On the Iron at Big Cloud

Cover image for


Published: 1911
Language: English
Wordcount: 87,530 / 247 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 88.8
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 1,285
Added to site: 2010.12.24
mnybks.net#: 30006

A book about railroad life on tbe Rocky Mountain division of a big transcontinental line, where exciting and unusual events happen and common men may, in an instant's time, turn into heroes. Before the author made writing his profession he spent four years in the engineering department of the road when it "dug, blasted, burrowed, and trestled its right of way through the mountains," and thus got his inspiration at first hand.

Show Excerpt

o'clock he was at his desk again. Five minutes afterward Rafferty came in. He was not a pretty sight with his cut lip and battered eye as he limped past both Spence and Holman. With a vindictive glare at the latter he marched straight across the room to where Carleton sat. He leaned both hands on the super's desk.

"Ut'll be just a show-down, Mr. Carleton, that's all there is to ut. Me or him, which?" he announced.

Carleton tilted his chair back, put his feet up on the desk and his thumbs in the armholes of his vest. "State your case, Rafferty," he said calmly.

"Case!" Rafferty spluttered. "Case is ut? I'm sick av bein' bossed bye kids out av school that was buildin' blocks whin I was buildin' enjines. I quit or he does!" Rafferty jerked his thumb in Holman's direction.

"Is that all you have to say, Rafferty?"

"That's about the size av ut."

"Very well, Rafferty, you can get your time," said Carleton quietly.

For a moment Rafferty stared as though he had not hear


Average Rating of 5 from 2 reviews: *****

This is some really interesting reading.It's more a like a collection of short railroad stories,very well written.

Leah A. Zeldes

This book surprised me. Its subject normally doesn't interest me, but I really enjoyed these stories, because the writing is so good. I love the way Packard uses words! He writes in a colorful, conversational style that pulls you right in, and his action scenes make exciting reading.

On the strength of it, this is a collection of linked railroading stories, set in the Rockies in the days when trains were the foremost means of cross-country travel and freight, uhsteam engines ran on hand-shoveled coal, the tracks were single and precarious, washouts common, and a lantern signal might be the only means of stopping speeding locomotives from a perilous crash ... if it did.

There's a lot of historic train jargon that will no doubt mean more to rail fans than it did to me, but you don't need to understand those references to enjoy the stories. These aren't really tales about trains but about men (only a handful of women appear, and that briefly), their foibles, their relationships with each other, their work, and their heroism. Mostly these railroaders are rough and ready, strong and tough, yet extremely human, and the tales range from heartwarming to heartrending.

My favorite stories are “Spitzer” and “The Builder,” about not so tough men who find hidden strength when it's needed.

Note: Some stories include terms and stereotypes now considered ethnic slurs, but no doubt commonly used in the historic context.

List of stories:

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