Have you ever wondered how trains and railroads changed life in America? History argues over the impact of railroads. History claims that the contribution of railroads was crucial in American development. Others, such as Robert Fogel, maintain that the impact of railroad transportation was not as crucial in the development in America (Early American Railroads). The issue may be a controversial one, but the fact remains that train transportation, the building of trains, and the development of the railroad system changed America.
The impact of the railroad changed jobs, towns, travel, lifestyles, as well as the physical face of the United States of America. England developed the first trains and railroads. George Stephenson made the world’s first successful locomotive. (Early American Railroads) The United States were only fifty years old when they bought their first engines from the Stephenson Works in England. The trains were steam powered. Even most of the rails were imported from England till the start of the Civil War.
Before trains, travel took great amounts of time and it was costly. To maneuverer a forty- mile winding canal took a whole day. Now with implementing train technology the Mohawk and Hudson railroad reduced the trip to seventeen miles which took only an hour. (Early American Railroads) America learned from England that railroads amazingly dropped the cost of shipping by carriage sixty to seventy present. These trains would bring the nation closer together. Before these trains could bring the nation closer together the civil war broke out seemingly causing division.
Yet, during this time of division and conflict, railroads came of age. Trains, railways, depots, railway bridges, and rail systems supplies became a key resource in the Civil War. Trains transported solders, materials, food, non-military people, and raw materials, such as guns and ammunition, that kept the war going forward. As a key resource, the railway system also became a military target (Martin). The Union had a more advanced railway system with more miles of railroad tracks than the South (Railroads in the Civil War). This gave the North a great advantage.
By giving the Union this advantage, the North was victorious and the United States was brought closer together. During the upheaval of the Civil War in 1862, congress under President Abraham Lincoln passed the Pacific Railway Act which led to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad (Railroads in the 19th Century). On May 10th, the Central Pacific Railway’s Jupiter and the Union Pacific Railway’s engine number 119 locomotives met nose-to-nose at Promontory Summit, Utah thus signaling of a united nation. This uniting of railroads reduced the six month trip the California to two weeks.
The railroads had built tunnels thru granite mountains that had been impossible and built bridges over huge gorges, most of this work was done by Chinese laborers. From the East, the Irish immigrants changed the physical face of the United States by having to build bridges over the mighty Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and crossing the Continental Divide. This physical bringing together of the United States came at a great cost monetarily and in human lives. The most costly thing of all was that the railroad effectively ended the traditional Native American (the Indian) way of live (Railroads in the 19th Century).
Despite this cost in only a few years the transcontinental railroad changed the mid-west and the western frontier wilderness into areas filled with European-Americans, enabling multiple enterprises and wide spread travel. This impacted the growth of commerce. Long distance mail was delivered by companies (such as the Pony Express) using horses and riders, stagecoaches, and ships before trains. Delivering the mail by these methods took long periods of time and was extremely costly (at today’s rate pony charged: $130. 00 an ounce). The average time of delivery for the Pony express was ten days from St.
Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, Ca. In 1860 the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad set a record of four hours for 206 miles carrying mail. Sending mail by train became so popular this same railroad company in 1862 established a railway post office car in order to pre-sort mail in transit so it would be ready by the time the destination was reached (Alison). Another benefit of packages and mail by train was the availability of more goods and the printing of catalogs to advertise the almost unlimited amount of goods that could be delivered by train.
You could even order a kit to build a complete house from Sears and Roebuck Company catalog. It seems as if catalog shopping was a precursor to the modern day online shopping. Trains and the railroad gave jobs and even made job easier. Some of the jobs that were given are building the train tracks, building the train, the conductor and more. So, let’s talk about the jobs. Building the train tracks is not an easy job, they had to work in almost every kind of weather. Hot days, cold days, and even rainy days. Originally trains used three man crews to run (Early American Railroads).
Not everyone could conduct a train so they had to find people who were able. When you can conduct a train, it is more than just driving, you would have to let people know when you are coming into the station. Make sure everybody is ok. Another job was an engineer whose job was putting wood or coal into the furnace and pulling the switch to change tracks. Trains also needed brakeman to keep trains from going too fast and going off the tracks on the corners. Times changed and technology created even more jobs. In order to understand how tremendously the change of times and technology brought more jobs, the list below is provided.
