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Download Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean, by Les Standiford Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (427 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Les Standiford Narrator: Del Roy Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford’s fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the strongest storm ever to hit US shores.

In 1904, the brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler, partner to John D. Rockefeller and the true mastermind behind Standard Oil, concocted the dream of a railway connecting the island of Key West to the Florida mainland, crossing a staggering 153 miles of open ocean—an engineering challenge beyond even that of the Panama Canal.

“The financiers considered the project and said, Unthinkable. The engineers pondered the problems and from all came one verdict, Impossible…” But build it they did, and the railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for twenty-two years. Once dismissed as “Flagler’s Folly,” it was heralded as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”—until a will even greater than Flagler’s rose up in opposition. In 1935, a hurricane of exceptional force, which would be dubbed “the Storm of the Century,” swept through the tiny islands, killing some 700 residents and workmen and washing away all but one sixty-foot section of track, on which a 320,000-pound railroad engine stood and “gripped its rails as if the gravity of Jupiter were pressing upon it.” Standiford brings the full force and fury of this storm to terrifying life.

In spinning his saga of the railroad’s construction, Standiford immerses us in the treacherous world of the thousands of workers who beat their way through infested swamps, lived in fragile tent cities on barges anchored in the midst of daunting stretches of ocean, and suffered from a remarkable succession of three ominous hurricanes that killed many and washed away vast stretches of track. Steadfast through every setback, Flagler inspired a loyalty in his workers so strong that even after a hurricane dislodged one of the railroad’s massive pilings, casting doubt over the viability of the entire project, his engineers refused to be beaten. The question was no longer “Could it be done?” but “Can we make it to Key West on time?” to allow Flagler to ride the rails of his dream.

Last Train to Paradise celebrates this crowning achievement of Gilded Age ambition, a sweeping tale of the powerful forces of human ingenuity colliding with the even greater forces of nature’s wrath.

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Quotes & Awards

  • This is the remarkable true-life chronicle of one of America’s greatest engineering achievements, and how it was all blown to bits in a few hellish hours. No novelist could have invented such a stunning tale, or such unforgettable characters. Carl Hiaasen, author of Basket Case
  • Last Train to Paradise is a fast-moving and gripping story about one of the most ambitious and difficult engineering projects of the last century. Henry Petroski, author of Engineers of Dreams
  • This is a wonderfully told tale, a strange and compelling story about a strange and compelling part of the world. With sharp, evocative reporting, the book captures an era, the Florida landscape, and the very human dream of doing the impossible. Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief
  • Last Train to Paradise is an extraordinary achievement, a nonfiction book as exciting and finely written as a first-rate novel, with the narrative drive of a locomotive. . . . Throw in Ernest Hemingway and some of the most dramatic scenes of the chaos of a hurricane ever written and you’ve got one hell of a spectacular book. James Hall,
    author of Blackwater Sound and Under Cover of Daylight
  • Only one thing could have stopped entrepreneur Henry Flagler: the most powerful storm ever to strike the United States. Les Standiford has given us a rousing—a deeply sobering—story of this 1935 collision between hubris and hurricane in the Florida Keys. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
  • Last Train to Paradise is a mesmerizing account of Gilded Age titan Henry Flagler and his extraordinary dream to build a railroad across the sea. Henry Flagler’s quest to build an overseas railroad has all the elements of a classic Greek tragedy, and Les Standiford has captured both the man and his times with pitch perfect grace. Connie May Fowler,
    author of Before Women Had Wings and When Katie Wakes

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Amy | 2/6/2014

    " Good book about the development of Florida and the railroad built in the keys. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Evan | 2/1/2014

    " An entertaining little book of pop history. The writing alone would probably only be worth three stars, but the author's approach to his rather obscure subject is entertaining enough to bump it up to a solid four stars. A lovelorn millionaire decides to spend his fortune to build a railroad across the sea to Key West? With cameos by J.D. Rockefeller, Ernest Hemingway, and the Storm of the Century? How can you go wrong? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Julie | 1/26/2014

    " Yes, you are seeing correctly-I am giving 5 stars to a non-fiction. I picked this book up on a recent trip to St. Augustine because I wanted to learn more about Henry Flagler, the man who co-founded Standard Oil with John Rockefeller, built fabulous hotels along the Florida coast and, oh yeah, built a railroad from Jacksonville to Key West. This book mostly tells the story of the latter, and I found myself fascinated by the idea, the hard work and heartbreak that went into the project, the hurricanes and the whole Key area. The author did a GREAT job of story telling; this was the first time I found myself not being able to put down a book that wasn't fiction. I was fascinated and a bit horrified at how Flagler was able to twist politics and power to push his railroad through, using men, material, money and power to get what he wanted. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has even the slightest interest in history-you won't be disappointed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Kristen | 1/16/2014

    " I am fascinated by the subject of the railroad to Key West, so this book hooked me immediately. It is easy-to-read, almost narrative and shows how unemotional Flagler was. I was just in St. Augustine, so I wish I had read this book a month ago and could have done more exploring of Flagler history. "

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