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Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow Unabridged [Audiobook]

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The heroes in this extraordinary epic are the Irish labourers and Chinese coolies; the villains, the avaricious bankers and the corrupt politicians. Before the undertaking was complete, more than 155 million acres of land had been given away to railway magnates, the Indian tribes had been massacred and the buffalo driven from the Great Plains, millions of settlers had been The heroes in this extraordinary epic are the Irish labourers and Chinese coolies; the villains, the avaricious bankers and the corrupt politicians. Before the undertaking was complete, more than 155 million acres of land had been given away to railway magnates, the Indian tribes had been massacred and the buffalo driven from the Great Plains, millions of settlers had been lured from Europe and a colossal industrial nation had been forged.


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The heroes in this extraordinary epic are the Irish labourers and Chinese coolies; the villains, the avaricious bankers and the corrupt politicians. Before the undertaking was complete, more than 155 million acres of land had been given away to railway magnates, the Indian tribes had been massacred and the buffalo driven from the Great Plains, millions of settlers had been The heroes in this extraordinary epic are the Irish labourers and Chinese coolies; the villains, the avaricious bankers and the corrupt politicians. Before the undertaking was complete, more than 155 million acres of land had been given away to railway magnates, the Indian tribes had been massacred and the buffalo driven from the Great Plains, millions of settlers had been lured from Europe and a colossal industrial nation had been forged.

30 review for Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow Unabridged [Audiobook]

  1. 4 out of 5

    Aonarán

    I stumbled upon this book a few weeks ago in the basement of a used bookstore, and was excited to see something else by Dee Brown (Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.) And though I would have like Brown to be a little more caustic at times, he does a really thorough job of explaining the trans-continental railroad with an analysis that covers the major categories I wanted it to: railroads as a main form of controlling, devastating and modernizing the west; Indian resistance to railroads; the robber b I stumbled upon this book a few weeks ago in the basement of a used bookstore, and was excited to see something else by Dee Brown (Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.) And though I would have like Brown to be a little more caustic at times, he does a really thorough job of explaining the trans-continental railroad with an analysis that covers the major categories I wanted it to: railroads as a main form of controlling, devastating and modernizing the west; Indian resistance to railroads; the robber barons who scammed small towns across the west, got paid about $30,000 a mile while the best paid workers only made $1 (when the owners had money left over from bribing senators to actually pay the workers0; the way desperate immigrant laborers (Irish, Chinese, former slaves) were pitted against one another to the benefit of the owners; how desperate famers in other countries were told of the rich cornicopia of the plains only to spend their life savings getting their to have it all turn to dust, etc. etc. Even the boring parts about Pullman upgrading to fancier dining cars and how smoke stacks differed in the US vs. Europe, Brown managed to make somewhat fascinating and pretty easily readable. 4.0

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dale Stonehouse

    Great history of the crossing of the American West by railroad builders, either a great triumph for the industrial world or a great tragedy for the natural world. Brown judges it as neither, merely telling the story with all its literal and figurative twists and turns.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John

