Our steam railroads
When you first think of what the steam railroad does, you arc most likely to think of how it carries people from place to place, taking men and women to their work, taking them on journeys, with their children, to see friends or relatives, or to visit interesting places, or to spend vacations in the country and at the seashore. That is, you think of the railroads as a means of travel. It is true that railroads are used a great deal for travel, but their most important use is not for travel, but to carry goods or commodities from place to place. We could not get along very well without passenger trains, but it would be much more difficult to do without the busy freight trains which pass to and fro, day and night, throughout the year, on all our railroads.
Nearly all of the things which we use in our daily life are carried on a railroad before we get them. Your bread and meat, your butter, milk and eggs, and all the rest of your food probably came to you, at least a part of the way, by railroad. The lumber, the stone, the bricks, the cement, out of which your house is made, were shipped in a railroad freight car. Your furniture—chairs, tables, beds, dressers, and bookcases; your dishes, the pots and pans and skillets in your kitchen; the coal or oil you burn in your furnace; your books and toys; the cotton and wool of which your clothing is made, and the clothing too—nearly everything you have was hauled on a railroad before it reached your home.
The railroad carries the farmer's grain and cattle and hogs to market, and carries away the food products and other articles into which they are converted; it brings to factories the raw materials for the things which the factories make, and then carries those things away to the shops and stores where they are sold; it hauls the logs from forest to sawmill, and takes the lumber and shingles, which the logs become, to the lumber yards, for sale to builders; it takes coal and iron and copper and other mineral products from the mines, where they are dug from the earth, to the smelters and furnaces and mills where metallic products of all kinds are fashioned. Every day the railroads carry thousands of articles from place to place. If our freight trains should stop running, or if our railroads should suddenly be taken away, the people in our cities would soon be without food or fuel, all our busy factories would close down, and the shelves of our stores would soon be bare and empty.
Recently we have learned, by somewhat painful experience, how much our railroads mean to us, how dependent we are on them for the continuous operation of our industries, how necessary they are to the preservation of our safety as a nation. We have now emerged from a great world war. During the conflict nearly all the ships which once carried oil, coal, lumber, and other products from port to port along our coasts had to be devoted to the transportation of supplies—food, clothing, oil and gasoline, weapons, tanks, planes, munitions to our armies across the sea in Africa, the British Isles, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific. With our enemies in control of the regions from which once we procured nearly all the great quantity of rubber we consumed each year, we had cut down the use of automobiles, trucks and buses because we could not make enough tires to meet our needs. A large part of the freight traffic which once was carried by ships and trucks had to be carried by our railroads. Moreover, much of the traveling which before Pearl Harbor was by private automobile had to be taken over by the railroads. The burden which the rail carriers had to assume because of the shortage of other facilities of transportation was vastly augmented because of the huge volume of new traffic created by the war. Thousands—millions—of persons had to be transported to training camps and to ports of embarkation; enormous quantities of war material—guns, tanks, trucks. planes, food and other supplies—which our armies needed, had to be carried to our seaports; and finally our new war industries had to be fed a constantly rising stream of fuel and raw materials. The building of war equipment required each day the use of thousands of railroad freight cars.
The steam railroad is not, of course, the only means of transportation we employ, either in war or in time of peace. We have many other transportation facilities. We have transportation by water in steamboats, sailing ships and barges; we have transportation by land in motor vehicles, in vehicles drawn by men and domesticated animals, in cars propelled by electricity, and in pipe lines; we have transportation by air in the swift flying airplanes and in the dirigible airships, which are lighter than the air. But our most important agency of transportation by land is the steam railroad. It is because of the cheapness and the speed of the transportation it has provided for us that during the last century the world has made greater industrial progress than it made in all the centuries gone before.
Our civilization is based upon trade or commerce, the exchange of the products of an individual or of a group of people or of a nation for the products of others. Without the exchange of goods there could be no civilization such as we know today.
Trade, in turn, depends upon transportation. They go hand in hand; without transportation there could be no trade at all. The volume and the character of the trade of a nation and of the world as a whole, are determined, in a large measure by the cheapness, the speed, the reliability, and the safety of transportation.
