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Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who…

Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental… (original 2000; edition 2000)

by Stephen E. Ambrose

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2,073303,198 (3.7)31
Title:Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869
Authors:Stephen E. Ambrose
Info:Simon & Schuster (2000), Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library, EPub, Adobe eBook, Kindle

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Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose (2000)


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Amazing story of the building of the transcontinental railroad with insight into the broad cast of characters who made it happen. ( )
  Mark_Bacon | Jul 24, 2017 |
Review: Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose.

I enjoyed what knowledge I got out of the book but it wasn’t one of Ambrose best. I found it to technical, repetitions and floundering back and forth with dates. There were too many dates, noted events, mathematical techniques to remember and keep up on and not enough story contexts. The book, as I thought was about the men who built the railroads but there was not one person’s short tidbit about life building the railroads. I like reading about history but not in a straight forward writing style. I got more out of the photos and Epilogue then the book itself. However, I did manage to learn some more history data so the book was still interesting. Ambrose’s didn’t relate about the men building the railroad he wrote how the railroad was achieved during the six years by, “The Big Four”. Collis Huntington, who borrowed the money for capital expenses in New York, Boston, Washington, and lobbied Congress for more help, Charles Crocker, was in charge of the construction, Leland Stanford, was president and chief politician, and Mark Hopkins handled the books.

It took four years for interested Professional‘s, Politicians, Congress and the President of United States to just communicate about the building a railroad from Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. When the issue finally got settled they decided on two companies, The Union Pacific and The Central Pacific to begin construction of the Transcontinental railroad along with a Telegraph Communication system at the farthest place of each other and finishing together in the middle. There were many issues and events that happened during the six year stretch that hindered their work. Abraham Lincoln was voted into office at that time, the War, what to do about the slave states, bickering over area’s of interest to lay the track, tunnels to be blasted, and the Indians who were murdering and harassing some of the workers. Ambrose wrote a lot of information on other civil and presidential issues and events throughout the book. Especially the financial part of the project, political maneuvering and construction heartaches come into play when there is deceit among top people filling their pockets for gain. Too much detail on the creators and financiers of the project and not enough on the grunt labor side of the working men.

Near the last year the two companies’ became competitive, having spies in each camp to relate what each team was doing. This accounted for many mistakes being made on both sides as far as doing the work with accuracy and using the strongest material. The only amount I read about the laborers that they were some Irish immigrants, many Chinese, Mormons, ex-Confederate soldiers, and other laborers who frequently sacrificed life and limb to build the railroad. These men surveyed the routes, laid road beds, built bridges, excavated tunnels, erected trestles, set down ties and track, and drove spikes across the heartland of America.
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
This book is fine. It is entertaining and seems to be mostly rooted in actual events. Ambrose sometimes strays into hyperbole and makes statements that seem to be unsubstantiated. It can at times be the essence of what can go wrong with 'popular history'. But nevertheless he takes an interesting part of American history and tells a pretty good story about it. I liked the book. ( )
1 vote JaredChristopherson | Nov 16, 2015 |
The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. The men who built the transcontinentail railroad 1865-1869. In this account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage, Stephen E. Ambrose offers a historical successor to his universally acclaimed Undaunted Courage, which recounted the explorations of the West by Lewis and Clark.
Nothing Like It in the World is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad -- the investors who risked their businesses


The Union had won the Civil War and slavery had been abolished, but Abraham Lincoln, who was an early and constant champion of railroads, would not live to see the great achievement. In Ambrose's hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle, and sweat, comes to life.

The U.S. government pitted two companies -- the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads -- against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomo-tives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West or lugged across the country to the Plains. This was the last great building project to be done mostly by hand: excavating dirt, cutting through ridges, filling gorges, blasting tunnels through mountains.

At its peak, the workforce -- primarily Chinese on the Central Pacific, Irish on the Union Pacific -- approached the size of Civil War armies, with as many as fifteen thousand workers on each line. The Union Pacific was led by Thomas "Doc" Durant, Oakes Ames, and Oliver Ames, with Grenville Dodge -- America's greatest railroad builder -- as chief engineer. The Central Pacific was led by California's "Big Four": Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins. The surveyors, the men who picked the route, were latter-day Lewis and Clark types who led the way through the wilderness, living off buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope.

In building a railroad, there is only one decisive spot -- the end of the track. Nothing like this great work had been seen in the world when the last spike, a golden one, was driven in at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific tracks were joined.

Ambrose writes with power and eloquence about the brave men -- the famous and the unheralded, ordinary men doing the extraordinary -- who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the continent into a nation. ( )
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  Tutter | Feb 21, 2015 |
Coverage of the making of the transcontinental railroad from start to finish, including the Credit Mobilier scandal. Reviews the decisions made, and the hardships faced by those who built it, from the Irish in the east, to the Chinese in the west, and the Mormons in the middle. ( )
1 vote | cyclops1771 | Nov 13, 2014 |
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Next to winning the Civil War and abolishing slavery, building the first transcontinental railroad, from Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California, was the greatest achievement of the American people in the nineteenth century.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743203178, Paperback)

Abraham Lincoln, who had worked as a riverboat pilot before turning to politics, knew a thing or two about the problems of transporting goods and people from place to place. He was also convinced that the United States would flourish only if its far-flung regions were linked, replacing sectional loyalties with an overarching sense of national destiny.

Building a transcontinental railroad, writes the prolific historian Stephen Ambrose, was second only to the abolition of slavery on Lincoln's presidential agenda. Through an ambitious program of land grants and low-interest government loans, he encouraged entrepreneurs such as California's "Big Four"--Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Leland Stanford--to take on the task of stringing steel rails from ocean to ocean. The real work of doing so, of course, was on the shoulders of immigrant men and women, mostly Chinese and Irish. These often-overlooked actors and what a contemporary called their "dreadful vitality" figure prominently in Ambrose's narrative, alongside the great financiers and surveyors who populate the standard textbooks.

In the end, Ambrose writes, Lincoln's dream transformed the nation, marking "the first great triumph over time and space" and inaugurating what has come to be known as the American Century. David Haward Bain's Empire Express, which covers the same ground, is more substantial, but Ambrose provides an eminently readable study of a complex episode in American history. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:05 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad-the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks. The U.S. government pitted two companies, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads, against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. At its peak, the work force approached the size of Civil War armies, with as many as 15,000 workers on each line. Nothing like this great work had ever been seen in the world when the golden spike was driven in Promontory Peak, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific tracks were joined. This is the story of the brave men, the famous and the unheralded, ordinary men doing the extraordinary -- who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the continent into a nation.… (more)

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