    A good history, as long as one is prepared for the author's political/social views sometimes obscuring the narrative (and I share these views almost completely, but it was still a lot). A revisionist story, but at a time when that was even more necessary than it is now. Plus, what else would one read for a short one-volume history of the American railroads? Stephen Ambrose? Please. GTFO with that mess. A good history, as long as one is prepared for the author's political/social views sometimes obscuring the narrative (and I share these views almost completely, but it was still a lot). A revisionist story, but at a time when that was even more necessary than it is now. Plus, what else would one read for a short one-volume history of the American railroads? Stephen Ambrose? Please. GTFO with that mess.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    In a striking case of honesty, the back cover text tells us most of what we would need to know about the book’s approach. It reads: “In February 1854 the first railroad from the East reached the Mississippi. By the end of the nineteenth century, five major transcontinental railroads linked the East Coast with the Pacific Ocean, and thousands of miles of tracks crisscrossed the West, a vast and virginal land just a few years before. The building of America’s transcontinental railroads is a story In a striking case of honesty, the back cover text tells us most of what we would need to know about the book’s approach. It reads: “In February 1854 the first railroad from the East reached the Mississippi. By the end of the nineteenth century, five major transcontinental railroads linked the East Coast with the Pacific Ocean, and thousands of miles of tracks crisscrossed the West, a vast and virginal land just a few years before. The building of America’s transcontinental railroads is a story of breathtaking ingenuity, otherworldly idealism, and all-too-worldly greed. The heroes and villains were Irish and Chinese laborers, intrepid engineers, avaricious bankers, stock manipulators, and corrupt politicians. Before it was over, more than 155 million acres—one tenth of the country—were given away to the railroad magnates, Indian tribes were decimated, the buffalo were driven from the Great Plains, millions of immigrants were lured from Europe, and a colossal continental nation was built.” There is enough wrong with this text alone to write thousands of words, but given that it is a book review I will attempt to be brief. The author makes no attempt to restrain from continual moralizing, of dubious veracity. The land of the American West had been settled by hundreds of thousands of immigrants—we call them “Native Americans” and it was hardly “virginal” land, which makes the building of the railroads sound like a rape. Immigrants were not “lured” to the West—they were overcrowded in Europe and hardly needed to be seduced by the opportunity to own land free and clear free of the tyranny and poverty they faced in Europe. The volk ohne raum [1] of Germany and Eastern Europe hardly needed to be seduced to move to western Kansas or Nebraska or the Dakotas or the rest of the rural West, indeed. And on and on it goes. Here is an author that lacks an apparent Christian mindset but feels entirely free using the language of hellfire and brimstone messages to condemn the greed of the people who saw profit in the dream of connecting the East Coast to the West Coast, and clearly takes the side of the overwhelmed tribes who were unable to defeat the technology and drive of the United States of America once the Civil War no longer delayed the progress of the transcontinental railroad. That Dee Brown is also well known for his book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee makes his advocacy plain. In terms of its contents and organization, this is clearly the result of someone who has read a lot of material. There are citations of numerous travel diaries and letters and the behavior of Congress, showing a grasp of the relevant evidence, whatever polemical aim it is turned to. The structure of the book is both partly chronological as well as mostly topical in nature, demonstrating the author's primary intent to write social history, where chronology and narrative are of less importance than properly discussing people by some sort of supposed class origin. Here people are divided both by socioeconomic status as well as profession, and so the book discusses train engineers and brakemen separately from the financiers and land-grabbers, and both of them separately from the elite passengers and then the less elevated immigrants, including the Crimean Mennonite and other German ancestors of at least two of the notable families in my local congregation at church who ended up settling on the Great Plains, as I found out when I spoke to them one night at a memorable dinner party after services. Although the topical organization of the book hinders the narrative flow someone, the author is so transparently obvious about his perspective but so vivid in his writing that little harm is done by the suboptimal organization of the book. This is a book that a reader will know whether they like or not based on how willing they are to put up with the book's consistent and strident tone of hostility towards the capitalists who ran the railroad companies as well as the corrupt politicians who let them do it the way they did it. Yet all too often the author's clear advocacy for treating the railroads like a public trust fall short with the author's invective against Amtrak on the one hand and the fact that the author's critique of generations of American politicians demonstrates that he lacks faith in the ability of our government to successfully manage any kind of public trust. Where, then, are ethical people who are capable in acting in the public good to be found? If we cannot trust private enterprise because the urge for greedily profiting and setting up restrictive monopolies or oligarchies harms the level of care and concern that is supposed to be provided for people, if partnerships between government and private enterprise cannot be trusted to handle utilities effectively and efficiently, and if our government is so full of venality and corruption that our elected leaders cannot be trusted, where then are trustworthy people to be found and placed in positions where they may exercise the trust held in them to honorably and decently and justly manage railroads or any other sort of system within our country (like health care or education, for example). This paradox, that the author demands public control because of a bias against business despite being all too aware of the flaws and crony capitalism practiced by our political elite, gives the author's prescriptions an air of unreality. It is easy to complain about the past, but given the author's unwarranted claims that the west was "virignal" before the white man came and given that he has no means of ensuring that even public control of transportation systems or anything else would lead to those resources being used for the public good by people who were honorable and competent, the author has no solutions for the problems he bewails. Ultimately, this book is a lengthy but pointless complaint about the history of the Transcontinental railroads, without any prescription for improving the matter now. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cleokatra