Everybody knows that civilization and commerce are much older than the steam engine. But it must be remembered that the world, in the days before the invention of the steam engine, differed greatly from the world we know today. Trade was active, but the amount was very small, in comparison with the trade we now have; there was some travel, but it, too, was very small, measured by modern standards. Transportation was slow and expensive, especially transportation by land. For many centuries before the invention of the steam engine, transportation by water was ever so much easier and cheaper than transportation by land; the sailing vessel was the world's most efficient carrier. Because of this, as Adam Smith, the first man to write a great book about industry and commerce and wealth, pointed out, all the great civilizations that existed before the beginning of the nineteenth century, such as the civilizations of China, India, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and western Europe, were to be found close to the sea or in the valleys of large rivers. Only waterways could provide the means of transportation necessary for the commerce upon which the development of civilization depended. The steam engine brought about a profound change in commerce and industry. Probably the greatest change it
effected was the change in methods of transportation. Though it did not bring about as great an improvement in transportation by water as in transportation by land, nevertheless it provided a carrier on the sea, on rivers and lakes, that was faster and more reliable than the sailing vessel. On the land, however, it worked a complete revolution in the art of trans- portation. None of the carts, wagons, coaches, or other vehicles drawn by horses, oxen and other domestic animals could compare in power, speed, and reliability with the trains drawn by steam locomotives. The railroads made it possible for civilization to move far inland from the sea and the rivers. Before the coming of the steam railroad, there were few products of field or mine or forest that could be carried profitably by land for a distance of more than two hundred miles. Trade —commerce—was limited, because the extent of available markets was limited. With the coming of steam transportation by land and by sea, the whole world became one great market. It became possible for the people in any part of the world to exchange their products for the products of the people living in any other part of the world. Industry, commerce, civilization were no longer confined to a comparatively small part of the earth's surface. Wherever resources and climate were favorable, men could make their living, if they had access to a steam railroad.
In no other country of the world has the steam railroad proved its value so well as in the United States of America. In no other country of the world has the significance and the importance of transportation as a civilizing influence been so clearly revealed.
Before America was discovered, the "known world" consisted of the region about the Mediterranean Sea, most of the continent of Europe, the British Isles, the Canary and the Azores islands. A few Europeans had journeyed to China and Japan, and a small number of bold adventurers had sailed northwest as far as Iceland, and southward along the coast of Africa as far as the Cape of Good Hope. Nobody living in 1492 had ever crossed the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean. Sailing ships were well known, but being slow and small, they never strayed far from sight of land. When Columbus came to America in 1492 he sailed in a ship smaller than many of the fishing schooners which now go from Boston to the codfishing grounds off Newfoundland. His largest vessel, the Santa Maria, could be placed crosswise on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth or the Queen Mary, and plenty of space still be left at either end for people to walk about. Transportation by land in Columbus's time was much more difficult and slow than transportation by water. People traveled on horseback, or in heavy, uncomfortable coaches, drawn by horses. Pack-horses and camels, or rude carts and wagons, drawn by horses or oxen, were used to carry goods on land. The only articles that were carried far by such methods were light and also very costly. When people from Europe began to settle that part of America which is now the United States, they lived near the
"William Galloway" Puts on a Race with a Stagecoach ocean, or along the banks of rivers, where they could use boats for transportation. It was not long, however, before new settlers began to make their homes at some distance from the rivers and the sea. As the pioneers moved inland and the fringe of settlements along the Atlantic coast grew wider, it became necessary to build roads over which farmers could carry their produce to the nearest market towns. As time went on many roads were built in the colonies. It was possible to travel by horseback between all the colonial cities, post-riders carried mail from town to town. Between some of the larger towns stage-coach lines were established for the accommoda- tion of travelers who did not have private carriages and did not want to travel by horseback. All of the colonial roads were poor dirt roads, muddy when it rained and dusty when the weather was dry, making stage-coach travel so slow, and frequently so dangerous, that everybody journeyed about by water if it was at all possible. In 1774 it took two days to go from New York to Philadelphia by stage coach, a journey which an express train now makes in an hour and a half.
Until after the middle of the eighteenth century, that is, until just a few years before our Revolutionary War, all the English colonists on the continent of North America lived on the narrow strip of land east of the Allegheny Mountains. The mountains were a difficult barrier to cross. The first settlements west of the Alleghenies were not planted by the English, but by the French, from Canada, who built a few scattered villages and trading posts along the shores of the Great Lakes and in the valley of the Mississippi River. The French could make their way into the lands west of the Allegheny Mountains, because they could travel most of the way by water.
The English claimed much of the land beyond the mountains, but they could not settle it because there were no roads leading to the West, and no waterways by which they could pass the highland. The French gradually increased the number of their settlements in the West, and finally, coming down from Lake Erie, they built forts along the Allegheny River and took possession of lands to which the English claimed title. When this happened, the colonial governor of Virginia sent a messenger across the mountains, through the dense wilderness, to tell the French that they were trespassing, and to order them to leave. He selected as his messenger a Virginian by the name of George Washington, a young man barely twenty years of age. This difficult and dangerous mission marked the beginning of Washington's career in the service of his native land.