Keep in mind as you read this list this is only jobs directly connected with trains and their normal function. “Dispatching Center Personnel •Dispatcher Schedules and monitors all train movements, responsible for traffic control and for communicating routine and unforeseen phenomena which may affect the flow of rail traffic. •Freight Traffic Manager Oversees freight traffic. •Trainmaster Oversees train operations. •Yardmaster Oversees switching and yard operations where trains are “made up” or prepared for their next service, and schedules maintenance of trains. •Division Superintendent
Individual with authority over a section, i. e. , North Platte to Cheyenne. Responsible for track maintenance and oversees scheduling and other duties contributing to smooth traffic flow between destinations. •Tower Operator Controls switching in and out of yards. •Telegrapher Responsible for sending, receiving and routing messages by electric transmission over wire via coded signals. •Special Agent Railroad Police. Passenger Train Personnel •Station Master/Depot Agent Oversees operations connected with railroad building adjacent to tracks, where passengers and freight may be located. Passenger Director Directs and manages passenger traffic, provides information relating to passenger travel. •Porter One employed to carry baggage for and assist patrons at rail terminals; a car attendant who waits on passengers and makes up berths. •Steward One who manages the provisioning of food and attends passengers. •Stewardess In the UP passenger system, the stewardess was often a registered nurse who attended the medical needs of travelers. •Car Attendant One whose duties combine those of the porter and steward on modern passenger trains. •Cook
One who prepares main entrees on passenger trains. •Pantry Chef One who assists the cook, responsible mainly for side dishes, breads and desserts. •Ticket Clerk Stationed at the ticket window, this person provides tickets and tour information to passengers. •Baggage Clerk Responsible for tagging baggage, loading, unloading and routing baggage en route between destinations. •RPO Clerk Railroad postal clerk. Survey and Construction Personnel •Civil Engineer An engineer whose training or occupation is in the designing and construction of public or private works, such as railroads. Surveyor One who applies geometry and trigonometry to determine the area of any portion of the earth’s surface, the lengths and directions of the bounding lines, and the contour of the surface, and accurately delineates the whole on paper.
•Rodman Surveyor’s assistant, one who holds the leveling rod. •Flagman Surveyor’s assistant, one who signals with a flag. •Axemen Works with the surveyor, cuts the surveyor’s stakes. •Track Layer One who lays the rails in place on the rail bed. •Grader Grades and shapes the continuous, level, raised bed on which tracks and ties are laid. Teamster One who drives a team of horses, mules or other draft animals. Precursor to the Teamster’s Union. •Herder Manager and tender of livestock. Train Crew •Engineer Responsible for operating the locomotive.
•Conductor In charge of train in its entirety, and of the train crew at large. •Brakeman Inspects the train, assists the conductor, operates the brakes and assists in switching. •Fireman Steam locomotive crew who feeds the firebox with fuel. On diesel locomotives, the firemen would monitor controls and assist the engineer. •Yard or Field Operations Switchman Attends the switch in a railroad yard, switching trains from one track to another. •Signal Maintainer Maintains signals, including those of hot box detectors, dragging equipment detectors, railroading crossings, CTC and formerly telegraph lines. •Section Foreman Individual in authority over group of workers. •Section Crew Group of workers responsible for assisting in yard operations. ” (Past and Present Railroad Descriptions) After seeing these hundreds of jobs, now think about the needs of each person that fill these jobs.
All required a place to call home (shelter), a wide diversity of food (substance), many different varieties of clothing needs, families would need schools, perhaps churches, transportation from home to work and back, doctors, dentist, and many more. All of these needs create even more jobs than just the railroad jobs. “The U. S. Department of Commerce model of the U. S. economy estimates freight railroads sustain more than one million jobs across the country in addition to their own employees.
The model indicates that every freight rail job sustains another 4. 5 jobs elsewhere. (Freight Railroads: Propelling American Economic Development) Trains did not just give jobs, it made jobs easier. Trade was made easier by using trains. Farmers could now use trains to transport and sell stuff further from their homes. By using trains and the railways goods would get to its destination faster. So, if a farmer wanted to sell a cow and some tomatoes. The cow would be less likely to die and the tomatoes would not rot the price would go up because more people could buy them. Trains and railroads not only changed travel for pleasure but also business.
