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The Iron Road

Book Description

The Iron Road is full of wondrous curiosities. Did you know that early trains in Australia were pulled by convicts, or that elephants were until recently used to shunt freight wagons in India? The world's most magnificent railway station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminal in Mumbai, took 10 years to build. The longest possible continuous railway journey in the world is the 10,600 miles between Algeciras in Spain and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. And the idea that Mussolini made the trains run on time is a myth.

No invention, not even the Internet, has ever transformed the way the world traveled, worked, thought, fought, ate, drank, made love--you name it--the way the train did.

From the historic moment in September 1830 when the first train chuffed between Liverpool and Manchester, UK, there was a race to lay down tracks across the planet. Adventurers, visionaries, and rogues were attracted to grandiose projects linking distant corners of the globe in a quest for wealth, power, and national unity. The achievements were heroic: India's railway network was the biggest public works project since the building of the pyramids. But the human costs were huge. In the 1850s, six thousand workers died during the construction of the Panama railway, the world's first transcontinental line--120 for each mile of railroad. The cadavers were pickled and sold to medical schools around the world to defray costs. But for the shareholders, there were fortunes to be made, and at their peak, the railroads represented luxury almost beyond belief.

The Iron Road tells of great invention, grand vision, mind-boggling engineering, military strategy, colonial ambition, groundbreaking trade changes, and social impact--all the ways that railroads utterly changed the world in which we live.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The First Tracks
    1. From Wagonways to Railroads
    2. Father of the Railroads
    3. Powering the Engine
    4. The First American Railroads
    5. The Early Years of American Steam
    6. Europe Takes to the Rails
    7. Map: Western European Railroads
    8. Railroad Mania
    9. Wheels and Trucks
    10. The American Civil War
    11. Signals in the Steam Age
    12. Heroic Failures
    13. India: Dalhousie’s Colonial Imperative
    14. Map: Early Indian Railroads
    15. The Navvies: Digging, Drinking, and Fighting
    16. The Track Structure
    17. Cuban Sugar Railroads
  3. The Spread of the Railroads
    1. Crossing the Alps
    2. Climbing Mountains
    3. The Panama Railroad: A Deadly Rush for Gold
    4. Crossing America
    5. Map: North American Transcontinentals
    6. Going Underground
    7. Death on the Rails
    8. Stopping the Train
    9. The Railroad Experience
    10. Turnouts and Sidings
    11. Temples of Steam
    12. Railroad Signal Telegraphy
    13. Monopolies and Railroad Barons
    14. Building Bridges
    15. The Pullman Phenomenon
  4. Railroads Come of Age
    1. The Trans-Siberian Railway
    2. Map: The Trans-Siberian Railway
    3. The Orient Express
    4. The Most Spectacular Railroads in the World
    5. Going Uphill
    6. Henry Flagler and the Overseas Railroad
    7. Hauling Freight
    8. Cape to Cairo: the Railroad that Never Was
    9. Map: Cape to Cairo
    10. Electricity Lightens the Load
    11. Going Electric
    12. The People Who Ran the Railroads
    13. The Wrong Side of the Tracks
    14. Indian Hill Railroads: Climbing Out of the Heat
  5. War and Uncertainty
    1. The Golden Age of the Railroads
    2. The Field Railroads of World War I
    3. American Luxury
    4. Wartime Railroad Disasters
    5. The Hejaz Railway
    6. Streamliners
    7. Australia’s Gauge Bungle
    8. High-speed Steam Trains
    9. Going Diesel: from the Fliegende Hamburger to the Future
    10. Diesel Power Meets Electricity
    11. World War II: Atrocities on the Line
  6. The Iron Road Today
    1. Brezhnev’s Folly
    2. Railroads Lost and Found
    3. Vive le Channel Tunnel
    4. Building Tunnels
    5. Switzerland: the Best of the Best
    6. Going Faster: Bullet Trains and High-speed Lines
    7. China, the New Pioneer
    8. The Railroad Renaissance
    9. Maglev Trains
  7. Glossary
  8. Bibliography
  9. Acknowledgments