The French refused to leave, and there was a war, which eventually resulted in their expulsion. The little English and colonial armies, which went through Pennsylvania to drive the French away, built roads—not very good roads, to be sure— but roads good enough to enable settlers to cross the Appalachian highland into the Ohio Valley, carrying their tools and household belongings on pack-horses.
Just before the Revolutionary War began, Daniel Boone, the famous scout and Indian fighter, opened a road between North Carolina and Kentucky, by way of Cumberland Gap. A large number of settlers went to Kentucky and to Tennessee over Boone's Road. One of the early Kentucky settlers was Abraham Lincoln's grandfather. He was killed by Indians while working in the cornfield near his little log cabin. After the Revolution, hundreds of families left their homes in the Eastern States and went across the mountains to settle in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. They found plenty of rich land, which they cleared of trees and brush and made into good farms. But life in the wilderness was not easy for them. They could raise grain, vegetables, fruit and live stock in plenty, but they had great difficulty in getting their surplus products to a market, where they could sell them and buy clothing, guns, tools, salt, iron pots and pans, and other things which they needed but could not make for themselves.
The natural outlet for the produce of these early western farmers was southward by way of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. But Spain owned the city of New Orleans and both banks of the Mississippi for more than a hundred miles above its mouth, and the Spanish government refused to allow citizens of the United States to make use of the river. For a time the only markets of the western settlers were in the east, at Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Since their heavy agricultural products could not be transported to these cities over the poor roads, and since the cost of transportation would far have exceeded their market value, had wagon roads been available, many of the western farmers converted a portion of their grain into whiskey, which they could carry to the eastern cities on packhorses, and trade for a few of the things they so sorely needed.
Shortly after our Federal Government was established in 1789, Congress enacted a law imposing a tax upon the manufacture of whiskey. This tax was such a burden upon the western settlers that they refused for a time to pay it, and it was necessary to send a small military expedition to western Pennsylvania to compel obedience of the law. This Whiskey Rebellion called sharp attention to the dif- ficulties which the West faced because of inadequate trans- portation facilities. President Washington, who, more than any other American of his time, realized the value and im- portance of the West to the nation, promptly came to the rescue of the worried farmers. He sent agents to Spain, who in 1795 obtained from the Spanish king a treaty, by which the people of the United States were given complete freedom to use the Mississippi River to New Orleans and beyond to the Gulf of Mexico.
After the treaty was ratified, the western farmers began to build large flatboats, which they loaded with farm produce of all kinds, and
floated down creeks and rivers until they came to the great Mississippi. They would go down this river to New Orleans. Here they would sell their produce, and since it was almost impossible to row the heavy flatboats up the Mississippi, they would break up the boats and sell the lumber of which they had been made. Some of the flatboatmen would come home on horseback over Indian trails leading through Tennessee and Kentucky. Others would go in sailing vessels from New Orleans to Baltimore or Philadelphia, where they would buy the things they needed at home and carry them across the mountains on packhorses. It took six months for a farmer living in southern Ohio to make the long journey to New Orleans and back.
This flatboat trade continued for a half-century. Nearly every western farm boy made a journey to New Orleans. It was hard work, but it was also adventure and romance. Abraham Lincoln went to New Orleans twice as a flatboat hand.
One more interesting fact should be mentioned about this flatboat trade. In 1801 the Spanish governor at New Orleans suddenly closed the river to the citizens of the United States, and began to seize their flatboats. For a short time there was danger of war, until the governor's act was disavowed, and the river reopened to American trade. President Thomas Jefferson, fearful that some day there would again be serious trouble about the navigation of this river, in 1802 sent agents to France (Spain having ceded Louisiana to that country) , to see if Napoleon would sell to the United States all that pari of the Mississippi River and its banks which had been under Spanish control. The outcome of this mission's work was that the United States purchased the entire Louisiana territory, almost doubling the area of the country. Thus it was that a transportation problem was responsible for the beginning ol the expansion of the United States toward the West, an expan- sion that did not end until it reached the Pacific Ocean, and on across that ocean to the Orient.
Valuable as the right to navigate the Mississippi River was to the United States, it was plain that the people living in the region west of the Allegheny Mountains were in great need of still better means of transportation. The same was true of the people in the states east of the mountains. It would not be possible to settle and develop much of the land in the interior of the country unless something was done to enable the settlers to engage in a more active commerce. A great many people thought that our government made a frightful mistake when it paid fifteen million dollars for the Louisiana territory. They though that very little of that vast region could ever be settled. Their chief reason for thinking this was that the methods of transportation known in 1803 were so slow and expensive.