    This was the summer of the steam trains for me. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, Union Pacific had been running an old, restored steam engine. I live near that locomotive's home, so I've seen a lot of it and have developed an interest in it. I decided it was time to learn more than I was getting from UP's public relations department, so I picked up this book. It went beyond anything that I ever expected. The first half of the book is ab This was the summer of the steam trains for me. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, Union Pacific had been running an old, restored steam engine. I live near that locomotive's home, so I've seen a lot of it and have developed an interest in it. I decided it was time to learn more than I was getting from UP's public relations department, so I picked up this book. It went beyond anything that I ever expected. The first half of the book is about the construction of the railroad and the shady dealings of the robber barons at the time. The second half is more focused on how the railroads affected the settlement/colonization of the western US. Spoiler: the settlers got screwed and so did the Native Americans. The book is a little dated; it was written in the 1970s. It's well researched and full of the kind of depressing reality that this author is known for. It's a good read. I learned a lot.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    This is a light overview history of the building of the railroads in the western United States. Warning, it is also very slanted with plenty of opinions which takes away some from the content. Other authors have covered individual railroads covering the same issues, but without the overbearing preaching at times that occurs in this book. I have also posted my review on Goodreads, Amazon and my review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook page.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Randy A

    super interesting book on the transcontinental railroad. How it came to be, and facts/details on building it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim Swike

    An excellent read and very complete story of the Transcontinental Railroads. I learned a lot about the Railroads and how they were formed. An Excellent reference book. Enjoy!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason Mills

    It's the 1860s and the West is just opening up: there are gold-digging settlements in California, the odd ranching town, but essentially the huge sweep of the mid-West remains home "only" to Native Americans and buffalo. Control and settlement of this vast country urgently requires infrastructure, to enable faster, safer and higher-volume transport than can be achieved by wagon train or long shipping routes. The land is ripe for the picking when the railroad men step in, hastily throwing down th It's the 1860s and the West is just opening up: there are gold-digging settlements in California, the odd ranching town, but essentially the huge sweep of the mid-West remains home "only" to Native Americans and buffalo. Control and settlement of this vast country urgently requires infrastructure, to enable faster, safer and higher-volume transport than can be achieved by wagon train or long shipping routes. The land is ripe for the picking when the railroad men step in, hastily throwing down thousands of miles of track and picking up, in return, enormous government subsidies and eye-popping land grants that extend tens of miles to either side of their lines. Brown spends the first half of the book describing how the first transcontinental line was laid: the engineering challenges, the savage competition between the companies building from opposite ends, the outright disregard for native rights, and most of all the shameless swindling of the public purse by the scoundrels at the top. For bribed politicians and ruthless railway tycoons alike, the railroad was only the means to an end - not of conquering the land, but of making themselves immensely rich by scandalous financial arrangements, to which building and running railways was merely an afterthought, a minor legal hoop to jump through. Consequently the lines were poorly and rapidly built, taking routes chosen not for speed or safety but to maximise the rewards from completing the miles: As for Dr. Durant and his cronies, there is no record of what they sang as they collected the $16,000 per mile from the government for the track laid by the workmen, the $25,000 per mile of excess profits from Credit Mobilier, the 12,800 acres of land per mile, and whatever else they were able to divert from the sales of stocks and bonds. [A government examiner's] report to Congress, however, like most honest reports that might interfere with the exploitation of the public, was filed away and quickly forgotten by the people's representatives in Washington. Notwithstanding these distasteful machinations, there is a spirit of adventure in these escapades and a true sense of achievement, albeit tempered by the job being done badly for greed instead of well for progress. The two sides of this coin are perfectly symbolised when the tracks from the east and west are to be joined by a golden spike: executives from both companies, concerned only with finance and not at all with engineering, swing their sledgehammers and miss! After this first conquest, the book explores other aspects of the railroads' impact: the experiences of travellers, the Hell On Wheels towns that followed the construction teams, the southern and northern lines, the conning of migrants into buying worthless land and their further exploitation through high freight-rates for their meagre produce. The picture is colourful but not pretty, and Brown shows how the outrageous huckstering and profiteering led to the miserable, vestigial railways that drearily cross the USA today, undermaintained, underdeveloped and underused - yet paid for by public taxes several times over. Although his milieu is the 19th-century, Dee Brown's books teach political lessons that seem ageless. If reading them is sobering, it is nonetheless most certainly educational: we can't learn these things often enough. - Oh, and it's a rollicking good read too.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Garnette

