Summary and book reviews of Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose

Nothing Like It In The World

The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1865-1869

by Stephen Ambrose

Nothing Like It In The World
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2000, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2001, 432 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Ambrose writes with power and eloquence about the brave men -- the famous and the unheralded, ordinary men doing the extraordinary -- who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the continent into a nation.

In this account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage, Stephen E. Ambrose offers a historical successor to his universally acclaimed Undaunted Courage, which recounted the explorations of the West by Lewis and Clark.

Nothing Like It in the World is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad -- the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks.

The Union had won the Civil War and slavery had been abolished, but Abraham Lincoln, who was an early and constant champion of railroads, would not live to see the great achievement. In Ambrose's hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle, and sweat, comes to life.

The U.S. government pitted two companies -- the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads -- against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West or lugged across the country to the Plains. This was the last great building project to be done mostly by hand: excavating dirt, cutting through ridges, filling gorges, blasting tunnels through mountains.

At its peak, the workforce -- primarily Chinese on the Central Pacific, Irish on the Union Pacific -- approached the size of Civil War armies, with as many as fifteen thousand workers on each line. The Union Pacific was led by Thomas "Doc" Durant, Oakes Ames, and Oliver Ames, with Grenville Dodge -- America's greatest railroad builder -- as chief engineer. The Central Pacific was led by California's "Big Four": Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins. The surveyors, the men who picked the route, were latter-day Lewis and Clark types who led the way through the wilderness, living off buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope.

In building a railroad, there is only one decisive spot -- the end of the track. Nothing like this great work had been seen in the world when the last spike, a golden one, was driven in at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific tracks were joined.

Ambrose writes with power and eloquence about the brave men -- the famous and the unheralded, ordinary men doing the extraordinary -- who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the continent into a nation.

Chapter One: Picking the Route 1830-1860

August 13, 1859, was a hot day in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The settlement was on the western boundary of the state, just across the Missouri River from the Nebraska village of Omaha. A politician from the neighboring state of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, went to Concert Hall to make a speech. It attracted a big crowd because of Lincoln's prominence after the previous year's Lincoln-Douglas debates and the keen interest in the following year's presidential election. Lincoln was a full-time politician and a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. The local editor called Lincoln's speech -- never recorded -- one that "set forth the true principles of the Republican party."

In the audience was Grenville Mellen Dodge, a twenty-eight-year-old railroad engineer. The next day he joined a group of citizens who had gathered on the big porch of the Pacific House, a hotel, to hear Lincoln answer questions. When Lincoln had ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review - Henry Kisor

Ambrose's scholarship seems impeccable, supported by copious notes and an extensive bibliography. He writes a brisk, colloquial, straightforward prose.

Publishers Weekly

Drawing on diaries, memoirs, letters, telegrams, newspaper accounts and other primary sources, Ambrose celebrates the railroad's unsung heroes--the men who actually did the backbreaking work.

Library Journal

Ambrose adds little to a much-told tale (his book does not supplant David Haward Bain's Empire Express, LJ 10/1/99), and he blinks at the ruthlessness and misery that made fortunes for the train barons. But in his hands every sledgehammer blow hits hard and every blast echoes.

Reader Reviews

Percy Douglas

I like this book. She is a very good author to be able to write this. Her contexts are in perfect harmony. Peace Out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Frank McWilliams

Ambrose details the transcontinental railroad's conception and its building in such a way as to draw the reader into the distance race between the Central Pacific and Union Pacific, America‚Äôs two first large corporations. The people, all of the ...   Read More

Miss Karen-MiChelle Collins

Overall, this book was highly factual and detailed. Ambrose truly researched his topic. However; as a history major from the University of Arkansas at Monticello, I felt these details were slightly too much. I was so bagged down with details that I ...   Read More

Bob

Listen to book on tape. It was spell binding. My first book on tape but not my last. I know all about the "big 4", Doc Durant, Granville Dodge. The role Abe Lincoln played in Pacific railroad.



Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Nothing Like It In The World, try these:

  • The Oregon Trail jacket

    The Oregon Trail

    by Rinker Buck

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    An epic account of traveling the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way—in a covered wagon with a team of mules, an audacious journey that hasn't been attempted in a century.

  • The Great Stink jacket

    The Great Stink

    by Clare Clark

    Published 2006

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    With extraordinarily vivid characters and unflinching prose The Great Stink marks the debut of an outstandingly talented writer in the tradition of the best historical novelists.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    In the Country of Men
    by Hisham Matar
    Labeled by some as the "Libyan Kite Runner", In The Country of Men does share some ...
  • Book Jacket: Holding Up the Universe
    Holding Up the Universe
    by Jennifer Niven
    Jennifer Niven's spectacular Holding Up the Universe has everything that I love about Young ...
  • Book Jacket: Coffin Road
    Coffin Road
    by Peter May
    From its richly atmospheric opening to its dramatic conclusion, Peter May's Coffin Road is a ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win All the Gallant Men

All The Gallant Men

The first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor, 75 years after Pearl Harbor.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Y Eyes P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.