What was to be done about this problem of transportation? It was the most pressing domestic problem of the United States. Leaders in commerce and industry and political leaders gave much thought and effort to its solution. It was possible, of course, to improve, in some measure, the means of transportation already known. Bigger and better flatboats were built, and larger, more sturdy wagons. The most important early improvement came in the form of better roads, roads which were well drained, surfaced with gravel or crushed rock, roads which could be used the year around. The first of these improved roads were not built by public authority but by private corporations, and a toll was charged for their use. They were called turnpikes, because at the little houses where the tolls were collected, the long pole, which was swung across the road to serve as a tollgate, was armed with sharp pikes. The first of these privately owned turnpikes was opened between Lancaster and Philadelphia in 1794. So profitable did this road prove to be that very soon dozens of roads of a similar kind were built in all the Eastern States.
These early turnpikes were long ago bought by local or state governments and opened for free public use. Recently, however, there has been some return to the old practice of building toll roads, though they have been built by public authority and not by private corporations. The longest and finest modern toll road in the United States is the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. A large number of toll bridges have been built in recent years, as well as several vehicular tunnels, for the use of which a toll must be paid.
The early private turnpikes were local roads; that is, they extended between cities that were close together; there was no long toll road connecting two or more states. There was urgent need for a good road between the states along the eastern seaboard and the states west of the Allegheny Moun-
tains. Since no private investors were willing to take the risk involved in building such a long highway, and since the local and state governments were likewise averse to building such a road, the Federal Government undertook the task. In 1796 Congress directed that a portion of the money derived from the sale of public lands in Ohio should be set aside to pay for the building of a road to and through that territory, and later laws provided for the extension of the road through Indiana and Illinois. The first contract for the construction of this road, the famous National Pike, was let in 1811. The road began at Cumberland, Maryland. It was completed to Wheeling in 1818, and subsequently was extended westward across Ohio and Indiana to Vandalia, Illinois. This was the only important early highway built by the Federal Government. Presidents Madison and Monroe did not believe that Congress could legally appropriate money for such highways. The National Pike was eventually turned over to the states through which it passed. Today it is Route U. S. 40. Perhaps some of you have driven over it. On the part between Wheeling and Cumberland you can still see, at the side of the road, some of the old milestones, put in place when the road was first opened in 1818. In recent years the Federal Government has begun once more to take part in roadbuilding. It has given many millions of dollars to the states to be used for road construction. Just recently, in cooperation with Canada, it has built the great Alcan highway, that 1,600 mile road extending from Dawson Creek, B. C, to Fairbanks, Alaska, which makes it possible for us to provide men and munitions for the better defense of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
Another means of transportation with which the people of the United States sought to solve their transportation problem during the early period of our national history was the canal. Canals were well known in Europe, and long, long ago canals had been built in China, in Egypt and in Assyria. Canals were better highways than roads. A horse walking along the towpath of a canal could pull a boat weighing a dozen times as much as any wagon he could pull over the best level road.
During the years between 1800 and 1850 several hundreds of miles of canal were built in the United States both east and west of the Appalachian highland. New York had the largest mileage of canals, and Pennsylvania next. West of the mountains, Ohio and Indiana took the lead in canal building. Some of these canals were built by private corporations, but
most of them were built by the various state governments, sometimes with the aid of the Federal Government. There are dozens of cities in the United States in which there is a Canal Street. In nearly every instance you will find that the street marks a site once occupied by the sluggish waters of some canal, long since filled up, and, in most places, entirely forgotten.
Of all the early canals built in the United States, the most important was the famous Erie Canal, built between Albany on the Hudson River and Buffalo on Lake Erie. Built by the State of New York, it was begun in 1817, and completed throughout its length in 1825. It had several branches, one of which extended to Lake Champlain and another to Lake
Ontario at Oswego. It was one of the greatest inland artificial waterways ever built anywhere, and in some respects it was the most important single artery of transportation ever constructed in the United States. It opened up the interior of the central part of the State of New York, giving the farmers of that region cheap and easy access to the City of New York. But more than that, it opened for settlement the vast region about the Great Lakes which before the building of the Erie Canal had remained almost completely undeveloped because it had no route of communication with the seaboard. After the canal was opened, thousands upon thousands of settlers poured into northern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and into southern Michigan and Wisconsin, soon transforming an uninhabited wilderness into one of the richest and most productive regions of the United States. In 1825 one would have searched in vain upon a map of the United States to find a city of Chicago. In 1860 Chicago had a population of 100,000 and was the scene of a wildly enthusiastic political convention which chose Abraham Lincoln as its candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
While canals and improved roads were being built and improvements made in existing types of boats and wheeled vehicles, during the early part of the nineteenth century, a number of ingenious men were making efforts to solve the nation's transportation problem in an entirely different way. Instead of seeking to improve the old facilities of transportation, they were experimenting with the use of a new kind of power for transportation. This new kind of power was the steam engine. It had been invented in England during the eighteenth century. It had been employed to operate pumps, to drive machines in textile mills and in other factories, and there were a few men who firmly believed that it could be made to move boats on the water and wagons and carriages on the land. After several years of patient effort, Robert Fulton of New York built the first commercially successful Steamboat, the Clermont, which he ran on the Hudson River between New York and Albany in 1807. Four years after the Clermont was launched, a steamboat was built at Pittsburgh, for use on the Ohio River. It was not thought then that a
steamboat could be built powerful enough to stem the swift current of the mighty Mississippi, but in 1817 a sturdy boat steamed up that river from New Orleans and on tip the Ohio River as far as Louisville. The steamboat was an invention of outstanding importance to the people of the United States, and especially to the people who lived in the Mississippi Valley and about the Great Lakes. It made the rivers and lakes more useful than they had been before, and made it ever so much easier for the farmers of the Middle West to take their produce to market and get back home again. Hundreds of steamboats were built to ply upon our inland waters. By 1840 steamboats had been built to cross the wide Atlantic Ocean, and this new means of transportation began to take part in the development of our commerce with foreign nations.
