Story of the Western Railroads 1852-Reign on the Giants  By Robert Riegel SC
Story of the Western Railroads 1852-Reign on the Giants  By Robert Riegel SC

Story of the Western Railroads 1852-Reign on the Giants By Robert Riegel SC

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Story of the Western Railroads 1852-Reign on the Giants By Robert Riegel SC
The Story of the Western Railroads 1852-Reign on the Giants  By Robert Riegel Soft Cover 1926, FIRST Bison Book printing 1964.  345 Pages  Indexed
Good transportation was a vital necessity for the American 'West throughout its history. While there were a few men who went West because of a desire for solitude or to avoid the clutches of the law, and hence wanted to cut connections with the East, or were unconcerned about them, the great majority felt otherwise. The average westerner-and his wife-wanted to keep in contact with his friends and relatives back East. Even more he wanted to be able to market his crops as cheaply and as rapidly as possible, and in return to obtain the manufactured goods that were not produced in the West-silks and fashion magazines for his wife, broadcloth and Havana cigars for himself, and in fact all the trappings of civilization as he had known it in the East. He had gone West to make his fortune, not to become a hermit.
The demand for better connections between East and West existed as long as there was a frontier, and was supported enthusiastically by all Americans from whatever part of the country. A whole series of transportational advances-improved roads, steamboats,canals, railroads, and automobiles-appealed in succession to the American people. Of these the most important until well into the twentieth century was the railroad, and particularly so for the region west of the Mississippi, which in general lacked the proper building materials for roads and the necessary water for steamboats and canals. The railroad offered the best opportunity for spanning the large distances of the West and of bringing it prosperity.
The building of railroads west of the Mississippi was one of the great feats of history. New lines were constructed over thousands of vacant miles, with only hopes for the future. True the process was at times wasteful and often involved various types of chicanery, but the basic facts are that the feat was accomplished and that the West developed rapidly as a result. Not only were the major transcontinental lines constructed in about a generation, but, equally important, a network of feeder lines came into existence to lure the farmer to occupy western farms and then to bring him within reach of markets.
Even before the western railroads were completed, they were being criticized by their farmer-customers, who found wealth disturbingly elusive. Some of the farmers' criticisms were true, some were exaggerated, and some were false, but in any case the railroad was transformed in popular opinion from a life-giving fountain to a blood-sucking octopus. Today these extremes of sentiment no longer seem either valid or important, and we have come to the time when the contributions of the railroad to American civilization can be evaluated more firmly.
In this account of the railroad conquest of the United States, the author is primarily concerned with the western phase of the story. He follows the Iron Horse west through Indian trouble, labor difficulties, civil war, and farmer disillusionment to the completion of the western railroad net. All aspects of the subject-financial, industrial, engineering, as well as the development of railroad regulation-are covered in this work.

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