BOOKS : TRANSPORTATION: RAILROAD: HISTORY : COUNTRIES: UNITED STATES : HISTORY: UNITED STATES: Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869


David P. Dillard
 

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BOOKS :

TRANSPORTATION: RAILROAD: HISTORY :

COUNTRIES: UNITED STATES :

HISTORY: UNITED STATES:

Nothing Like It In the World:
The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869

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Nothing Like It In the World:
The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869
A Touchstone Book
Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1865-69
Author Stephen E. Ambrose
Edition illustrated, reprint, revised
Publisher Simon and Schuster, 2001
ISBN 0743203178, 9780743203173
Length 431 pages


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Book Reviews

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Review
Reviewed Work: Nothing like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose
Review by: Charles V. Mutschler
The Pacific Northwest Quarterly
Vol. 94, No. 1 (Winter, 2002/2003), pp. 49-50
Published by: University of Washington
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40492739

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Author:
Ducker, James H
Journal:
Journal of the West
ISSN:
0022-5169
Date:
07/01/2002
Volume: 41 Issue: 3 Page: 97

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Author:
White, W Thomas View Author Profile
Journal:
Journal of the West
ISSN:
0022-5169
Date:
04/01/2002
Volume: 41 Issue: 2 Page: 95

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Reviewed Work: Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose
Review by: Walter Nugent
The Journal of American History
Vol. 88, No. 2 (Sep., 2001), p. 657
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of Organization of American Historians
DOI: 10.2307/2675159
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2675159
Page Count: 1

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Reviewed Works: Nothing like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869 by Stephen Ambrose; Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain
Review by: Don L. Hofsommer
Technology and Culture
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 169-170
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History of Technology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25147869
Page Count: 2

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Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869
Kaetz, Pat.
National Forum
81.2 (Spring 2001): 39-40.

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Excerpt

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In Nothing Like It in the World, Stephen Ambrose presents the amazing story of how the transcontinental railroad was built. He writes of the dreamers and planners who promoted the idea (among them Abraham Lincoln); the financiers who risked their entire fortunes (and yet rigged the process to make another, larger fortune) to build it; the politicians whc supported and helped fund it; the men who surveyed, graded, laid track, bored tunnels, built trestles, made cuts, and sometimes died making it happen.

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In alternating chapters that follow the creation and progress of the two competing lines - the Central Pacific (CP) from the west and the Union Pacific (UP) from the east - Ambrose provides ample details, including correspondence, telegrams, speeches, and so on to render a sense of the men who had the vision and the will to complete a truly monumental engineering task. Given that the most technologically advanced tools employed were hammers, hand drills, black powder, and the railroad engines and cars themselves, the achievement of laying thousands of miles of track in just five years was even more impressive.

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For a non-historian such as I am, learning about the efforts of the men who conceived of and planned the project is the most interesting part of the book. Ambrose relates the stories of Theodore Judah, who surveyed the CP and pushed hard to secure its construction, then died without ever seeing a mile of track laid, and Grenville Dodge, who was the foremost railroad-construction engineer of his day but who refused to head the construction effort of the UP until he had helped win the Civil War. Ambrose also gives us a good look at the money-men such as Thomas Durant and Oakes Ames of the UP, and the Big Four (Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins) of the CP, men who knew that their fortunes would be made if they could get the line built and who went to any length, including fraud (creating their own construction companies and awarding contracts to themselves, the principal stockholders) and bribery (gifts of railroad bonds to congressmen), to get it done.

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Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869
DiMarco, Scott R
Library Journal131.1 (Jan 2006): 174.

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Review
Reviewed Works: Nothing like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869 by Stephen Ambrose; Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain
Review by: Don L. Hofsommer
Technology and Culture
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 169-170
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History of Technology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25147869
Page Count: 2

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Wenner, Joan.
"Nothing Like it in the World:
The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869."
Wild West
Aug. 2001: 57.

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Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the
Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869
By Stephen E. Ambrose. Simon & Schuster, New York, N.Y.,
available at bookstores. 611/44 x 911/42 in.; hardbound; 431
pages; $20. Audio cassette version, $44.95.
Gray III, Walter P. "Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869." Trains Magazine Dec. 2000: 92.

Excerpt

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The saga of the first transcontinental railroad is a defining part of the American epic. The well-known story of the construction of the Central and Union Pacific Railroads, culminating in the driving of the Gold Spike on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, has been the subject of dozens of books and continues to attract attention from historians. Notable recent efforts include John Hoyt Williams' "A Great and Shining Road" of 1989, and last year's weighty "Empire Express" by David Haward Bain. Now, Stephen Ambrose, a best-selling historian known for his books on the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Normandy Invasion, has taken a turn at telling the tale.

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"Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869" is a brisk and readable recounting of the oft-told tale, and should reach a very wide non-railfan audience because of Mr. Ambrose's name recognition. It is a solid but conventional effort that adds little to the standard interpretation of this subject, and perpetuates some misconceptions.

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It is customary for authors on this topic to retire to their studies with a stack of 15 or 20 previous books and emerge with one more. Errors and inaccuracies are inadvertently transmitted through successive generations of books, becoming true--or at least accepted--through repetition. Am-brose, an engaging storyteller, has been snared by this practice in his focus on the drama of Grenville Dodge and Theodore Judah as key protagonists of the Pacific Railroad. He allowed himself to be captured by a couple of interesting but suspect sources for his basic outline, and seems to have filled in parts of the story from secondary works without going back to authoritative records. The memoirs of UP Chief Engineer Grenville Dodge are commonly challenged by historians as questionable examples of self-promotion. For CP Chief Engineer Theodore Judah, Ambrose relied on the writings of his widow Anna, who lost any remaining objectivity after Theodore's death in 1863 and devoted the balance of her life to embellishing his reputation and denigrating nearly everyone else who had ever been associated with her late husband. Dodge and Judah come off rather better in Ambrose's story than history would have it.

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