The account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad-the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks. The U.S. government pitted two companies, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads, against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. At its peak, the work force approached the size of Civil War armies, with as many as 15,000 workers on each line. Nothing like this great work had ever been seen in the world when the golden spike was driven in Promontory Peak, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific tracks were joined. This is the story of the brave men, the famous and the unheralded, ordinary men doing the extraordinary -- who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the continent into a nation.