But the steamboat and the canal, powerful factors though they were in the growth of our internal commerce, were not enough to provide a satisfactory solution of the transportation problem of the United States. There were vast regions of the country where streams were too shallow for steamboats; and there were places where canals could never be built because the land was too hilly. In the Northern States, moreover, canals, lakes and rivers froze over during the winter, and could not be used at all.
What was needed was a new means of transportation by land, something that was speedier, cheaper and more reliable than ordinary highways. It was from the efforts which inventors made to improve the methods of transportation by land that we finally obtained the steam railroad.
The steam railroad, now more than a hundred years old, represented the convergence of two ideas, the idea of the railroad and the idea of a steam locomotive or self-moving steam engine. The railroad was much older than the steam engine. Early in the eighteenth century the owners of some coal mines in England built railroads to haul coal from the mines to waterways. The inventors who first thought of making use of the steam engine as a source of power for land transportation were thinking about steam-wagons, as they were called, which could be operated on highways, just as our modern motor vehicles.
The first railroads were not much like the railroads we know today. The word railroad was originally written as two words, rail road, to distinguish it from other kinds of roads. The first rails were made of wood and had grooves in which the flat wheels of the coal wagons fitted. But a horse could draw a much heavier load on such a railroad than he could draw on an ordinary highway. The surface was more even, there was much less friction. Nearly everybody knows how much easier it is to run a toy train on its tracks than upon a rug or even upon a rough bare floor.
The very first railroads in the United States were horsepower railroads. We do not know much about the very first ones, but we do know about one of the early ones, the Quincy tramway. It was built in 1826, between some granite quarries at Quincy, Massachusetts, and a wharf on the nearby Neponset River, and it was used in hauling stone for the construction of the Bunker Hill monument. This road, which was three miles in length, had wagons which were pulled by horses, except near the quarry, where they were drawn up the somewhat steep ascent by a cable and a stationary steam engine. The year after the Quincy tramway was built, another short railroad was built in Pennsylvania, to haul anthracite to the canal over which the coal was shipped to Philadelphia.
This was a gravity railroad, the loaded cars descending by the force of gravity, to be drawn back up the hill by mules. The mules rode down hill in a car attached to a coal car, and the story is told that if a mule happened to be forgotten on the down trip, it refused to walk. It would not pull a car uphill if deprived of its ride downhill. The fact that a horse or a mule could draw a much heavier load on a railroad than on an ordinary highway led some men to believe that railroads could be built for general use in trade and travel. They thought that just as the canal had proved to be better than the ordinary highway, so the railroad would be superior to the canal.
In 1828 a canal company of Maryland and Virginia started to dig the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. This waterway started at Georgetown, near Washington, and it was to be built westward, if possible, to the Ohio River, and provide the region about Chesapeake Bay with a highway to the West comparable to the already highly successful Erie Canal, which had been completed three years previously.
Some commercial and financial leaders in Baltimore doubted seriously if a canal could be built across the hilly country between Chesapeake Bay and the Ohio River. They believed that the best kind of improved highway between Baltimore and the Ohio River would be a railroad. In 1827 they formed the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, to build such a highway, and on July 4, 1828, the very same day that work was started at Georgetown on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, they started work on the railroad at Baltimore. This was the first railroad in the United States to be built for the use of the public. There was a great celebration at Baltimore on the day the work began. Present at the ceremonies were the governors of several states, the mayors and other officials of a number of Maryland cities. But the most outstanding figure there was the venerable Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only man then alive who had signed our Declaration of Independence. He laid the first stone of this new highway and declared the act to be second in importance only to his signing of the Declaration. There was a great celebration in Baltimore, with a huge parade, many speeches, and great festivities. Fifty thousand people looked on and cheered, according to a Baltimore paper of the day, though very few of them, in fact none of them, really knew what an important event they were witnessing. After all, it would not have been such an important event had railroads never been different from the Baltimore and Ohio as it was first built. The power which drew the first little wagons and coaches on this railroad was furnished by horses.
