Ambrose notes that the railway was constructed after the American Civil War where the union had won it. Furthermore, there was no slavery meaning that workers had to volunteer in constructing the railway. The writer notes that the construction of transcontinental railroad from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California was the greatest achievement of the American people (Ambrose 17).
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The writer attributes the success to good governance of Lincoln regime and skilled engineers who had graduated from American colleges. The war played an important role because people had learned to obey orders and work in a team. Ambrose comments that the railway benefited from a large workforce of immigrants who had escaped from China and other places seeking for good fortunes. The writer compares the construction of transcontinental railway with Russian trans-Siberian railway, which benefited from slaves.
Great men such as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and William Sherman supervised railway construction. The leaders played an important role because they held the union together. They had a huge following from both the south and the north. One funny thing was that the first man was the president, the second became the president later and the third turned down the offer of presidency.
Strongmen such as Jack and Casement, who had served as army generals during the civil war, supported the leaders. Financiers trusted the activities of the leaders and they could not delay funds, which promoted the railway. The Union Pacific and the Central Pacific funded the railway. They were the two largest corporations at the time. The author observes that it took imagination, intelligence, fortitude, hard work and enthusiasm to complete construction of the railway.
The railway construction encountered several problems including hostility from the natives and unavailability of building materials. The writer asserts in page 19 that the Indians, who never wanted their lives to be interfered with by the presence of the railway, attacked surveyors. It is also observed that wild animals such as buffalos attacked builders. The same problem could be encountered in modern America although with a different form.
It is difficult to convince the locals and politicians that a particular infrastructural facility would benefit them. Currently, there is no space for building a railway. Private investors who would demand too much to dispose land to the state are in control of resources.
During the construction of transcontinental railway, it took the effort of intelligent men to convince politicians to support the project. The same problem would resurface today in case the same project is proposed. Politicians are reluctant to support projects that do not benefit them directly.
Ambrose posits that leaders had to import building materials from east through Panama, around South America. This was costly and time consuming, something that could be faced in modern America. The state is not endowed with building materials meaning that they must be imported from elsewhere. In the modern world, it would even be more costly to import building materials because of high demand of materials.
It is a complex process to inquire about building materials, leave alone acquiring them. In this regard, the state prefers other means of transportation to using railway transport. In fact, the writer observes that the railway was the last great railroad project to be erected in the United States. It is impossible to come up with a project that can match transcontinental railway.
Ambrose, Stephen. Nothing like it in the world: the men who built the transcontinental. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2000.