Monday, October 27, 2014

Moguls and Iron Men by James McCague

Moguls and Iron Men
by James McCague

Hardback: 394 pages
Publisher: Harper & Row Pub
Released: January 1, 1964

Source: Bought at a local book sale.

Book Description, Modified from Book Cover:
The construction of the first transcontinental railroad was a tremendous financial gamble and engineering marvel. This book tells the full story of the project from the earliest efforts of the brilliant engineer, Theodore Judah, to win private and government support for his dream, to the investigation of the Credit Mobilier after the track was laid in 1869, more than 10 years later. It describes how, after a Pacific Railroad bill was finally approved in 1862, the two rival companies, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific, drove toward each other battling terrain, weather, Indians, financial crises, and corruption.

My Review:
Moguls and Iron Men is a history about the building of the first transcontinental railroad. The author did a good job of showing the many factors that needed to come together to get the project started and how the building of the railroad changed the West. While an "engineering marvel," the author spent very little time and no real detail on the engineering feats. The focus was initially on the politics needed to get the project started and then on the race between the two railroads to lay their track faster.

Almost 50% of the book seemed to be about the politics and financial maneuvering needed to get the project started and completed. The rest was about what the press was saying about the railroad and using legends and reports to describe how the railroad was laid and what happened in and around these work camps. We are told how the work was done and the challenges (terrain, weather, Indians, financial) to getting the track laid. The story was a not a "heavy" read due to a lack of technical information and the focus on conflicts.

Overall, I'd been hoping for a more engineering and less financial history, but it was interesting and I learned a lot.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

No comments: