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The Great Iron Trail: The Story of the First Transcontinental Railroad

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The Great Iron Trail: The Story of the First Transcontinental Railroad

Longueur: 432 pages6 heures


The Great Iron Trail brilliantly recounts how the blood, sweat, tears and dollars of the dreamers, explorers, inventors, iron men, graders and financiers combined to build America’s first transcontinental railroad.

Only a century ago, the United States consisted of two littoral encampments on the East and West coasts. The perilous sailing trip around Cape Horn took from four to six months; the plague-ridden shortcut across the Panama Isthmus required five weeks; on the trails crossing the 2,000 miles of "The Great American Desert," stagecoaches and prairie schooners faced a deadly gamut of Indian attacks, starvation, fevers and blizzards.

The momentous task of conquering a continent began on July 2, 1862, when, in the face of successive defeats of the Union's armies, Abraham Lincoln signed The Pacific Railway Act. During the next seven years shrewd manipulators, improvising geniuses and nameless heroes laid the tracks, foot by painful foot, from the eastern and western terminals.

Construction of the 2,000 miles of high-iron between Omaha and Sacramento was marked by the fetid breath of Credit Mobilier scandals and The Associates' ruthless drive to economic power. The railhead towns of North. Platte, Julesberg, Cheyenne, Laramie, became "the worst hell-holes on earth"; gamblers, cutthroats and ladies of easy virtue organized their "Hell-on-Wheels" for the Irish, German and "Galvanized Yankee" track gangs. On May 10, 1869, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific locomotives, "facing on a single track, half a world behind each back," touched cowcatchers at Promontory Point, Utah.
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