Horse-power railroads would have helped in the development of the industry and internal trade of the United States, but they could not have moved large numbers of passengers and large quantities of freight over long distances as the steam railroads have been able to do. But horse-power railroads did not last long. In 1829, the year after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was started, George Stephenson, an English inventor and engineer, built a successful steam locomotive. Stephenson, and other in- ventors too, had built "steam-wagons" before 1829, but the earliest locomotives, like the first steamboats, and the first automobiles, and the first airplanes, did not work very well.
They were cumbersome and slow, and they broke down altogether too frequently. Many people did not believe it would ever be possible to build serviceable steam locomotives, and they thought the inventors were foolish for spending so much time and thought in an effort to build them. But Stephenson showed that it could be done. His first successful locomotive he named the Rocket. It is still preserved in a London museum. It was very small in comparison to the huge locomotives we have on our railroads today. It weighed only eight tons, not so much as many of the loaded trucks which speed over our concrete highways, but it could go, it could draw a small train of loaded cars on the railroad that had been built between Manchester and Liverpool, and it reached the unheard-of speed of thirty miles an hour.
The invention of the steam locomotive made the railroad the most important of all means of transportation. When it became plain that steam transportation by land was really possible, dozens of companies were formed in this country to build railroads. Though our earliest locomotives were imported from England, locomotive factories were soon in operation in the United States, in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities, and American-made engines were soon chugging away, pulling freight and passenger trains between some of our cities.
Railroad building did not at first proceed with great rapidity. It took a considerable amount of money to build and equip a railroad, and since our country was still young, large amounts of capital were not available. When steam railroads were first introduced, many of our states were spending large sums of money for the construction of canals, and political leaders were unwilling to transfer their interest to this strange and untried agency of transportation. There were many mechanical difficulties to be overcome in the construction of track and equipment. There was a severe financial panic in 1837, and during the business depression which fol- lowed, it was hardly to be expected that much progress could be made in railroad construction. Finally, there were many people who did not have much faith in the railroad. They refused to believe that it was more efficient and more reliable than a canal for the transportation of freight; and some people even displayed a preference for travel by stage-coach to travel in a noisy, smoky, steam passenger train.
By 1840 the United States had 2,800 miles of railroad, consisting, for the most part, of short lines connecting the larger cities in the Atlantic coastal states and extending inland for short distances, from our leading Atlantic seaports, from Portland, Maine, to Savannah, Georgia. By 1850 the mileage of railroads in the United States had increased to 9,000. The new construction was made up of extensions of the lines begun in the previous decade and of new railroads built in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, the region then called the West, but now a portion of our North Central States. By 1850, the railroad had proved by trial that it was superior to canal or river as a carrier of our inland commerce. It had gained public confidence, and it had gained the confidence of investors, both in the United States and Europe. Our country was booming. Its boundaries had been extended to the Pacific coast, gold had been discovered in California, settlers were flocking by the thousand to the wide Mississippi valley, agricultural machinery, operated by horse-power, was
beginning to displace the ancient methods of planting, cultivating and harvesting by hand, making it possible for the labor of a single man to produce as much as the labor of ten men had produced under previous conditions. The need of cheap and efficient transportation became more and more pressing. Between 1850 and 1860, more than 21,000 miles of new railroad were laid down, bringing the total mileage of the country to 30,000. The construction of this decade was in the East and in the South and in the Central States. It became possible to go by train from New York and Philadelphia and Baltimore to Chicago and St. Louis, from Charleston and Savannah to Memphis. A railroad bridge was built across the Mississippi River. By 1860 a line of railroad was completed to the Mis souri River, from Hannibal, where Mark Twain was born, to St. Joseph, the starting point of dozens of the emigrant trains which had threaded their way across plain and mountain to Oregon and California. There was talk of a railroad to the Pacific coast.
This decade saw the completion of some of the lines that had been started in the very first days of the steam railroad. In the north, the Baltimore and Ohio, our first steam railroad, finally made its way across the rugged Appalachian highland to Wheeling, where it connected with a line leading across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to St. Louis. The Erie Railroad, in southern New York, was completed to Dunkirk on Lake Erie. The New York Central Railroad was formed by the combination of several small connecting lines between Buffalo and Albany, and, a short time later, joined to the Hudson River Railroad between Albany and New York City and to the Michigan Central, as well as to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, it had a line, with alternative routes much of the way, between New York City and Chicago. The Pennsylvania Railroad, built originally between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, secured control on the east of a line to Philadelphia, and connected at its western terminus with a railroad to Chicago, a line over which it was soon to have permanent control. Railroad "systems" were coming into existence, systems which were to grow until they spread over several states.
