The Northeast Corridor: The Trains, the People, the History, the Region (Hardcover)

The Northeast Corridor: The Trains, the People, the History, the Region By David Alff Cover Image
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All aboard for the first comprehensive history of the hard-working and wildly influential Northeast Corridor.
Traversed by thousands of trains and millions of riders, the Northeast Corridor might be America’s most famous railway, but its influence goes far beyond the right-of-way. David Alff welcomes readers aboard to see how nineteenth-century train tracks did more than connect Boston to Washington, DC. They transformed hundreds of miles of Atlantic shoreline into a political capital, a global financial hub, and home to fifty million people. The Northeast Corridor reveals how freight trains, commuter rail, and Amtrak influenced—and in turn were shaped by—centuries of American industrial expansion, metropolitan growth, downtown decline, and revitalization.
Paying as much attention to Aberdeen, Trenton, New Rochelle, and Providence as to New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, Alff provides narrative thrills for history buffs, train enthusiasts, and adventurers alike. What’s more, he offers a glimpse into the future of the corridor. New infrastructural plans—supported by President Joe Biden, famously Amtrak’s biggest fan—envision ever-faster trains zipping along technologically advanced rails. Yet those tracks will literally sit atop a history that links the life of Frederick Douglass, who fled to freedom by boarding a train in Baltimore, to the Frederick Douglass Tunnel, which is expected to be the newest link in the corridor by 2032.
Trains have long made the places that make America, and they still do.

About the Author

David Alff is associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is the author of The Wreckage of Intentions: Projects in British Culture,1660-1730.


Praise For…

"If you have ever ridden to or from any of the twenty or so Amtrak stations between Boston and Washington, DC, you need to read this book. Unlike most of the other great rail corridors on the planet, this one has a long and distinguished history. After his assassination, Abraham Lincoln's body moved slowly up the Northeast Corridor past hundreds of thousands of mourners in 1865. That same narrow route now houses 17 percent of the nation's people and accounts for 20 percent of its trade in 2020, although it occupies much less than 2 percent of America's land area. None of the other great track routes in the world offer so many contrasts or so much history.  Adding icing to this cake, David Alff is an engaging writer who tells an engaging story."
— Kenneth T. Jackson, Columbia University

“In the more than two hundred years since dreamers first proposed laying tracks along today’s Northeast Corridor, no one has tried to tell its story from the start through the present—until now. Alff weaves together an engrossing narrative of the visionary leaders, engineering feats, and fast trains that made the Northeast Corridor our nation’s most important transportation artery. The Northeast Corridor is a must-read for both historians and the new generation of dreamers envisioning the corridor’s future.”
— Richard G. Slattery, Amtrak

“A world-class public works project, the sinuous shaper of colossal forces over four centuries, the Northeast Corridor here finds superb analytical scrutiny.”
— John R. Stilgoe, author of "What Is Landscape?"

The Northeast Corridor is many things at once: a train buff’s cornucopia of delight, an authoritative and carefully researched social history, and a captivating read for anyone interested in what makes America tick, all of it enlivened by vivid and often witty prose. All aboard!”
— Les Standiford, author of "Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean"
Product Details
ISBN: 9780226822839
ISBN-10: 0226822834
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: April 19th, 2024
Pages: 280
Language: English