Great read for Vanderbilt fans. Also exciting short squeeze story. And of course, Buffett.
Nineteenth century railroads largely created the modern corporate economy. Led by Vanderbilt, they landscaped the playing field that Mr. Buffett now strides across. The tale of the two titans, then, is a tangled story rather than a mere contrast of then and now.
On Nov. 8, 1833, the 39-year-old Vanderbilt boarded a train. Railroads were new enough that this was notable in itself. The locomotive resembled an oversize barrel thrown on its side, with wheels and a smokestack. The three cars that trailed behind were modeled on stagecoaches, and looked nothing like the rectangular boxes of decades to come. The train pulled out of South Amboy, N.J., and chugged down the Camden & Amboy Railroad. It soon reached the terrifying speed of 25 miles per hour.
Then an axle broke, pitching the entire train down the embankment. Vanderbilt suffered a punctured lung, multiple fractures, and had the skin torn off his knees. He barely survived. But he did not let it color his feelings. Instead, he only grew more interested in this new business.