Our railroads seemed to cross the country by huge steps. First New England and the Atlantic coast region, as far west as the mountains; then on beyond to Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, and finally from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. It is an interesting fact that the territorial divisions in which our railroads were built still have, for the most part, their own systems. Very few railroads in New England have lines outside New England, and few railroads outside New England own mileage within that region. The region between New England and a line in the west, running from Buffalo southward through Pittsburgh and Wheeling to Gauley, West Virginia, we call Trunk Line Territory; west of that line, extending to Chicago at St. Louis, comes what in our railroad vocabulary is called Central Freight Association Territory. The leading railroads in these two territories, originally constructed inde- pendently, have been joined together, though each territory has some important systems of its own. The southern region, below the Potomac and Ohio rivers, and east of the Missis- sippi, has its own railroad systems, while west of the Mississippi is still another great railroad territory, part of its lines, which are called transcontinental railroads, extending to the Pacific coast, and others covering the western prairies and plains but not crossing the Rocky Mountain highland.
With the coming of war in 1861, railroad construction had 10 stop. But once the war was over, and the great armies returned to peaceful industry, railroad building began on a more extensive scale than ever. During the eight years between 1865 and 1873 some 35,000 miles of railroad were built, to double the total mileage of the country. Much of the railroad construction of these years, encouraged and aided by our Federal Government, took place in the region west of the Mississippi River. The most noteworthy event of this period was the completion of our first transcontinental line, made up of the Union Pacific between Omaha, Nebraska and Ogden, Utah, and the Central Pacific Railroad between Ogden and San Francisco. The construction of these lines was authorized while the war was going on. The Central Pacific was built eastward from California, and the Union Pacific was built westward from Omaha. They finally met at Promontory, a few miles west of Ogden. On May 10, 1869,
the last rails were fastened in place with spikes of gold and silver. It was a memorable day in the history of our country, because it signified that the occupation of the continent from sea to sea was an accomplished fact, after a westward march lasting a little more than two and a half centuries. For many years, a monument marked the spot where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific lines met. It was north of Great Salt Lake, for the railroad west of Ogden bent around
the lake on the north. But the monument marks only a memory now, for the railroad tracks are gone. In 1904 the Central Pacific line was taken directly across Great Salt Lake, by fill and trestle, over a line which was called the Lucin cutoff. It saved a distance of 104 miles between Ogden and Lucin. For many years the old line north of the lake was kept in service for light local traffic and as an alternative route, but in 1942 and 1943 it was nearly all torn up and the rails turned over to the United States Navy for the construction of needed tracks in naval supply depots. Planned and authorized during one war for the defense of our nation, this historic section of track was torn up to serve the nation's needs in another war.
Another long and severe business depression, beginning in 1873, brought railroad construction almost to an end for several years, but by 1880 the country had recovered, and railroad building began on a larger scale than ever before. During the decade from 1880 to 1890, there were 70,000 miles of railroad built in the United States, a record that has never been equaled. New systems were built in the West, and older systems extended everywhere throughout the land. Our railroad milage in 1890 was 164,000.
These busy years were marked by some notable advances in the railroad industry, advances which made it possible for the steam locomotive to draw heavier trains for longer distances and at greater speeds than ever before. All the leading railroads adopted a common track gauge; the use of steel in the making of rails became general; and George Westinghouse perfected his great invention, the air brake, making it possible for the engineer in the cab of the locomotive to control the movement of the heaviest and fastest train. These three things permitted our railroads to enter that stage of development wihch is often called "mass production." They could produce transportation service in quantities such as our forefathers would never have dreamed to be possible.
By 1890 nearly all our leading railroad systems were established, and thereafter new construction consisted chiefly of branch lines needed to round out the existing systems and enable them better to serve the region traversed by the main lines. A few new systems were laid down in the West. Mile after mile was added to our railroad net until in 1910 we had 240,000 miles of railroad, more than a third of the railroad mileage of the entire world.
Our network of railroads reached its maximum size in 1916, with 254,000 miles of line. Since that year, the network has shrunk somewhat. Many miles of branch line have been abandoned and scrapped since that year. So far did the mileage abandoned exceed the new mileage built that in 1948 our railroad net had fallen to 226,000 miles. The chief reason for railroad abandonment in recent years has been the development of highway transportation by automobile and truck. Numerous branch lines upon which traffic had always been
light, lost so much of their business that their operation could be continued only at a great loss to their owners. In addition to the lines abandoned because of the competition of the highway vehicles, there were a number of short lines given up because of the exhaustion of natural resources, such as timber, or coal or iron, for the transportation of which the railroads had originally been constructed.
