Read Twilight Rails: The Final Era of Railroad Building in the Midwest by H. Roger Grant Online

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By the start of the twentieth century railroads crisscrossed the nation, yet there were still those who believed that the railroad network in the United States was far from complete. Residents of small towns lacking rail access lobbied hard for steam and electric roads to serve their communities, and investors eagerly started new ventures that would fill the gaps in the raBy the start of the twentieth century railroads crisscrossed the nation, yet there were still those who believed that the railroad network in the United States was far from complete. Residents of small towns lacking rail access lobbied hard for steam and electric roads to serve their communities, and investors eagerly started new ventures that would fill the gaps in the railway map. While some of these roads enjoyed a degree of success, most of them were financial flops even before the rise of the highway system made them obsolete. In Twilight Rails, H. Roger Grant—one of the leading railroad historians working today—documents the stories of eight Midwestern carriers that appeared at the end of the railroad building craze. When historians have reflected on these “twilight” carriers, they have suggested that they were relevant only as examples of unwise business ventures. Grant finds that even the weakest railroads were important to the communities they served; the arrival of the railroad was cause for great celebration as residents were finally connected to the outside world. A railroad’s construction pumped money into local economies, farmers and manufacturers gained access to better markets, and the excitement generated by a new line often increased land values and inspired expansion of local businesses. Even the least financially successful carriers, Grant argues, managed to significantly improve their local economies. This thorough and highly accessible history provides a fascinating look at the motivations, accomplishments, and failures of the twilight carriers, granting a new breath of life to this neglected aspect of American railway history....

Title : Twilight Rails: The Final Era of Railroad Building in the Midwest
Author :
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ISBN : 9780816665624
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 296 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Twilight Rails: The Final Era of Railroad Building in the Midwest Reviews

  • Jay
    2018-11-13 11:41

    I grew up with a younger cousin that is a self-described “train nut”. His father worked his entire career for railroads in the Midwest, mostly for the Rock Island Lines. I understood his appreciation of the history of the railroads, but after reading “Twilight Rails” I’m seeing that history was not only of the railroad equipment and companies but of the cities and rural areas they passed through. “Twilight Rails” covers a number of railroads created late in the game, just before hard roads and motor cars and trucks became worthy transportation competitors. The history of these small railroads shows how the financing through local stock subscription, bond sales, and outright gifts of property by the population along the proposed rail routes were necessary to fund the road, though usually not sufficient to keep a railroad running if it was even completed. The amounts of money gathered from these small towns are quite extraordinary – they were serious bets of a family’s money that the railroad would bring future prosperity, and from many families along the route. And from this book we understand that not many of these investments were successful. In fact many investments were lost completely, with a train that didn’t serve its population for more than a few years, if at all. I have greater respect for the citizens of these towns of over 100 years ago and the chances they took. Had the book focused on this aspect, I’d have really liked it.Although I’m not a voracious reader of books about railroads (aside from “Iron Road to Empire”), I am beginning to see a pattern. While the history here includes some interesting details about the builders and the villages and towns involved in these short lines, railroad history is often a history of companies. This book is no exception. Companies are created to be a railroad, then other companies are created to handle the building, the real estate development, the inevitable take over after bankruptcy, and on and on. At times the reading here is almost biblical, where one company begets another company which begets another. What makes a railroad book more difficult to read and keep track of than the Bible is that the companies also occasionally change names, and also are known by their acronyms. If we’re talking about companies that ultimately failed, we’re also talking about financials. Profits, losses, and building costs are well covered here, but may be overwhelming for those that aren't interested in those details. I found the coverage of financials to be at the right level for my interest. I appreciated the author including dollar figures inflated to 2008 dollars for current reference.I was reading this for enjoyment, but I didn’t actually start to enjoy the book until I gave up keeping track of companies and towns. Towns were also hard to track here. While there are maps included for each line covered, the maps do not include every town mentioned. This makes it difficult to follow the build-out of the lines. Another thing I’ve noticed about railroad books is that they expect the reader to know the vernacular. This one included juice line and I Class roads, for example, that are not defined. While these terms can mostly be deciphered through continued reading, a glossary would have been helpful. I felt that “Twilight Road” was written for both the historian and the general interest reader. There were copious footnotes and references and indexes for the historian, and the writing style and excellent photos and maps showed effort was made to make the stories entertaining. I believe those interested in Midwestern railroads started at the end of rail’s supremacy for US transportation will find this book of great interest.Favorite bit: The closest failed “Twilight Route” to my home was the Chicago, Milwaukee & Gary, or the CM&G. This route never made investors any money, and the company went belly up before completing its tracks. The company’s popular nickname – “Cold Miserable & Grouchy”. When I drive near Aurora, Illinois across the bumpy tracks that now exist where the CM&G planned its road, or when I’m stopped by a long, slow freight at this crossing in the dead of winter, I will be reminded of how appropriate this 100-year old nickname still is.

  • David A. Donaldson
    2018-12-10 11:47

    Detailed. Read somewhat like a text book but not dry by any means. Very interesting if you like railroad history.

  • Jerry Kolwinska
    2018-12-06 07:35

    This is an interesting book for the rail fan who wants some background on the last rail ventures in the MIdwest. I enjoyed the book because several of the ventures were in places that I was familiar with.