It helped change business because if people sold goods they could be in Florida but send their stuff to Colorado by train. The beginning of the traveling salesman brought items to other parts of the country that never knew that item existed. Today, “Freight rail is one of the country’s most essential industries, and it provides a foundation on which many other industries rely” (Freight Railroads: Propelling American Economic Development). Goods could be taken to new places quickly. New stuff was available all over the country.
There was a two-fold effect on products: the sellers found new markets in which to sell their goods and individuals who lived on the frontier were able to obtain goods that were previously unavailable or extremely hard to get” (Martin). Trains helped strengthen the economy by using them to carry cargo to not only large towns but the small ones as well. Freight railroads have invested billions of dollars from 2009 to 2013 to improve and maintain tracks, bridges, cars and equipment (Freight Railroads: Propelling American Economic Development).
Every time the railroad spend money on trains or tracks things become safer and better so more people and businesses want to use them. Even in today’s business, railroads provide many advantages. The following is only a particle list of benefits from freight railroad: “Delivering Global Competitiveness — Railroads haul approximately one-third of all U. S. exports, allowing American industry to be more competitive in the worldwide economy. Providing Affordable Freight Transport — Adjusted for inflation, average U. S. rail rates fell 43 percent from 1981 through 2014.
That means the average rail customer today can ship nearly twice as much freight for about the same price it paid more than 30 years ago. Easing Taxpayer Burdens — Unlike trucks, barges, and airlines that operate using infrastructure funded mainly by taxpayers, America’s privately owned freight railroads operate almost exclusively on infrastructure they own, build, maintain, and pay for themselves. America’s freight railroads not only drive the economy, they also safeguard the environment, thanks to more fuel-efficient locomotives, advanced computer software systems, cutting-edge technologies, operational improvements, and more.
Increasing Fuel Efficiency — On average, railroads are four times more fuel-efficient than trucks. Reducing Pollution — Moving freight by rail instead of trucks reduces greenhouse gas emissions an average of 75 percent. Lessening Highway Congestion — A train can carry the freight of several hundred trucks — reducing highway gridlock, the cost of maintaining existing highways, and the pressure to build expensive new highways. ” (Freight Railroads: Propelling American Economic Development). Travel was hard and took lots of time. Travel could also be very dangerous.
It could take a long time to get from one place to another place. Horse back or horse drawn wagons took months to travel across the country. Sometimes to travel from parts of Florida to Georgia would take days or even weeks. People did not travel for pleasure because it took too long and was too dangerous to travel. Disease, starvation, wild life and Native Americans where some of the many dangers people had to face. Before trains and railroads the people would have had to use wagons, horses or walking to go places. Passenger service on the railroad first began in America in the late 1700s.
Passenger service via train began in the eastern United States first. The passenger service in the mid-western came along in the 1860s. By July 1866 the Union Pacific had passenger trains all the way to the western cost of America. Passenger trains began with wooden benches for seating, used wood burning stoves for heat, the fastest they could travel was twenty miles per hour. There were no accommodations for snacks and meals nor any accommodations for sleeping. To say the least, in the early seventeen hundred passenger trains were crude (Union Pacific Passenger Trains).
It did not take the train companies to improve the trains. Before the golden spike for the transcontinental railway was driven, George Pullman’s “hotel” sleeping cars were in service. Just five days after the completion of the transcontinental railroad regular passenger train service from Omaha to San Francisco was established. The Overland Limited, a luxury train began its first run in 1890 between Omaha and San Francisco in only seventy-one hours. The Union Pacific’s City of Salina (1934) was the introduction of the light weight Streamliner passenger train.
These new Streamliners’ had luxurious furnishings, flawless service, air conditioning, reduced noise, and a more comfortable ride. The equipment of today’s passenger trains is a remnant of the original Streamliners. In larger cities thousands of people use the modern passenger train for their daily commute back and forth to work. (Union Pacific Passenger Trains) Now people are able to travel form cost to cost in a reasonable time with almost maxim safety. This essay began with the question “Have you ever wondered how trains and railroads changed life in America? Without a doubt, both freight and passenger trains have drastically changed life in America by making travel safer and faster.
The trains and railroads contributed to the development of America by connecting people and business together. Railroads provided all kind of jobs for all kind of people. Even today people still work for the railroads. Trains and railroads made lives easier and better for people. They brought goods and new businesses all over the country. Railroads changed the landscape by building tunnels through mountains, and bridges across valleys. So in my opinion trains and railroads have majorly changed life in America.