Sunset Limited

Sunset Limited

The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930

Book - 2005
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University of California Press
The only major U.S. railroad to be operated by westerners and the only railroad built from west to east, the Southern Pacific acquired a unique history and character. It also acquired a reputation, especially in California, as a railroad that people loved to hate. This magisterial history tells the full story of the Southern Pacific for the first time, shattering myths about the company that have prevailed to this day. A landmark account, Sunset Limited explores the railroad's development and influence—especially as it affected land settlement, agriculture, water policy, and the environment—and offers a new perspective on the tremendous, often surprising, role the company played in shaping the American West.

Based on his unprecedented and extensive research into the company's historical archives, Richard Orsi finds that, contrary to conventional understanding, the Southern Pacific Company identified its corporate well-being with population growth and social and economic development in the railroad's hinterland. As he traces the complex and shifting intersections between corporate and public interest, Orsi documents the railroad's little-known promotion of land distribution, small-scale farming, scientific agriculture, and less wasteful environmental practices and policies—including water conservation and wilderness and recreational parklands preservation.

Meticulously researched, lucidly written, and judiciously balanced, Sunset Limited opens a new window onto the American West in a crucial phase of its development and will forever change our perceptions of one of the largest and most important western corporations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

"An extraordinary book by a master historian! Orsi demonstrates that the Southern Pacific was not simply a predatory corporation obsessed with maximizing its profits and political power; it had a strong sense of the public good and a devotion to building stable, prosperous communities. This superb book should be required reading for all historians of the West, business, and the environment."--Donald J. Pisani, author of Water and American Government

"This deep and extensive examination of the Southern Pacific's development activities in California will encourage readers to look beyond the overblown rhetoric of the railroad's many political enemies and see afresh its many positive economic accomplishments as it worked to build the Twentieth-Century West. Orsi's presentation is as luminous as it is impressive"--Carlos Schwantes, author of Going Places: Transportation Redefines the Twentieth Century West

"This brilliantly researched and beautifully written study of one of America's greatest railroads offers wonderful insights into both transportation and Western history. Orsi places the early history of the Southern Pacific Railroad in proper focus by skillfully untangling the long-standing Octopus myth. This work deserves to be called a landmark in the field."--H. Roger Grant, author of Follow the Flag: A History of the Wabash Railroad Company

"Sunset Limited illuminates not only the workings and ambitions of the Southern Pacific railroad but teaches us a great deal about the late nineteenth and early twentieth century American West as well. This is a wonderful scholarly study: remarkably thorough, ambitious, and gracefully rendered."--William Deverell, author of Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad, 1850-1910


Publisher: Berkeley : University of California Press, c2005
ISBN: 9780520200197
0520200195
Branch Call Number: 385.0978 Or81s 2005
Characteristics: xxii, 615 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm

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