American railroads were the Internet of the 19th century. The whole country opened up. Industry exploded. Numerous fortunes were made, lost, and sometimes made again. Railroads had a profound impact on technology, business, politics, and culture. This reference guide includes seven essays which provide historical overview and detailed examinations of critical aspects of the railroads. Also included are 15 in-depth biographies of persons who greatly influenced the history of the rails; 23 primary documents that illustrate the story with the participants' own words; 10 photos; a timeline; and an annotated bibliography to aid further research. This book is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in this fascinating period of U.S. history. After a historical overview that opens the book, railroad historian Augustus Veenendaal explores the technology that made the railroads possible and the innovations in financing that got them built. A chapter is devoted to the Civil War, as the rails were used as a tool of war. An in-depth look at the epic story of transcontinental railroad is followed by an examination of the quest for monopolies. Finally a summary chapter focuses on the economic impact of railroads in the nineteenth century and beyond. Biographical portraits of figures like Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and James J. Hill detail the lives of industry movers and shakers. Excerpts from primary documents ranging from Abraham Lincoln's legal defense of the railroad industry to Charles Dickens' description of his railroad trip through America, to a secret agreement between J. P. Morgan and railroad tycoons to avoid competition provide first-hand accounts of the events of the day.