In this Book

Death Rode the Rails
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summary
For most of the 19th and much of the 20th centuries, railroads dominated American transportation. They transformed life and captured the imagination. Yet by 1907 railroads had also become the largest cause of violent death in the country, that year claiming the lives of nearly twelve thousand passengers, workers, and others. In Death Rode the Rails Mark Aldrich explores the evolution of railroad safety in the United States by examining a variety of incidents: spectacular train wrecks, smaller accidents in shops and yards that devastated the lives of workers and their families, and the deaths of thousands of women and children killed while walking on or crossing the street-grade tracks. The evolution of railroad safety, Aldrich argues, involved the interplay of market forces, science and technology, and legal and public pressures. He considers the railroad as a system in its entirety: operational realities, technical constraints, economic history, internal politics, and labor management. Aldrich shows that economics initially encouraged American carriers to build and operate cheap and dangerous lines. Only over time did the trade-off between safety and output—shaped by labor markets and public policy—motivate carriers to develop technological improvements that enhanced both productivity and safety. A fascinating account of one of America's most important industries and its dangers, Death Rode the Rails will appeal to scholars of economics and the history of transportation, technology, labor, regulation, safety, and business, as well as to railroad enthusiasts.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Frontmatter
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  1. Contents
  2. p. vii
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  1. List of Figures
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. List of Tables
  2. pp. xi-xii
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  1. Preface
  2. pp. xiii-xvi
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-9
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  1. 1. In the Beginning: American Railroad Dangers and Safety, 1828–1873
  2. pp. 10-41
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  1. 2. Off the Tracks: The Changing Pattern of Derailments, 1873–1900
  2. pp. 42-69
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  1. 3. Collisions and the Rise of Regulation, 1873–1900
  2. pp. 70-96
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  1. 4. The Major Risks from Minor Accidents, 1873–1900
  2. pp. 97-129
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  1. 5. Engineering Success and Disaster: Bridge Design and Failure, 1840–1900
  2. pp. 130-154
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  1. 6. Coping with the Casualties: Companies, Workers, and Injuries, 1850–1900
  2. pp. 155-180
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  1. 7. Safety Crisis and Safety First, 1900–1920
  2. pp. 181-215
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  1. 8. Lobbying for Regulation: Transporting Hazardous Substances, 1903–1930
  2. pp. 216-236
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  1. 9. Private Enterprise and Public Regulation: Safety between the Wars, 1922–1939
  2. pp. 237-270
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  1. 10. Safety in War and Decline, 1940–1965
  2. pp. 271-302
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  1. Conclusion. The Political Economy of Railroad Safety, 1830–1965
  2. pp. 303-308
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  1. Appendix One. Nineteenth-Century Railroad Accident and Casualty Statistics
  2. pp. 309-320
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  1. Appendix Two. Casualties and Accidents from Interstate Commerce Commission Statistics, 1888–1965
  2. pp. 321-340
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  1. List of Abbreviations
  2. pp. 341-342
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 343-420
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  1. Essay on Sources
  2. pp. 421-437
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 439-446
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  1. Photo gallery
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