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Twilight Rails

The Final Era of Railroad Building in the Midwest

2010
Author:

H. Roger Grant

Twilight Rails

The first book to document the final wave of railroad construction in the Midwest, written by a preeminent railroad historian

In Twilight Rails, H. Roger Grant documents the stories of eight Midwestern carriers that appeared at the end of the railroad building craze. This thorough and highly accessible history provides a fascinating look at the motivations, accomplishments, and failures of the twilight carriers, granting a new breath of life to this neglected aspect of American railway history.

H. Roger Grant, one of America’s leading railroad historians, chronicles eight minor twentieth century railroads with all the craft he employed on his important studies of several major railways. These short lines, often in the middle of nowhere, failed, but Grant emphasizes their positive effects on the small towns and rural areas they served. With his usual thorough research and deft style, he shows how these little railroads contributed to their local economies, while his excellent photographs prompt the reader to wonder how their train crews pushed their antiquated equipment over almost invisible railbeds.

James A. Ward, author of Three Men in a Hupp: Around the World by Automobile, 1910-1912

By the start of the twentieth century railroads crisscrossed the nation, yet there were still those who believed that the railroad network in the United States was far from complete. Residents of small towns lacking rail access lobbied hard for steam and electric roads to serve their communities, and investors eagerly started new ventures that would fill the gaps in the railway map. While some of these roads enjoyed a degree of success, most of them were financial flops even before the rise of the highway system made them obsolete.

In Twilight Rails, H. Roger Grant—one of the leading railroad historians working today—documents the stories of eight Midwestern carriers that appeared at the end of the railroad building craze. When historians have reflected on these “twilight” carriers, they have suggested that they were relevant only as examples of unwise business ventures. Grant finds that even the weakest railroads were important to the communities they served; the arrival of the railroad was cause for great celebration as residents were finally connected to the outside world. A railroad’s construction pumped money into local economies, farmers and manufacturers gained access to better markets, and the excitement generated by a new line often increased land values and inspired expansion of local businesses. Even the least financially successful carriers, Grant argues, managed to significantly improve their local economies.

This thorough and highly accessible history provides a fascinating look at the motivations, accomplishments, and failures of the twilight carriers, granting a new breath of life to this neglected aspect of American railway history.

Twilight Rails

H. Roger Grant is the Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Professor of History at Clemson University and the author of numerous books on railroad history, including Erie Lackawanna: The Death of an American Railroad, 1938–1992; “Follow the Flag”: A History of the Wabash Railroad Company; and The North Western: A History of the Chicago & North Western Railway System.

Twilight Rails

H. Roger Grant, one of America’s leading railroad historians, chronicles eight minor twentieth century railroads with all the craft he employed on his important studies of several major railways. These short lines, often in the middle of nowhere, failed, but Grant emphasizes their positive effects on the small towns and rural areas they served. With his usual thorough research and deft style, he shows how these little railroads contributed to their local economies, while his excellent photographs prompt the reader to wonder how their train crews pushed their antiquated equipment over almost invisible railbeds.

James A. Ward, author of Three Men in a Hupp: Around the World by Automobile, 1910-1912

Railroad building in the twilight era of railroad construction has not gotten the attention it deserves, which is H. Roger Grant’s great contribution. The railroads featured in this book are distributed across the Midwest, and they represent a variety of propulsion technologies: steam, electric, and internal combustion.

Carlos Schwantes, author of Going Places: Transportation Redefines the Twentieth Century West

Twilight Rails provides a cogent glimpse into why the twilight railroads developed, what needs they fulfilled and why they largely wound up being business failures. This book is essential reading for the railroad historian and for those who want to better understand why railroads arise, what sustains them, and why they fail.

Akron Railroad Club

Grant has performed a valuable service in bringing these stories to light.

Minnesota History

Thoroughly researched and remarkably readable, the chapters constituting this book are more than corporate histories. Presented here are human interest stories that are by turns humorous, poignant, and occasionally tragic; some of them have the emotional immediacy of a foreclosure notice.

Annals of Iowa

This book is lavishly illustrated with photographs, maps, timetables, and other related graphics....Grant’s research is prodigious and he integrates it well with the business, technical, and social history of the various midwestern communities touched by the twilight rails.

Technology and Culture

Students of short lines and/or Midwestern history will delight in this work.

Classic Trains

Grant has done a service to all followers of railroad history by examining in depth these obscure and forgotten railroads and illustrating the positive contribution they made to their regions.

Lexington Quarterly