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Death Rode the Rails: American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828 - 1965
Mark Aldrich
Johns Hopkins U Press
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Date Listed:
2009-10-13 14:22:31
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Untitled Document

Death Rode the Rails

American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828–1965

By Mark Aldrich.

Cloth with dust jacket (also available Softcover), 7x10, 480 pages, 40 halftones, 29 line drawings.

"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.

"A fascinating account of one of America's most important industries and its dangers." -- Scale Rails

"A well—made book such as this one stands out as a rare exception." -- Scitech Book News

"Students of rail safety, and today's Class I railroad managers, need to read this volume." -- Ray Weart, Trains

"Aldrich has created a masterpiece. His research is extensive, drawing on a rich variety of obscure yet relevant sources." -- H. Roger Grant, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Aldrich... has done an excellent and thorough job of explaining and analyzing the evolution of rail safety over nearly two hundred years." -- Jack W. Traylor, History: Reviews of New Books

"One of the first large—scale scholarly studies of railroad safety in America... I recommend this book without qualifications." -- Imre E. Quastler, Railroad History

"An excellent narrative of the evolution of public and industry focus on industrial safety." -- Russell D. Jones, Enterprise and Society

"Important new book... A significant contribution to the study of both industrial safety and consumer safety as exemplified by one of the most important industries in our nation's history." -- Marc J. Stern, Business History Review

"A thought—provoking and well—grounded contribution to the history of American economic development." -- James L. Hunt, Journal of American History

"Pioneering... A central message of Aldrich's book is that 'little accidents' played a crucial though until now largely hidden role in the gradual evolution of a risk society." -- Bill Luckin, Technology and Culture

"A work of merit... Essential reading for historians of transport safety, business, and technology." -- Mike Esbester, Journal of Transport History

"Impressive and thoroughly researched... Demonstrates how railroad safety evolved from the intersection of market pressures, technology, and public sentiment." -- James B. McSwain, Journal of Southern History

"Aldrich has written the field—defining work on railroad safety... An important corrective to the simplistic notion that railroad companies wanted nothing to do with safety before the era of federal regulation." -- John Williams—Searle, Annals of Iowa

"A masterful study of the complex evolution of railroad safety." -- James W. Ely, Jr., American Historical Review

"Mark Aldrich is the Marilyn Carlson Nelson Professor of Economics Emeritus at Smith College and the author ofSafety First: Technology, Labor, and Business in the Building of American Work Safety, 1870–1939."