The Gilded Age
light car, drawn by a single horse, gallops up to the front with its
load of rails. Two men seize the end of a rail and start forward,
the rest of the gang taking hold by twos, until it is clear of the car.
They come forward at a run. At the word of command the rail is
dropped in its place, right side up with care, while the same process
goes on at the other side of the car. Less than thirty seconds to
a rail for each gang, and so four rails go down to the minute ... close
behind the first gang come the gaugers, spikers, and bolters, and a
lively time they make of it. It is a grand 'anvil chorus' ... It
is played in triple time, 3 strokes to the spike. There are 10
spikes to a rail, 400 rails to a mile, 1,800 miles to San Francisco —
21,000,000 times those sledges to be swung: 21,000,000 times are they to
come down with their sharp punctuation before the great work of modern
America is complete."
What with the extremely small numbers of that era's circumnavigators,
the lack of a time zone system was hardly a matter for public concern.
Only with the onset of the Industrial Revolution -- and the dramatic
growth of railroads, which had to forecast arrivals and departures --
did the need for time zones become apparent. (As late as 1839, however,
one English railway company refused to make public its new,
single-time-zone timetables, complaining that such action "would
tend to make punctuality a sort of obligation.")
Railways were in use in the United States
early in its history. Cars and carriages to transport goods and people
were pulled by horses along tracks or sent down hills--and then pulled
up again--from the 1810's.
of Railroads and Maps
Surveying and mapping activities flourished in the United States as
people began moving inland over the inadequately mapped continent. The
settlement of the frontier, the development of agriculture, and the
exploitation of natural resources generated a demand for new ways to
move people and goods from one place to another. Privately owned toll or
turnpike roads were followed first by steamships on the navigable rivers
and by the construction of canals and then in the 1830s by the
introduction of railroads for steam-powered trains.
In a conversation with us several years ago, the Kiowa poet N. Scott
Momaday remarked that the American West "is a place that has to be
seen to be believed, and it may have to be believed in order to be
seen." For five years we have travelled that landscape,
photographed its vistas, talked to its people, sought out its history,
all as part of our production of THE WEST, an eight-part documentary
series for public television.
Car: The History
white-jacketed waiter balances a loaded silver platter as a speeding
railroad diner pitches to and fro over seemingly endless miles of steel
rail. In the kitchen, a black chef stoops over a blistering hot iron
stove as he places a fresh turkey into the oven for dinner. And back in
first class, the ubiquitous Pullman porter flashes a broad smile as he
settles a passenger into her room.
heard the story. You've even seen photos that "prove" it. It's
pounded into the head of every American schoolkid over the age of five.
The U.S. transcontinental railroad was completed when a golden spike was
driven at Promontory Summit, UT,
linking East and West on May 10, 1869. It's a lie.