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The Boomer

A Story of the Rails

Harry Bedwell

Eddie Sand is railroading with a capital R. A “boomer,” Eddie travels the country making a living as a telegraph operator wherever he finds himself. Never content to sit behind a desk or undertake “the upkeep of a blonde,” Eddie’s courage, restlessness, and cunning lead him to high adventure. Harry Bedwell’s The Boomer portrays an elite fraternity of railroad men—men who were driven by one of the defining elements of the American character: a desire to wander. They were the glamour and glory of railroading, and no one was better equipped to tell their story than Bedwell. He reveals the behind-the-scenes battles that were fought to keep the trains running. This edition also includes a glossary of railroad slang and a bibliography of Bedwell’s work.

Originally published in 1942, Harry Bedwell’s The Boomer is widely considered the best railroad novel ever written. “An exciting yarn in sinewy prose . . . it has almost everything except sound effects.” — New York Herald Tribune

Harry Bedwell (1888–1955) is the author of more than sixty short stories. The Boomer is his only novel.

James D. Porterfield is the author of several books, including From the Dining Car: The Recipes and Stories behind Today’s Greatest Rail Dining Experiences.

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Born to Be Wild

The Rise of the American Motorcyclist

Randy D. McBee

In 1947, 4,000 motorcycle hobbyists converged on Hollister, California. As images of dissolute bikers graced the pages of newspapers and magazines, the three-day gathering sparked the growth of a new subculture while also touching off national alarm. In the years that followed, the stereotypical leather-clad biker emerged in the American consciousness as a menace to law-abiding motorists and small towns. Yet a few short decades later, the motorcyclist, once menacing, became mainstream. To understand this shift, Randy D. McBee narrates the evolution of motorcycle culture since World War II. Along the way he examines the rebelliousness of early riders of the 1940s and 1950s, riders' increasing connection to violence and the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s, the rich urban bikers of the 1990s and 2000s, and the factors that gave rise to a motorcycle rights movement. McBee's fascinating narrative of motorcycling's past and present reveals the biker as a crucial character in twentieth-century American life.

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The Business of Speed

The Hot Rod Industry in America, 1915–1990

David N. Lucsko

Since the mass production of Henry Ford’s Model T, car enthusiasts have been redesigning, rebuilding, and reengineering their vehicles for increased speed and technical efficiency. They purchase aftermarket parts, reconstruct engines, and enhance body designs, all in an effort to personalize and improve their vehicles. Why do these car enthusiasts modify their cars and where do they get their aftermarket parts? Here, David N. Lucsko provides the first scholarly history of America’s hot rod business. Lucsko examines the evolution of performance tuning through the lens of the $34-billion speed equipment industry that supports it. As early as 1910, dozens of small shops across the United States designed, manufactured, and sold add-on parts to consumers eager to employ new technologies as they tinkered with their cars. Operating for much of the twentieth century in the shadow of the Big Three automobile manufacturers—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—these businesses grew at an impressive rate, supplying young and old hot rodders with thousands of performance-boosting gadgets. Lucsko offers a rich and heretofore untold account of the culture and technology of the high-performance automotive aftermarket in the United States, offering a fresh perspective on the history of the automobile in America.

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Caligula's Barges and the Renaissance Origins of Nautical Archaeology under Water

John M. McManamon

Sometime around 1446 A.D., Cardinal Prospero Colonna commissioned engineer Battista Alberti to raise two immense Roman vessels from the bottom of the lago di Nemi, just south of Rome. By that time, local fishermen had been fouling their nets and occasionally recovering stray objects from the sunken ships for 800 years. Having no idea of the size of the objects he was attempting to recover, Alberti failed.

For most of the next 500 years, various attempts were made to recover the vessels. Finally, in 1928, Mussolini ordered the draining of the lake to remove the vessels and place them on the lake shore. In 1944, the ships burned in a fire that was generally blamed on the Germans.

