
Aug 22, 2013
Jon Plemons
rated it really liked it
Aug 06, 2014
Jan 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
This was like reading an encyclopedia... all facts, no story. I trudged through this book...
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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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