By Richard White
W.W. Norton & Company, $35.00, 660 pages
Railroaded is the story of the Transcontinentals, the men and women who connected America’s two coasts. Railroads were not just a thing of convenience for these people; they were an opportunity to make millions in a fledgling industry. What follows in this book is a highly detailed account of everyone involved, including their inside dealings and broken relationships. It comes as no surprise to find author Richard White is an American historian and professor. There is a staggering amount of information packed into every page of this book. Sadly the information is so dense it reads more like a laundry list of historical facts and financial figures than any sort of coherent prose.
The saving grace of books like these are the personal details; turning 150 year old people into living, breathing examples of life back then. Only a few times does the author touch on the personal lives of the Transcontinentals, usually relegating them to walking, talking bank accounts. Sadly this does nothing to make the book more readable.
If you are looking for a holistic account of everything entailed in linking the edges of America, Railroaded may be the book for you. However if you are seeking something readable, showcasing personal elements that led to developing America’s railroads, look elsewhere.
Reviewed By Andrew Keyser