Railroad History Reviews | October 15, 2012

Grant, H. Roger. Railroads and the American People. Indiana Univ. (Railroads Past and Present). Nov. 2012. 264p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780253006332. $40. HIST

Grant (history, Clemson Univ.) takes a topical approach in his social history of the Golden Age of American railroads, from 1830 to 1930. Chapters cover trains, stations, communities, and the railroad’s legacies. Grant’s use of numerous period quotes, some lengthy, enliven and contextualize his text, as do scores of richly captioned illustrations. He covers topics such as the controversy over operating trains on Sundays, railroad memorials, and the roles of railroads during wartime. The railroads were, he shows, integral to the birth, life, and even death of many towns. To confirm the enduring legacy of the railroads, he recounts the origins and growth of the rail hobbyist and railroad preservation movement. VERDICT Consisting of hundreds of ­vignettes containing a wealth of detailed descriptions and remembrances, Grant’s work is highly recommended to train buffs and others in love with early railroading. Readers wishing for a broader approach to American railroads would be well served by Christian Wolmar’s superb survey history, reviewed below. The two works complement each other.—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

starred review starWolmar, Christian. The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America. PublicAffairs. 2012. c.400p. illus. index. ISBN 9781610391795. $29.99. HIST

Wolmar, a prolific author of railroading titles, has produced a broad survey history of U.S. trains from their beginnings to the present. He covers the early periods of rapid expansion and improvement, the Civil War, and the transcontinental race. One theme running throughout the narrative is how the railroads have knit the country together and ultimately changed it and the American people. He also examines how the American attitude changed from viewing railroads as creators of prosperity to fearing them as heartless, corrupt monopolies. As a result, Wolmar explains, railroads entered the 20th century under tight regulation with poor labor relations and insufficient profitability to cover capital costs. Faced with growing competition from new forms of transportation, railroads failed in a long downward spiral, followed by their recent resurgence through consolidation and deregulation. VERDICT As he did for global railroad history in his Blood, Iron, & Gold, Wolmar masterfully condenses the history of American rail into a lively and lucid work that is highly recommended to all.—Lawrence Maxted, Gan non Univ. Lib., Erie, PA