Empire Express

By David Haward Bain,

Book cover of Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

1 author picked Empire Express as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is a big book, more than 700 pages, but it is worth every word. Bain focuses not on the workers who built the railroads, but the machinations, corruption, and political hijinks of those who dreamed up, financed, and managed the companies of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific. It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys—or even if there are any good guys. Bain manages to make the multiple historical figures in his book memorable and easily identifiable, which not all historians achieve. He also infuses his telling with a sly humor that catches the…

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