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The book, American Railroads by John F. Stover is an action-packed account of how the United States' railroads rose, declined and was reborn. The author of the book tries to trace the history of the American railroads ever since the laying of the first lines which were used to link eastern seaports with the western markets and is also the basis of the newly rejuvenated industry. The growth of the monopoly of the railroads in the US is clearly explained by Stover in his book. However, with a subsequent need for federal and state regulations, the author tries to relate the very important part the railroads played at the time of the Civil War as well as both the first and the second World Wars. The author also gives a graphic representation of the decline by railroads as a result of the introduction of both the trucking as well as air travel in the 1950s (Stover 123). One can also challenge some of the accounts that the book has made in regard to the history of the railroad in the United States. There are some dates that have been mentioned in the narration of the book which have raised some doubts.
Though the title of the book looks very brief, it has addressed the context of the book. Nevertheless, the author should have included some more information as a way of hinting to the reader what the book is all about. The book has addressed so much but mostly it is what has happened in the past since the inception of the railroad, based on the fact that the book is based on the history of the railroad, the word 'History' ought to have been included in the title of the book and this would give the reader an indication that the book is based on the history of the railroad in the United states (Stover 73).
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According to the way the book has been written, it seems that the author intended the book to fall under historical fiction genre of books. However, the author has incorporated other genre in the book and this might end up confusing the reader in terms of the genre of the book. Other genres that are evident in the book include; reality and true story based on the fact that most of the historical events that the author mentions in regard to the railroads in America are actual events that took place in the past.
In regard to the length of the book, the book is quite long and can be somehow boring for people wishing to go through it. To avoid boredom while reading this book and to promote the book among the readers, the author should have thought of splitting the book into two editions or maybe he should have conducted a thorough editing to ensure that the book is shorter based on the fact that in its normal length, the book is actually 306 pages and based on the fact that the book can serve both as a story book as well as a historical academic book, the book would be easy to read and have more information if it were split into two parts (Stover 67).
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In regard to the opening lines of the book, as well as the title of the first chapter that reads, "A perfect system of Roads and Canals", these two appears to be much dethatched from the title of the book. Instead of introducing the American Railroad, the heading of the first chapter is based on the road system as well as the canals. The first lines address some of the challenges that faced the Americans soon after the war with England in the year 1815 (Stover 83). Most of the readers would have expected that the author would introduce the book by going directly to issues related to the railroad system in the United States. Introducing the book with the road network and canals would imply to some readers that the book is based on transport systems in the United States which is obviously not the case. This in a way may end up confusing some of the readers and create a possible loss of interest in the book.
The American experience is captured expressively in few scenes as a lonesome train gulping down the immensity of Great Plains, or making its way through the tormenting high mountain regions. Such symbolism not make sense to some of the readers who may just take the message as it is and as a result, the author ought to have opened the meaning of the book in a more understandable manner based on the fact that the book is based on some important historical events. Despite the fact that such a vision had been overshadowed for a time by the increased cases of air travel as well as trucking, there has been a rebirth of the railway system in the recent years with the means off transport being considered as one of the profitable stowage carriers (Stover 12).
The author of the book, American Railroads, in subsequent chapters gives a recount of an amazing revival of the railroads in concern. Stover also gives other fundamental events in regard to the recent history of the industry. It was around the 1960s that there was a decline in passenger traffic as well as an excessive federal regulation which led to formation of Amtrak as a way of reviving passenger service as well as Conrail. These two were financed by the federal government so as to give a provision freight service on northeastern railways that was bankrupt. However, according to the author of the book, it turned out that the authentic savior of the US railroads was actually the Staggers Rail Act that was implemented in 1980. The act is known to have brought opulence to the freight carriers of the rail through substantial deregulation of this industry. This was a continuous process and at around the year 1995, the railroad freight traffic that had already been renewed attained close to twice its previous peak that had been attained in the year 1944 (Stover 24).
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The author has managed to bring fresh insight as well as a seasoned eye to tolerate the railroads which is one important American industry as a result of the definitive history he gives concerning the United States railroads. Unlike what the title may have suggested to the reader, the book is not only based on the railroads in the United States but also the rest of the transport system such as road network and the air transport. The book though some o the readers see it as captivating one based on the argument that the author presents both sides of the rise and decline of the railroad. A lot has been discussed in regard to railroad tonnage as well as the freight that is supposed to be carried over a long distant but the reader is left hanging in regard to the message the author intends to pass regarding the modes of transport that have been mentioned in the book in addition to the railroad means of freight departure (Stover 234). The plot of the book is not that badly off though it can also be improved to make the book more attractive to the readers.
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