Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present

Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present

Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present

Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present

Synopsis

Praised by the Chicago Tribune as "thoroughly and compellingly detailed history," Volumes I and II of Maury Klein's monumental history of the Union Pacific Railroad covered the years from 1863-1969. Now the third and final volume brings the story of the Union Pacific--the oldest, largest, and most successful railroad of modern times--fully up to date.

The book follows the trajectory of an icon of the industrial age trying to negotiate its way in a post-railway world, plagued by setbacks such as labor disputes, aging infrastructure, government de-regulation, ill-fated mergers, and more. By 1969 the same company that a century earlier had triumphantly driven the golden spike into Promontory Summit--to immortalize the nation's first transcontinental railway--seemed a dinosaur destined for financial ruin. But as Klein shows, the Union Pacific not only survived but is once more thriving, which proves that railways remain critical to commerce and industry in America, even as passenger train travel has all but disappeared. Drawing on interviews with Union Pacific personnel past and present, Klein takes readers inside the great railroad--into its boardrooms and along its tracks--to show how the company adapted to the rapidly changing world of modern transportation. The book also offers fascinating portraits of the men who have run the railroad. The challenges they faced, and the strategies they developed to meet them, give readers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of America's great companies.

A capstone on a remarkable achievement,Union Pacific: The Reconfigurationwill appeal to historians, business scholars, and transportation buffs alike.

Excerpt

The story of the Union Pacific Railroad since 1969 has been an odyssey through American railroad history. From that journey it emerged as the largest and strongest railroad in the world. It also happened to be one with a storied history deeply woven into the westward movement. As one half of the first transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific opened the West to settlement and exploitation. the driving of the golden spike to complete the first connection to the West Coast became enshrined as a great national myth, one that symbolized American greatness. in its time it was our first conquest of unknown space.

Railroads developed and dominated American life in the nineteenth century. By routinizing the shipment of goods, materials, and people, they orchestrated the growth of the economy. the locomotive became the symbol of the age, enchanting starry-eyed dreamers and hard-nosed businessmen alike. Its sheer power reflected the restless energy of a people forever on the move. For rural folk the cry of its whistle or clang of its bell evoked images of distant places to which the train might someday carry them. For urban dwellers the train station became the gateway to their city, the hub of its commercial life.

For a century railroads dominated overland transportation. the frenzy of construction and expansion reached its peak in the 1880s, when more than 70,000 miles of new track were laid. the competition spawned by this frenetic growth sent numerous major railroads, including the Union Pacific, into bankruptcy during the depression of 1893–97. From that nadir up rebounded to become one of the nation’s strongest rail systems under the guiding hand of the nation’s foremost rail entrepreneur, E. H. Harriman. After his death in 1909 members of his family, along with members of the family of his close associate Robert S. Lovett, dominated the company for most of the twentieth century.

Through war and peace, good times and bad, up remained a prosperous company even in an industry growing steadily weaker. By 1969 newer forms of transportation—the automobile, truck, airplane—had seized center stage in American life while railroads faded steadily into the background. Americans no . . .

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