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American Experience - Transcontinental Railroad
American Experience - Transcontinental Railroad
Actor: Michael Murphy
Directors: Michael Chin, Mark Zwonitzer
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Documentary
NR     2006     2hr 0min

Go behind-the-scenes of one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century: the building of a transcontinental railroad across the United States. Completed in only six years by unscrupulous entrepreneurs, brilliant ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Michael Murphy
Directors: Michael Chin, Mark Zwonitzer
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Art & Artists, Television, Documentary
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 06/13/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

As good as it gets on this subject
mpsparty1 | Berkley, Michigan USA | 12/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"You will end up with full knowledge of the story of the Transcontinental Railroad after viewing this. It leaves nothing out...covers everything completely and fairly as far as I can tell. Chock full of primary source pictures and quotes, it's an interesting and educational production that may be the standard of comparison for future endeavors on this important achievement in American history."
A Great slice of American History
Busy mom | Knoxville, TN | 02/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD is amazing. From the visionaries and engineers, to the politicians and RR companies - mostly in it for the money, to the workers - ex-soldiers and Chinese, this DVD covers the building of the Transcontinental Railroad very thoroughly and doesn't sugar coat the greed and self-seeking of some. It includes the bittersweet dialogue via letters of one RR supervisor and his wife back in Ohio. I think it is ideal for high school and above. Maybe more info than middle schoolers want. I loved the maps that showed the RR as it was being built. It includes a Teacher's Guide in Adobe PDF format."
Well-done, but not good for classroom use
Stephen Spear | New York City | 01/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

""American Experience - Transcontinental Railroad" is a meticulously researched and informative documentary, but it is not well-suited for use in high schools. The film provides a very slow and detailed narrative of events, and no single episode concisely captures the main themes that most teachers are looking to convey to their students. It would be very difficult to use this film as part of a 50-minute lesson without repeated use of the fast-forward button.

The film also does not cover certain facts commonly emphasized in high school classrooms. The Pacific Railway Act is discussed in some detail for example, but the narrator fails to mention the law by name. Railroad workers for the Union Pacific company are correctly described as Civil War veterans, but the fact that they were also disproportionately Irish is left out. The same is not true for the film's treatment of the Central Pacific Company where the fact that the company's workers were Chinese is emphasized at great length.

A strong documentary - but teachers should watch this one at home."
Building the Transcontinental Railroad
Happy Camper | Virginia, USA | 10/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"After having read Stephen Ambrose about the Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869, "Nothing Like It In the World" I became fascinated by the difficulties experienced in that construction, particularly those of the Central Pacific in building across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Because there was no one DVD that told the whole story, I bought three of them---the current one under review as well as two History Channel DVDs, "The Railroads That Tamed The West" and "Transcontinental Railroad". Together these three DVDs provide a comparatively good understanding of the hardships and difficulties encountered by those responsible and engaging in this monumental task of construction. Aside from all the hype about the "Robber Barons," these men really took momentous risks in engaging in this construction. And they did become wealthy as a result. But who among you would take the risks they undertook for any less? I give each of these DVDs four stars because each in its own way is good, but none tell the whole story. Read the Book, it's excellent."