Denny Anspach <danspach@...>
I would agree with Tony Thompson that Maury Klein's biography of E.H. Harriman should be on one's "must-read" lists of essential substantive railroad history books. The book is both well written and a very good read to boot; and Klein makes a very exciting story of Harriman's central role in the unfolding and quite amazing broad canvas of western/northwestern railroad expansion and rivalries over the 20 years or so bridging the turn of the last century. That Harriman was a very interesting, often sympathetic, and a surprising renaissance man just by himself, is only additive to the story. A great deal of the primary sources for Klein arose from long forgotten, serendiptiously-newly-found papers and manuscripts, an absorbing story-within-a- story all by itself.
That almost alone among railroad barons of the time Harriman would aggressively (some would say "ruinously") ramp up expenditures for track, line, infrastructure, route improvements and expansion during the serious national economic downturns of the time ("so we will be ready to immediately profit when the downturn is over") graphically explained for me why the Harriman roads were deemed so powerful.
That he made most of his ubiquitous inspection tours over the UP and SP occupying his favorite ILLINOIS CENTRAL office car reminds the reader once again of the important role that this still-important mid- America line played, and was still playing in the vast railroad games of the period.
That Harriman hosted John Muir -and substantially enabled some Muir's historic conservation efforts, and greatly advanced the science and knowledge of Alaska's natural history was again quite enlightening. These were done via Harriman's personal charter of a steamship in 1899 for a two month Alaska cruise with the passengers some of the most eminent natural scientists of the time.
I will attest that the three railroads mentioned all operated large fleets of Steam Era Freight Cars. If such were not specifically mentioned, they were certainly implied.
Denny S. Anspach, MD