John M. McManamon connects these attempts at underwater archaeology with the Renaissance interest in reconstructing the past in order to affect the present. Nautical and marine archaeologists, as well as students and scholars of Renaissance history and historiography, will appreciate this masterfully researched and gracefully written work.

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“Cap” Cornish, Indiana Pilot

Navigating the Century of Flight

by Ruth Ann Ingraham

Clarence “Cap” Cornish was an Indiana pilot whose life spanned all but five years of the Century of Flight. Born in Canada in 1898, Cornish grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He began flying at the age of nineteen, piloting a “Jenny” aircraft during World War I, and continued to fly for the next seventy-eight years. In 1995, at the age of ninety-seven, he was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest actively flying pilot. The mid-1920s to the mid-1950s were Cornish’s most active years in aviation. During that period, sod runways gave way to asphalt and concrete; navigation evolved from the iron rail compass to radar; runways that once had been outlined at night with cans of oil topped off with flaming gasoline now shimmered with multicolored electric lights; instead of being crammed next to mailbags in open-air cockpits, passengers sat comfortably in streamlined, pressurized cabins. In the early phase of that era, Cornish performed aerobatics and won air races. He went on to run a full-service flying business, served as chief pilot for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, managed the city’s municipal airport, helped monitor and maintain safe skies above the continental United States during World War II, and directed Indiana’s first Aeronautics Commission.

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Cars for Comrades

The Life of the Soviet Automobile

by Lewis H. Siegelbaum

The automobile and Soviet communism made an odd couple. The quintessential symbol of American economic might and consumerism never achieved iconic status as an engine of Communist progress, in part because it posed an awkward challenge to some basic assumptions of Soviet ideology and practice. In this rich and often witty book, Lewis H. Siegelbaum recounts the life of the Soviet automobile and in the process gives us a fresh perspective on the history and fate of the USSR itself.

Based on sources ranging from official state archives to cartoons, car-enthusiast magazines, and popular films, Cars for Comrades takes us from the construction of the huge "Soviet Detroits," emblems of the utopian phase of Soviet planning, to present-day Togliatti, where the fate of Russia's last auto plant hangs in the balance. The large role played by American businessmen and engineers in the checkered history of Soviet automobile manufacture is one of the book's surprises, and the author points up the ironic parallels between the Soviet story and the decline of the American Detroit. In the interwar years, automobile clubs, car magazines, and the popularity of rally races were signs of a nascent Soviet car culture, its growth slowed by the policies of the Stalinist state and by Russia's intractable "roadlessness." In the postwar years cars appeared with greater frequency in songs, movies, novels, and in propaganda that promised to do better than car-crazy America.

Ultimately, Siegelbaum shows, the automobile epitomized and exacerbated the contradictions between what Soviet communism encouraged and what it provided. To need a car was a mark of support for industrial goals; to want a car for its own sake was something else entirely. Because Soviet cars were both hard to get and chronically unreliable, and such items as gasoline and spare parts so scarce, owning and maintaining them enmeshed citizens in networks of private, semi-illegal, and ideologically heterodox practices that the state was helpless to combat. Deeply researched and engagingly told, this masterful and entertaining biography of the Soviet automobile provides a new perspective on one of the twentieth century's most iconic-and important-technologies and a novel approach to understanding the history of the Soviet Union itself.

