Rival Rails by Walter R. Borneman
The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad

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Synopsis

From acclaimed historian Walter R. Borneman comes a dazzling account of the battle to build America’s transcontinental rail lines. Rival Rails is an action-packed epic of how an empire was born—and the remarkable men who made it happen.
 
After the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the rest of the country was up for grabs, and the race was on. The prize: a better, shorter, less snowy route through the corridors of the American Southwest, linking Los Angeles to Chicago. In Rival Rails, Borneman lays out in compelling detail the sectional rivalries, contested routes, political posturing, and ambitious business dealings that unfolded as an increasing number of lines pushed their way across the country.

Borneman brings to life the legendary business geniuses and so-called robber barons who made millions and fought the elements—and one another—to move America, including William Jackson Palmer, whose leadership of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad relied on innovative narrow gauge trains that could climb steeper grades and take tighter curves; Collis P. Huntington of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific lines, a magnate insatiably obsessed with trains—and who was not above bribing congressmen to satisfy his passion; Edward Payson Ripley, visionary president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, whose fiscal conservatism and smarts brought the industry back from the brink; and Jay Gould, ultrasecretive, strong-armer and one-man powerhouse.

In addition, Borneman captures the herculean efforts required to construct these roads—the laborers who did the back-breaking work, boring tunnels through mountains and throwing bridges across unruly rivers, the brakemen who ran atop moving cars, the tracklayers crushed and killed by runaway trains. From backroom deals in Washington, D.C., to armed robberies of trains in the wild deserts, from glorified cattle cars to streamliners and Super Chiefs, all the great incidents and innovations of a mighty American era are re-created with unprecedented power in Rival Rails.
 

About Walter R. Borneman

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Walter R. Borneman is author of several books, including 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America, and Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, for which he won the Tennessee History Book Award and Colorado Book Award for Biography. He is the president of the Walter V. and Idun Y. Berry Foundation, which funds postdoctoral fellowships in children's health at Stanford University.
 
Published September 28, 2010 by Random House. 432 pages
Genres: History, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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That war, writes lawyer-historian Borneman (Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, 2008, etc.), proved the efficacy of the railroads in moving men and supplies over great distances in short periods.

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Publishers Weekly

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Dozens of railroads and their executives are featured, but the melee eventually gels into a showdown between the Southern Pacific, intent on monopolizing the routes into California, and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe, determined to reach the Pacific by a prized snow-free southerly route.

May 17 2010 | Read Full Review of Rival Rails: The Race to Buil...

Los Angeles Times

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The Super Chief certainly was among the most glamorous of the streamlined passenger trains, buttressing Borneman's claim that the Santa Fe, aided by Fred Harvey's sparkling restaurants and hotels along its line, gained its spot among the winners in the railroad race by emphasizing customer conven...

Oct 03 2010 | Read Full Review of Rival Rails: The Race to Buil...

Los Angeles Times

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When the Union Pacific and Central Pacific joined rails on May 10, 1869, it was celebrated as the completion of America's first transcontinental railroad.

Oct 03 2010 | Read Full Review of Rival Rails: The Race to Buil...

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