My Book World
If you’ve ever driven on an Interstate highway in the western United States—at posted speeds of 80 mph or faster, and people do zoom faster—it can seem as if you’re passing through a Disneyland sort of panorama. Mountains. Red arches. The occasional evergreen—with your AC cranked down low. In John Sedgwick’s book, however, one learns what it was like to traverse that terrain as a railroad builder, including the workers themselves.
Sedgwick traces the lives and work of two men—Strong erecting the Santa Fe and Palmer, the Rio Grande—who make “river to the sea” travel possible beginning in the late 1880s. This journey includes side trips by way of chapters devoted, for example, to the beloved Harvey House hotels, the first chain of its kind to provide bed, beverage, and breakfast along the way. Always, however, Sedgwick returns to the struggle these two men mount against the elements, terrain, and government (state and federal) but mostly against each other, to open up the West to the established civilization in the East. It is quite a ride, and Sedgwick ensures that you do not miss a minute of it.
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