They Built the West: An Epic of Rails and Cities

They Built the West: An Epic of Rails and Cities

They Built the West: An Epic of Rails and Cities

They Built the West: An Epic of Rails and Cities

Excerpt

Two gigantic bridges are being thrown across the Bay of San Francisco to make one great metropolis of the cities around the Bay. Across the deserts of Southern California an elongated caterpillar of steel is slowly creeping from Boulder Dam to Los Angeles. Through it will flow the water that has fallen on the slopes of the far-away Rockies and has rushed away to the lowlands cutting out the Grand Cañon in its swift advance. Trains are now running through the Moffat Tunnel, which pierces the stony barrier of the Rockies at its most formidable point and gives Denver a place on a quick, direct transcontinental railroad route. In eastern Washington the waters of the Columbia are being impounded by the Grand Coulée Dam to furnish power, and ultimately irrigation, for a new empire. In Oregon there is being built at Bonneville, near tide-water on the Columbia, a huge dam to harness the river for the making of electricity.

So do improvements on a tremendous scale go forward in the West, overcoming barriers, harnessing natural resources, making the land more fruitful, the cities more populous. All these enterprises, carried on by state or municipal or Federal authority, are the logical culmination of the earlier achievements of the individual industrialists and capitalists who built the West.

The age of rugged individualism is over. No longer will it be necessary to look to a few hardy, far-sighted, and perhaps unscrupulous individuals for the planning and execution of the vast schemes needed to develop the resources of the West. Undoubtedly there will be some such in the future, but there now seems to be neither necessity nor opportunity for individual exploitation on a large scale such as marked the building of the first transcontinental railroads and the first large industrial enterprises.

Bold, shrewd, courageous, grasping, tenacious--yes, some of them even dishonest,--these giants of another day played their parts well. They were cast in the rôles of builders, and they built. They built for themselves first and the rest of the world second. If they recognized that they had any responsibility to society, it was only an occasional vagrant flash of thought in their weaker moments of idleness. And it . . .

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