During the past few years some people have professed to believe that the day of the steam railroad was nearing its end, that the railroad was about to be superseded by the highway vehicle and the airplane, just as the railroad once replaced the stagecoach, the covered wagon and the canal-boat. While it is true that new agencies of transportation have caused some decline in the relative importance of the steam railroad, the day is still far distant when the railroad will cease to be our leading carrier of freight and passengers. The war brought convincing proof of how important, how necessary, the steam railroad is to our national welfare. It is difficult to see how we could ever get along without it, either in war or in peace.
The railroads of the United States maintain close operating relations with the railroads of our next door neighbors, both north and south, the Dominion of Canada and Mexico. Freight cars are interchanged, and some passenger train schedules synchronized. It is not an uncommon sight to see freight cars from Canadian railroads in American freight trains, and the visitor to Canada will see in Canadian freight trains a largenumber of cars which belong to railroad companies in the United States.
More progress in railroad consolidation has been made in Canada than in this country. Our northern neighbor's railroads consist almost entirely of two large systems, both of which are truly transcontinental lines, with terminals on the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company is privately owned and operated, like the railroads in this country, while the Canadian National Railways system is owned and operated by the Dominion government. Both Canadian systems have trackage in the United States, and several of our railroads have trackage in Canada. It probably seems odd to other nations to find a foreign government owning and operating a railroad within the boundaries of the United States. The absence of a fortified border between this
country and Canada is not the only evidence that it is possible for neighboring countries to get along amicably with one another.
The largest part of the railroads of Mexico are included in the National Railways of Mexico, a system more than 8,000 miles long, extending over the eastern and central sections of Mexico from the United States border to Guatemala. These lines are owned and operated by the government. Because of disturbed political and economic conditions the Mexican railways had to pass through some troubled and trying times, during which it was difficult properly to maintain and operate the property. Recent years have brought a high degree of stability to Mexico, and the railroad service has shared in the improvement shown by other branches of business enterprise. One American railroad company, the Southern Pacific, operates a line of railroad in the western part of Mexico, extending from Nogales to Guadalajara.
While the government of the United States does not own and operate any railroads within what is called its "continental area," it does have a line 470 miles long in Alaska, extending from Seward to Fairbanks, with a branch 170 miles long between Anchorage and Sutton. This railroad has been an important factor in the development of some of the rich natural resources of the territory.
Our railroads have been named almost entirely with respect to their geographical location, that is, they are named for cities, states, rivers, lakes and oceans. It is a curious fact that only one large railroad in the United States was ever named for a man. Many automobiles have been named for inventors and manufacturers, or even for historical characters, but railroad builders clung steadily to place names for their creations. The one exception was the Pere Marquette Railroad in Michigan, which was named for the famous French missionary explorer, who, with Joliet, made a daring expedition down the Mississippi River in 1673 and proved that the great Father of Waters eventually found its way to the Gulf of Mexico. But sad to say, Pere Marquette no longer appears as a name on our railroad map. A few years ago this famous old line was consolidated with the Chesapeake and Ohio, its identity lost and its name dropped. To make up, in part at least, for depriving the country of its one large man-named railroad, the officials of the Chesapeake and Ohio gave the name to a crack passenger train, and they call the former independent railroad the "Pere Marquette District" of the Chesapeake and Ohio system.
Many of our railroads are popularly known by names which differ from their full official titles. These names may be just the initials of the words making up the complete names, as B&O, D&H, L&N, C&O, DL&VV, UP, SP, C&E1. Some roads are commonly designated by just one word of their full names, as New Haven, Santa Fe, Burlington, Milwaukee, Rock Island. Other railroads are referred to as "routes," as Rebel Route (Gulf, Mobile and Ohio), Sunset Route (Southern Pacific), Overland Route (Union Pacific), Water Level Route (New York Central), Route of the Black Diamond (Lehigh Valley) . Then there are nicknames, such as Katy, Pennsy, Big Four, Pan Handle. One of the oldest and best know railroad nicknames is Nickel Plate. Many years ago a member of the Vanderbilt family was seeking to buy this railroad, to put an end to its competition with the New York Central. Aghast at the enormous price demanded by its owners, so the story goes, he exclaimed that one would think the railroad was "nickel plated." And Nickel Plate the railroad has been ever since.
Nearly all of our leading railroads have monograms, which are found on their cars, and on their stationery, just as the monograms of an individual is placed upon stationery. A railroad's monogram is its private insignia, its armorial bearing, as it were. To those persons who enjoy watching freight trains pass by, many of the designs are familiar. Some of them are very attractive.