In building a railroad, there is only one decisive spot - the end of the track. Nothing like this great work had ever been seen in the world when the last spike - a golden one - was driven in Promontory Peak, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and 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.
©2000 Stephen E. Ambrose, All Rights Reserved; (P)2000 Simon & Schuster, Inc., All Rights Reserved; AUDIOWORKS Is an Imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
"... telling of the railroad's physical construction will be a sure winner with the author's legions of readers." (Booklist)
"... bears the reader on shoulders of wonder and excitement." (The New York Times)
Great history, told at great pace.
The author never attempts to hide his admiration for his subjects and this book is no exception. Their achievement leaves you breathless and S E Ambrose tells the story with pace and detail.
Well written, well read.
"Good Book, Poor Narration and Audio Quality"
The book is good if you are interested in history, which I am. The building of the transcontinental railroad is described in detail. The problem is the narration and sound quality. The narrator speaks softly -- barely above a whisper -- and with very little energy. He does, however, speak naturally, which is a plus. His quiet delivery is made worse by the uneven audio quality. You have to turn the volume way up to hear him, and there is a noticeable hiss which can be maddening. The delivery does not do justice to an otherwise fine book.
"I really wanted to like this book."
First of all, I think there was a change of narrators at some point, because my version was superb, while the narration offered in the sample on this page was as terrible as many earlier reviewers suggest. So, for the record, the narrator problem appears to have been fixed.
Unfortunately, the basic flaws of story telling remain problematic. I've read many works by Ambrose and have adored them all. This book fell flat for me. Thud. Just when it seemed about to get interesting, it diverged into a morass of not-so-consequential tangents that were hard to endure.
"A tragic waste"
What could have been a truly fascinating book is, als ruined by the pairing of this narrator. The same man read Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, and was excellent, but this material and his style are a recipe for droning disaster. I love other books by this author, and am fascinated with railroad lore, but this was a trial to endure. Imagine endless shopping lists being read by a calm, even tone...it was a tragedy. One notable exception in otherwise excellent work from both the author and narrator.
"A new narrator please!"
I have heard several of the Ambrose books and liked them; however, the narrator ruined this book. I found him boring and even worse ? hard to hear and understand.
"Great reading, but ...."
This is a wonderful book, well researched by the renowned Stephen Ambrose. The reading or audio performance was outstanding--perfectly suited to the story--quiet, reflective, subtle. However, the content of the book was frequently redundant (as I have found in other Ambrose works) as the author repeats facts and points many times. I like Ambrose and his work--it is well researched and interesting. Moreover, Ambrose often makes salient observations that are historically significant in and of themselves. I just wish that he had written better.
"Excellent book about 19th-Century expansion"
Like "Undaunted Courage," this is a very entertaining an interesting book which if very well-read for audio. Ambrose deserves great credit for making history entertaining. A must for anyone interested in 19th-Century American history.
what a great recounting of one of the greatest physical accomplishments in American history. As a construction super and a farmer I have a different outlook on physical labor after reading this. ( no more complaining from me!) Makes one appreciate the easy life that we all enjoy. Was very interested in the political haggling that took place before construction began. highly recommended.
I really liked Undaunted Courage but this book is really pretty boring overall.
Ambrose did a great job of describing the premier engineering challenge of the nineteenth century. Building the railroad from Omaha to Sacramento with only hand tools is amazing by any standard. This book was so good I read it then listened to the unabridged audiobook. The politics and finance may be a bit tiresome for some but the adventure of the race to Promontory should make this a great read for anyone wanting a real understanding of American History. This railroad had as much to do with joining the country East to West as the Civil War did in joining it North to South. Arguably, this project had more to do with making the American nation than any other engineering achievement.
"Full of Errors Big and Small and Poorly Written"
From getting wrong people doing the wrong things at the wrong time to the wrong river in the wrong state, this book is virtually worthless in terms of factual history. He has the builder of a railroad building a bridge near Buffalo. He has Lee finding someone else's battle plans in the Civil War when it was Lee's plans that were found. He has a river that is only in Nevada its entire length in several states. As an example of the poor fact-checking, the printed version has areas listed as territories that were actually states.
I listened to the book and thought I was getting forgetful when I heard the same sentences several times, but no it was true. He *did* use virtually the same paragraphs several times.
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