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... When I think how the railroad has been pushed through this
unwatered wilderness and haunt of savage tribes; how at each stage
of the construction roaring, impromptu cities, full of gold and lust
and death, sprang up and then died away again, and are now but
wayside stations in the desert; how in these uncouth places Chinese
pirates worked side by side with border ruffians and broken men from
Europe, gambling, drinking, quarreling, and murdering like wolves;
and then when I go on to remember that all this epical turmoil was
conducted by gentlemen in frock-coats, with a view to nothing more
extraordinary than a fortune and a subsequent visit to Paris--it
seems to me as if this railway were the one typical achievement of
the age in which we live, as if it brought together into one plot
all the ends of the world and all the degrees of social rank, and
offered to some great writer the busiest, the most extended, and the
most varied subject for an enduring literary work. If it be romance,
if it be contrast, if it be heroism that we require, what was Troy
to this?

--from Robert Louis Stevenson's Across the Plains


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