The Old Iron Road: An Epic of Rails, Roads, and the Urge to Go West

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Viking, 2004 - History - 434 pages
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In the summer of 2000, David Haward Bain and his family left their home in Vermont and headed west in search of America’s past. From Omaha to San Francisco, Bain and his family retraced the entire route of the first transcontinental railroad. Following abandoned railroad tracks and the traces of old wagon trails, cruising down back roads and main streets, they discovered the deep, restless, uniquely American spirit of adventure that connects our past to our present.

A superb writer and an exacting researcher, Bain conjures up the marvelous sense of coming unstuck in time as he lingers in the ghost towns and battlegrounds, prairies and river ports, train yards, museums, and diners that line the old emigrant routes of the railroad and the Lincoln Highway. As he cruises west to California, Bain encounters a fascinating cast of characters, both historic and contemporary—from Willa Cather to Marlon Brando, from pathfinder John Fre┤mont to naturalist Terry Tempest Williams. Here, too, are memories of Bain’s own grandparents and the journeys that shaped his own heritage.

Writing in the tradition of William Least Heat-Moon and Ian Frazier, yet with an engaging warmth and a deep grasp of history all his own, Bain has fashioned a quintessentially American journey.

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THE OLD IRON ROAD: An Epic of Rails, Roads, and the Urge to Go West

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A slide show of a family trip west, with learned captions.Bain (English/Middlebury Coll.) had plenty of reasons for heading westward: he'd written about the expansion of the American frontier in ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Othemts - LibraryThing

After completing an historical work on the railroad's role in Western expansion - Empire Express - Bain piled his family into a car to follow a westward route roughly tracing the pioneer trails ... Read full review


The Odyssey Begins
Rails and the River
The Lincoln Highway

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About the author (2004)

David Haward Bain is the author of four previous works of nonfiction, including Empire Express and Sitting in Darkness, which received a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award. His articles and essays have appeared in Smithsonian, American Heritage, Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner, and he reviews regularly for The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and Newsday. He is a teacher at Middlebury College and the Bread Loaf Writers┬' Conference.

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