    Dee Brown, best known as the author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, predictably drives home the message that railroad robber barons colluded with politicians, ripping off the government and the people to gain wealth and power. He emphasizes the role of the railroads as an incentive for and an instrument of the mistreatment and annihilation of native Americans. This theme of technological change threatening the livelihood and well being of the common people has obvious parallels in current even Dee Brown, best known as the author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, predictably drives home the message that railroad robber barons colluded with politicians, ripping off the government and the people to gain wealth and power. He emphasizes the role of the railroads as an incentive for and an instrument of the mistreatment and annihilation of native Americans. This theme of technological change threatening the livelihood and well being of the common people has obvious parallels in current events. "The locomotive is a great centralizer....It kills little towns and builds up great cities, and in the same way kills little businesses and builds up great ones." "This feudal treatment by the railroad corporations created among the Western settlers a disillusionment with the American political system. Switching from Republican to Democratic or Democratic to Republican candidates did not seem to change anything." I suspect that there are other stories to be told as well. He portrays the immigrant settlers as dupes of the railroad interests, yet linking the East and West Coasts did unite the nation and the agricultural production of the heartland supplied (and continues to supply) the commerce of the coastal cities. Landless immigrants, often from persecuted minorities in their homelands, found opportunities. I would have appreciated a more nuanced analysis.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Baker

    This is a little bit of a cheat to say I read this book specifically. My local library only had a version pared down for younger readers (say, maybe junior high level) and Goodreads did not have that version listed. Even considering that, this is a terrific read especially for folks interested in the old west. Dee Brown, like in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (the full version), knows how to present historical facts and anecdotes in a clear, entertaining manner; free of the academic clutter that This is a little bit of a cheat to say I read this book specifically. My local library only had a version pared down for younger readers (say, maybe junior high level) and Goodreads did not have that version listed. Even considering that, this is a terrific read especially for folks interested in the old west. Dee Brown, like in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (the full version), knows how to present historical facts and anecdotes in a clear, entertaining manner; free of the academic clutter that plagues some nonfiction. The race that the two companies building the transcontinental railroad partake in, disregarding workers' safety, is ridiculous, although one might say, typical. There's also a lot of good pictures, one of someone's actual scalped hair.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Suzan Poisner

    While this non-fiction tale of the early railroads in the west was dry at times, I found it a fascinating read. I especially enjoyed how the author wove politics and western expansion into the story. It was a bit dated (my copy was from 1979), yet reminded me of the Koch brothers of today. I would have appreciated more insight into how the railroads fared during the 20th century when autos and airplanes took over, as well as the realities of the lasting impacts in contemporary times (especially While this non-fiction tale of the early railroads in the west was dry at times, I found it a fascinating read. I especially enjoyed how the author wove politics and western expansion into the story. It was a bit dated (my copy was from 1979), yet reminded me of the Koch brothers of today. I would have appreciated more insight into how the railroads fared during the 20th century when autos and airplanes took over, as well as the realities of the lasting impacts in contemporary times (especially in relation to taxation and legislation).

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    I am on a history reading bender lately, this one about the railroads, but really about the corruption in US politics after the Civil War and up to end of that century. It ties to my genealogy research as it explains some of what was driving the immigrants to settle the midwest and west. Its a good read, but can get a little long in its seemingly endless parade of crooked rail people. But also very interesting parts such as the discussion of the "Harvey" girls, what the travel experience was lik I am on a history reading bender lately, this one about the railroads, but really about the corruption in US politics after the Civil War and up to end of that century. It ties to my genealogy research as it explains some of what was driving the immigrants to settle the midwest and west. Its a good read, but can get a little long in its seemingly endless parade of crooked rail people. But also very interesting parts such as the discussion of the "Harvey" girls, what the travel experience was like for the rich and poor, and so on. Worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Val

    This book chonicles not only the Trancontinental Railroad building but also various other railroading efforts and has touches of what travel was like on these lines for both the wealthy and the poor. Interesting and fun history that sometimes takes you right there.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sheridan

    Some books by their very name create an aura that, when read, is completely dispelled to reveal a new reality. This book reveals how U.S. politics and business was created. All we need now is volume two revealing where all the politics an business went.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David R.

