Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad

224p. bibliog. chron. index. maps. notes. photos. Candlewick. Sept. 2015. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780763665272. LC 2014954533.
Gr 7 Up—Sandler chronicles the development of the transcontinental railroad, from its genesis through its legacy, with an abundance of photographs and lively text. Alternating chapters describe the progress made by the two companies—the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific—and the author incorporates maps and images, appropriately placed along the way, to further convey the magnitude of the railroad. The pacing, particularly when the two teams meet, is spot-on and mimics the advances of a train. Sandler tempers this engineering feat with details about the corruption that surrounded it, the "Hell on Wheels" towns that appeared alongside the tracks, and the human and environmental toll it took, which enables readers to look critically at an historical event. Sidebars and primary sources, which highlight people and innovations and enrich the narrative, interrupt the story's flow in a few places. Even though Sandler expounds throughout on the sacrifices made by Chinese workers and the irreparable impact on Native Americans and their culture, the book is written from the perspective of those in power.
VERDICT Sandler tells a good story, filled with complex characters, adventure, and heartache, and he meticulously documents his research efforts.

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