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A Century of Subways

Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways

Brian J. Cudahy

"I declare the subway open," said Mayor George B. McClelland at about 2 p.m. on October 27, 1904. His hand on the switch, McClelland drove the new electric-powered cars of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company out of the City Hall station for the ride under Broadway to 145th Street in Harlem. After a decade of digging, New York was moving uptown. And everything began to change. Brian Cudahy offers a fascinating tribute to the world the subway created. Taking a fresh look at one of the marvels of the 20th century, Cudahy creates a vivid sense of this extraordinary achievement--how the city was transformed once New Yorkers started riding in a hole in the ground. The story begins before 1904. For years, everyone knew only a new public transportation system could break the gridlock strangling the most crowded city in America. Cudahy's hero is August Belmont, Jr., the banker who risked a fortune to finance the building of the IRT. Next, Cudahy moves to Boston and London, whose subways were older than New York's, to compare the experiences of these great cities. And he explores the impact of the new IRT on New York's commuter railroads and later on rail transportation from Buffalo to Los Angeles. New York simply would not be possible without its subways. With this spirited salute to the powerbrokers and politicians who planned it and the engineers and laborers who built it, Brian Cudahy helps us remember the real legacy of the subway--and the city it made.; “An impressively informative work A Century of Subways tells of the amazing and critically important history of subway systems as a remarkable technological achievement in mass transportation which is legendary for its practicality.#8221;

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Clara

Mrs. Henry Ford

By Ford R. Bryan

"Pick a good model and stay with it," Henry Ford once said. No, he was not talking about cars; he was talking about marriage. Was Clara Bryant Ford a "good model"? Her husband of fifty-nine years seems to have thought so. He called her "The Believer," and indeed Clara's unwavering support of Henry's pursuits and her patient tolerance of the quirks and obsessions that accompanied her husband's genius made it possible for him to change the world. In telling the story of Clara Ford, author Ford Bryan also charts the course of the growing automobile industry and the life of the enigmatic man at its helm. But the book's heart is Clara herself—daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother; cook, gardener, and dancer; modest philanthropist and quiet role model. Clara is newly revealed in accounts and documents gleaned from personal papers, oral histories, and archival material never made public until now. These include receipts and recipes, diaries and genealogies, and 175 photographs.

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Deckhand

Life on Freighters of the Great Lakes

Nelson "Mickey" Haydamacker with Alan D. Millar

Long before popular television shows such as Dirty Jobs and The Deadliest Catch, everyday men and women---the unsung heroes of the job world---toiled in important but mostly anonymous jobs. One of those jobs was deckhand on the ore boats. With numerous photographs and engaging stories, Deckhand offers an insider's view of both the mundane and the intriguing duties performed by deckhands on these gritty cargo vessels. Boisterous port saloons, monster ice jams, near drownings, and the daily drudgery of soogeying---cleaning dirt and grime off the ships---are just a few of the experiences Mickey Haydamacker had as a young deckhand working on freighters of the Great Lakes in the early 1960s. Haydamacker sailed five Interlake Steamship Company boats, from the modern Elton Hoyt 2nd to the ancient coal-powered Colonel James Pickands with its backbreaking tarp-covered hatches. Deckhand will appeal to shipping buffs and to anyone interested in Great Lakes shipping and maritime history as it chronicles the adventures of living on the lakes from the seldom-seen view of a deckhand. Mickey Haydamacker spent his youth as a deckhand sailing on the freighters of the Great Lakes. During the 1962 and '63 seasons Nelson sailed five different Interlake Steamship Company ore boats. He later went on to become an arson expert with the Michigan State Police, retiring with the rank of Detective Sergeant. Alan D. Millar, to whom Haydamacker related his tale of deckhanding, spent his career as a gift store owner and often wrote copy for local newspaper, TV, and radio.

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Derailed by Bankruptcy

Life after the Reading Railroad

Foreword by John C. Spychalski. Howard H. Lewis

What happened when the US government stopped investing in railroads and started investing in highways and air travel? By the late 1970s, six major eastern railroads had declared bankruptcy. Although he didn’t like trains, Howard H. Lewis became the primary lawyer for the Reading Railroad during its legendary bankruptcy case. Here, Lewis provides a frank account of the high-intensity litigation and courtroom battles over the US government’s proposal to form Conrail out of the six bankrupt railroads, which meant taking the Reading's property, leaving the railroad to prove its worth. After five grueling years, the case was ultimately settled for $186 million—three times the original offer from the US government—and Lewis became known as a champion defender of both the railroad industry and its assets.

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