The Building of a Railway originally appeared as part of a larger volume, The American Railway. The miniature edition begins with a chapter on the development of railways, and ends with a chapter on "U.S. Railways Today" - "today" being 1889, the year the original book was published. In between are chapters on planning the line, tunnels and bridges, cantilevered bridges, and track laying. The book is not about one specific railway, but railways in general, although all the examples and pictures are of various specific railways.
The Building of a Railway consists of 140 pages, which include 25 diagrams and photographs. It has overall dimensions of 75 x 74 mm (3 x 2-15/16 inches). The boards are covered with cloth printed with a picture of a switchback; the endpapers carry a picture of the famous Poughkeepsie bridge over the Hudson River. The book is priced at $40 plus $7 for packing and shipping.