The North American transcontinental railway companies of the late nineteenth century were the first corporate behemoths. Their attempts to generate profits from proliferating debt sparked devastating panics in the US economy. Their dependence on public largesse drew them into the corridors of power, initiating new forms of corruption. Their operations rearranged space and time, remaking the landscape of the American West. They opened new worlds of work and ways of life. Their discriminatory rates sparked opposition and a new anti-monopoly politics. With originality, range and authority, Richard White shows the transcontinentals to be pivotal actors in the making of modern America and presents a new vision of the Gilded Age, often darkly funny, that shows history to be rooted in failure as well as success.