Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads By John Stover Soft Cover

Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads By John Stover Soft Cover

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Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads By John Stover Soft Cover
 
The Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads By John Stover Soft Cover 1999 144 pages Maps on many of the pages, a few by state, many by railroad lines.
John Stover is one of the pre-eminent authorities on the history of the American railroads. He has published, in nearly each of the past five decades, a definitive book on the subject: Railroads of the South, 1865-1900 (1955); Life and Decline of the American Railroads (1970); Iron Road to the West: American Railroads of the 1850s (1978); History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (1987), and American Railroads (1997). We are pleased to add this volume to his weighty list of credits. Again he brings a sympathetic hut not uncritical understanding of a subject that has long exerted a peculiarly strong hold upon the imagination.
It all began during the 1820s, when merchants of Baltimore, Charleston, and Boston and a few other port cities on the eastern seaboard solidified their hold on western hinterlands by casting railroad tracks into them. This enthusiasm for railroads quickly spread, and by 1840 the United States possessed almost 3,000 miles of track, nearly twice the total of all Europe. European visitors were astonished by the American mania for railroad construction. A Frenchman, Michel Chevalier, commented that "the Americans have railroads in the water, in the bowels of the earth, and in the air. . . . When they cannot construct a real, profitable railway from river to river, from city to city, or from State to State, they get one up, at least as a plaything or until they can accomplish something better. .."
There were, to be sure, many critics. During a visit to America, Charles Dickens provided this vivid indictment of a locomotive: "On it whirls headlong, dives through the woods again, emerges in the light, clatters over frail arches, rumbles upon the heavy ground, shoots beneath a wooden bridge.. . dashes on hap-hazard, pell-mell, neck or nothing-on, on, on, tears the mad dragon of an engine with its train of cars; scattering in all directions a shower of burning sparks from its wood fire; screeching, hissing, yelling, panting; until at last the thirsty monster stops beneath a covered way to drink, the people cluster round, and you have time to breathe again."
Such criticisms, however, reflected a genteel sensibility very much at odds with a nation that was becoming an industrial giant. More characteristic of the age were the views of the orator Edward Everett, who described the locomotive as "a miracle of science, art, and capital, a magic power... by which the forest is thrown open, the lakes and rivers are bridged, and all Nature yields to man." Walt Whitman, who identified with the spirit of the American people, entitled one rhapsodic poem "To a Locomotive in Winter," in which he lauded the engine as an "emblem of motion and power." Ralph Waldo Emerson similarly commented: "Railroad iron is a magician's rod, in its power to evoke sleeping energies of land and water."
Stover goes beyond the contested symbolism of the railroad to focus on its steely reality. Thus he examines the fundamental issues of engineering: the width, grade, and turning radius of the track; the power generated by various wheel alignments and fuels; the relative efficiencies of iron and steel. He also considers the intellectual problems confronting the managers of these vast enterprises: the legal structure of the corporations; the evolution of an information system to operate them efficiently; and the standardization of conceptions of time. But at the heart of his analysis are the stories of each of the major railroads and the men who made and ran them.

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