Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad

The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad

Nathan Olson
Illustrator:  Richard Dominguez , Charles Barnett III 
Nonfiction Graphic Novel  Series
For ages 6 to 9
Capstone Press, 2007   ISBN: 978-0736864909

In the mid 1800's an engineer called Theodore Judah decided that it was time for someone to build a railroad connecting California with the eastern United States. Unfortunately he could not get the government in Washington D.C. to agree on a railroad bill and therefore he began to try to find private investors to pay for the project. He succeeded in finding four rich and powerful businessmen to launch the Central Pacific Railroad and finally in 1862 he was present when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act.

Unfortunately Judah died soon after this event but the work on the railroad began and despite many setbacks, the railroad crept its way through the mountains and across the country. Meanwhile, while the Central Pacific worked its way west, a new company, the Union Pacific, was formed to build a railroad that worked its way east. Both companies were rife with highly unethical business practices and the men who were in charge made enormous amounts of money at the expense of the government, at the expense of other investors, and at the expense of the men who worked on the railroad itself. It was an ugly business but in the end the railroad was completed and the benefit to the country as a whole was enormous.

This is an excellent account of how the transcontinental railroad came to be built and how political, corrupt, and complicated the process was. The author takes great pains to make sure that his readers know that the laborers who built the railroad did so working under dreadful and very dangerous conditions. Presented in a graphic novel format, this is one of the many first-rate non fiction titles in the Capstone Press Graphic Library series.