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Bill Thayer

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The Railroad Builders
John Moody

[image ALT: A crowd of maybe a hundred people in 19c dress, some of them in elegant formal wear, others in Western-type work clothes, standing for the most part between two locomotives, each sporting small American flags, on an otherwise barren spot of scrubby terrain. On the viewer's right, a wooden pole about 8 meters tall, capped by a large American flag: one man has climbed up it to get a better look at the scene and is waving his hat; two others are climbing up a ladder below him. To our left, some of the men in the crowd are on horseback; a man in the right foreground brandishes a pistol in his left hand and waves his hat with his right. The image is further explained on the text of this webpage, and serves as the icon on my site for John Moody's book, 'The Railroad Builders'.]

Linking the Oceans

The locomotives Jupiter, of the Central Pacific, and 119, of the Union Pacific, meeting at Promontory Point, Utah, May 10, 1869

From the painting by C. W. Jefferys

The Author and the Book

John Moody (1868‑1958) has given us a good general overview of how the railroads grew to what they were when he wrote: the story is looked at in terms of the main railroad companies, and his perspective is that of a financial analyst; not too surprising, since he's the man who founded what is today Moody's Investors Service, one of the United States' premier investment rating agencies: summary biographies of him could once be found at that company's site and ENotes' International Directory of Company Histories, but with the continued shrinkage of the Web, both have not just moved, but disappeared.

The printed edition of the book sports neither preface nor introduction; and my transcription omits the index.

Several other transcriptions of this same book can be found online, usually as a single long document — one of them a 37‑megabyte PDF file — but those that I looked at omit the four maps. Here on the contrary I've reproduced three of them three times each, in the appropriate chapters; in the table of illustrations below, the links are to the first copy of them.


A Century of Railroad Building


The Commodore and the New York Central


The Great Pennsylvania System


The Erie Railroad


Crossing the Appalachian Range


Linking the Oceans


Penetrating the Pacific Northwest


Building along the Santa Fé Trail


The Growth of the Hill Lines


The Railroad System of the South


The Life Work of Edward H. Harriman


The American Railroad Problem




Linking the Oceans — The locomotives Jupiter, of the Central Pacific, and 119, of the Union Pacific, meeting at Promontory Point, Utah, May 10, 1869

From the painting by C. W. Jefferys


Development of Railroads in the United States

Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.

Facing page 14

The New York Central, Santa Fé, and Great Northern Railway Systems

Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.

Facing page 36

The Pennsylvania, Southern, and Union-Pacific-Southern Pacific Railway Systems

Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.

Facing page 48

The Baltimore and Ohio, Erie, and Northern Pacific Railway Systems

Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.

Facing page 68

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Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here is the Chronicles of America series reprint, Yale University Press, 1921. It is in the public domain: details here on the copyright law involved.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The edition I followed was extraordinarily well proofread: I found not a single easily identifiable typographical error, although I didn't check all the dates and numbers.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any mistakes are thus probably my own, so please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line p57 ); these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

This frontispiece is the only photograph in the book; it serves as my icon for the book elsewhere onsite, as well as in the footer bars of its own chapters. The painting is a very near transcription of one of the famous photographs of the event, several of which are onsite.

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Site updated: 3 Aug 16