This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Empire Express: Building the First…

Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad (1999)

by David Haward Bain

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
485332,760 (3.78)7



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 7 mentions

Showing 3 of 3
Transcontinental Railroad — building all crooks — wonder it got built! — Very interesting history of country

After the Civil War, the building of the transcontinental railroad was the nineteenth century's most transformative event. Beginning in 1842 with a visionary's dream to span the continent with twin bands of iron, Empire Express captures three dramatic decades in which the United States effectively doubled in size, fought three wars, and began to discover a new national identity.
This review has been flagged by multiple users as abuse of the terms of service and is no longer displayed (show).
  christinejoseph | Jul 19, 2016 |
Finally done - 6 months' reading, off and on. I'm glad I read it - I learned a lot - but I didn't particularly _enjoy_ reading it. I suspect that much of the author's primary source material was the transcripts for the fraud and corruption investigations that started very shortly after the triumphal connecting of the two lines - so that was a lot of his focus, and it's something I find utterly uninteresting. The actual building was fascinating, but every time he started to discuss the building he'd veer off into the financial and political shenanigans going on behind that section of the line. My overall impression is that the Transcontinental Railroad was built more or less by accident by greedy, venal men using it as a cash cow in so many ways (from simple theft of materials to altering the route to get more or higher subsidies from the federal government). The (few) visionaries who truly wanted the railroad built seemed to get turfed out pretty quickly (Whitney, Judah...). I did gain a lot of information about the Transcontinental Railroad - what I had before was vague images of the Golden Spike and some old photos of two trains standing nose to nose. That ceremony is described, but now I also have knowledge of the long, long road that got them there. If the Gilded Age and the financial and political shenanigans thereof are an interest of yours, this is the book you want to read. If you want to know about the railroad itself - the routes it took, the structures built to support it (from towns to snow sheds to bridges and tunnels)...well, there's information on that here too, but it's not the focus. A few more maps, showing some of the surveyed routes and how the final routes were changed, might have been interesting - there were some maps, but they tended to be more of the grand sweep than details. Glad I read it, won't reread. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Apr 10, 2015 |
The best book I've read on the Trancontinental Railroad. Excellent. ( )
  octafoil40 | Oct 21, 2011 |
Showing 3 of 3
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067080889X, Hardcover)

On the morning of May 10, 1869, a gang of Irish immigrants met a party of Chinese laborers on a windy bluff northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Tired to the bone, the two groups laid down the last of countless wooden ties, bought at the exorbitant cost of six dollars apiece, and thus joined two great rail lines, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific, to form a single transcontinental route. That rail line made possible the mass settlement of the West, and, as those who conceived it well knew, it changed the course of American history.

David Haward Bain's superb narrative of westward rail history, weighing in at 800 pages, ends not with this great achievement but with the political and financial scandal that would almost overshadow it. Along the way Bain looks closely at the entrepreneurial men who foresaw the possibilities of a vast nation joined by a steel ribbon--most memorably the hit-and-miss businessman Asa Whitney, who proposed to Congress an ingenious scheme to fund the building of the railroad through commercializing the right of way. Some of the men who came after Whitney, such as Mark Hopkins, Collis Huntington, and Leland Stanford, amassed great fortunes in realizing this dream. Others died penniless and nearly forgotten in the wake of political maneuverings and bad deals. Bain's vigorous, well-written narrative does much to restore those overlooked actors to history. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

-- A Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club-- A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards-- Appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle and Wordstock bestseller lists

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.78)
1.5 1
2 1
3 9
3.5 1
4 13
5 7

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 138,116,055 books! | Top bar: Always visible