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Landmarks on the Iron Road by William D.…

Landmarks on the Iron Road

by William D. Middleton

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0253335590, Hardcover)

England and France may have been the birthplaces of the railroad, but America was its nursery and playground. The need to link the already far-flung territory of the United States in the early 19th century spurred significant advances in civil engineering, transportation historian William Middleton writes, especially in the design and construction of railroad bridges.

These spans needed to cross great rivers and deep canyons as well as bear weights unknown to earlier bridges. Bridges until that time were built much as they had been in Roman antiquity; to develop safe load-bearing bridges required much trial and error. It also required vision and experience, and Middleton's text is populated by a cast of brilliant, practical-minded men who figure little in standard histories of westward expansion but who were as important as any explorer or military leader in uniting the country. One such man was Wendel Bollman, a carpenter who developed a patented "suspension and trussed bridge" that was widely used along the Potomac, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers; another was J. E. Schwitzer, who adapted Swiss designs to the daunting conditions of the Rocky Mountains; still another was Theodore Dehone Judah, who built the first railroad along the tortuous California coast.

Middleton celebrates these and other bridge builders and their remarkable creations, many of which are still in use today. His text, illustrated with historic photographs and drawings, will be of much interest to railroad buffs. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:27 -0400)

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