    Like an underpowered locomotive, it started strong and then ground to a halt. The opening chapters pertinent to the laying down of the western railways are solid, workmanlike, and riveting. The last three are a dismal screed with minimal attention to detail.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    Dowdy title, but the writing is breezy and irreverent. Tells it like it was. Think Howard Zinn, only this guy isn't a total idiot. Dowdy title, but the writing is breezy and irreverent. Tells it like it was. Think Howard Zinn, only this guy isn't a total idiot.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Blaine Morrow

    Largely negative and critical account of the building of America's railroads, revealing the financial cheating, political corruption, and general mismanagement that led to their completion. Largely negative and critical account of the building of America's railroads, revealing the financial cheating, political corruption, and general mismanagement that led to their completion.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Sauser

    Love this book on transcontinental railroad. You think big biz runs the country now ... Jeez.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joe Swearingen

    Slow starting book but learned much on the history of the railroads in the USA and how the taxpayers overpaid and the politicians and Railroad companies profited.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    A remarkable story, told by Dee Brown with energy and empathy. The push to span the continent with railroads was a national obsession, a source of great pride, and a tremendous engineering accomplishment. The dreamers, schemers, and dilettantes, the hard-bitten engineers, Civil War veterans, cowboys, and workers from around the world all make their appearance here, as do the shills who raised the money and the feuding cabals of owners. They are all described with clarity and plenty of interestin A remarkable story, told by Dee Brown with energy and empathy. The push to span the continent with railroads was a national obsession, a source of great pride, and a tremendous engineering accomplishment. The dreamers, schemers, and dilettantes, the hard-bitten engineers, Civil War veterans, cowboys, and workers from around the world all make their appearance here, as do the shills who raised the money and the feuding cabals of owners. They are all described with clarity and plenty of interesting detail. The author’s heart, however, is with the little people, the workmen, farmers, and immigrants who laid the tracks or moved west with the rails to try to make a living on the unforgiving soil. Brown seethes with contempt – and it is well deserved contempt – for the financiers, swindlers, corrupt politicians, and speculators who repeatedly stole land from the Native Americans, plundered the taxpayers for subsidies, ruled like feudal lords over the people who needed the rails to move goods, and looted their own companies. The hedge fund bloodsuckers of today are the heirs of these robber barons, who cared for nothing and no one except what would enrich them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rickeclectic

    Detailed history of the rise and consolidation of railroads in America, especially in the South and West. Frank, direct account of the politics, power and manipulation that drove the railroads, balanced against the immense role the railroad played in settling the West. It is also a tale of how politics and power are politics and power. A lesson that anyone who believes that politicians or the wealthy are inherently altruistic is likely very naive.

  23. 5 out of 5

    barna richards

    corruption worse than most of us imagined If the average American then it now could read and realize how the greed of individuals and government could Rob our citizens, they too would be astounded. Socialism won't stop the robbery because the same actors will just wear different hats under the guise of government oversight!and corruption worse than most of us imagined If the average American then it now could read and realize how the greed of individuals and government could Rob our citizens, they too would be astounded. Socialism won't stop the robbery because the same actors will just wear different hats under the guise of government oversight!and

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tobin Tullis

    Extremely historical fact, not storytelling. The engagement was really dry and clearly the author is disgusted at the roberbarrons and corrupt politicians behind the construction of the railroad. He hides no disdain

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robert M. Galbraith

    Really interesting history. Great reveal of the corruption in Washington DC and the money markets of the day. In many respects there nothing has changed. I especially enjoyed the accounts of those who were early travelers on the railroads.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This is a really good book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan Vogel

    Fifty years later and we are still screwed Here is the history you don't get in the schools or press. America first last and always for the rich. Fifty years later and we are still screwed Here is the history you don't get in the schools or press. America first last and always for the rich.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    Covers all the major Western railroads.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Several months ago I began a list of suggested books for volunteers at my local railroad museum. We had a copy of Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow in our library and I included it on the list. I read this book in my youth and decided to revisit it in the past month. On the second read I was impressed at how well it painted the overall picture of railroads in the west. I am recommending this book to our volunteers as a good starting choice for expanding their general railroad knowledge.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    I read this book because I am now in Kansas and we have railroad routes all over the state. We have tracks and we are on the delivery route of many things. When first founded we were a stopping point for cattle going to Dodge City. In Dodge City they get the cattle and have a lot of rail tracks there.

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