Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages
Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages
Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages
Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages
Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages

Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages

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Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages
Railroads and the American People by H Roger Grant Soft Cover 2012 299 Pages
FOR MORE THAN 150 YEARS RAILROADS HAVE EXERTED A PROnounced influence on the American people. The iron horse literally became the engine for development and general well-being. By routinizing movements of raw materials, goods, and people, railroads orchestrated the growth of the national economy. In The House of Seven Gables (1851) Nathaniel Hawthorne said it well: "Railroads are positively the greatest blessing that the ages have wrought out for us. They give us wings; they annihilate the toil and dust of pilgrimage; they spiritualize travel!" President Warren G. Harding, a man not remembered for his insightful comments, sensed the value of improved transportation. "For the whole problem of civilization," he told a crowd assembled for the formal dedication of the government-built Alaska Railroad in July 1923, "the development of resources and the awaking of communities lies in transportation." It can be reasonably argued that if any area explains American greatness, it has been transportation.
By the end of the nineteenth century the "Railway Age" had matured in the United States. Yet line construction continued, especially on the Great Plains. In 188o national mileage stood at 92,147; a decade later, after a frenzy of construction, it soared to 163,359, and in 1916 it peaked at 254,251, creating enough route miles to circle the earth ten times. By World War I states such as Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio claimed mileage that was so dense that small communities might have two or more carriers. Then the abandonment process began, particularly among the weakest shortlines, centered initially in the Midwest and South.
The expectations of pioneer "rail road" proponents mostly materialized. When on October 1, 1833, Elias Horry, president of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, addressed a Charleston audience about the impact of the opening of his 136-mile road between that city and Hamburg on the fall line of the Savannah River opposite Augusta, Georgia, he hardly exaggerated the importance of the railroad of that day or much later. "Our citizens immediately, and correctly saw, that every benefit arising from the system [of railroads] could be extended to every City and Town in the United States, and particularly to those near the Atlantic." Horry, it seemed, possessed clairvoyant abilities.
That by establishing Rail-Roads, so located as to pass into the interior of the several States, every agricultural, commercial, or saleable production could be brought down from remote parts of the Country to these Cities and Towns; and from them, such returns, as the wants of the inhabitants of the interior required, could be forwarded with great dispatch and economy, thereby forming a perfect system of mercantile exchanges, effected in the shortest possible time, and giving life to a most advantageous Commerce.
Over the following decades the words of Horry, the prophet, rang true. So much of the movement of goods and people depended on the iron horse. After the railroad map had apparently jelled about 1900, actions by scores of communities during the twilight period of construction indicated that steel rails and flanged wheels were still expected to ensure future prosperity. When the "inland" county-seat town of Ava, Missouri, located in the transportation-starved Ozarks, at last joined the national railroad grid in February 1910, residents cherished that moment. "At half past nine o'clock last Sunday night the old Ava died and the new Ava was born," crowed the editor of the Douglas County Herald.
The welcome "toot" of a locomotive whistle was heard as the first train of the Kansas City, Ozark & Southern Railway came slowly down the hill from the John A. Spurlok homestead, and stopped in the midst of a cheering crowd at the depot. And from a gondola car at the rear end of the train stepped a cold, tired, but very happy man, a man who, in the face of abuse and discouragement had plugged away until he had made his dream come true. J. B. Quigley, almost blind, had accomplished what Ava had been hoping for and scheming for twenty years to secure-he had completed a practical railroad connecting Ava with the outside world.
The impact of railroads upon the personal lives of Americans can been seen in multiple ways. This study explores four fundamental topics: Trains, Stations, Communities, and Legacy. These units are designed collectively to capture the essence of the nation's railroad experience.
Travel by rail left lasting memories, both positive and negative. The luxury of a fast, all-Pullman train brought great pleasure, while a local with vintage equipment, frequent stops, and slow transit times did not. All types of individuals took to the rails, whether hoboes, immigrants, shoppers, salesmen, or vacationers. If a trip was not taken, the sight of a passing train could conjure up thoughts about exciting people and far-off places. On June 29, 1904, xi T Ranch cowboy William Tanner penned in his diary: "Sitting on top of wind mill tower watching an old [Fort Worth &] Denver train go toward Fort Worth. Wish it was taking me."
The railroad station once served as the focus of community life, something that knew no geographical bounds. These comments made by a woman who recalled her childhood typify memories of station life: "It was a great deal to us, watching the trains come in. Everybody in town did it, every single day. Mama showed us where to stand, and we'd go down there every afternoon after school and watch all the people and activities around the depot." Individuals directly associated with the "deepo" were important to nearly everyone. This was especially true in smaller towns where agents served as the personal link between the public and the world.
The railroad long affected communities, and its presence gave birth to thousands of places. Whether they were railroad created or not, the iron horse shaped their physical appearance. Often that included location of streets, transit lines, commercial buildings, and residential housing. From coast to coast America also had its "railroad towns" where carriers dominated local economies with their operating and repair facilities and their activities shaped the rhythms of daily life.
Then there is the legacy. Whether in language, memorials, artwork, or personal memory, this historic transport form has had a lasting impact on people and society. No other type of transportation, not even automobiles or airplanes, has left so much. Still many Americans are unaware of the diversity and extent of their rich railroad heritage.
The contents of the four units are hardly encyclopedic, yet an effort has been made to provide coverage in text and illustrations of the wide-ranging connection between people and the rails. Since the Midwest emerged as the heartland of railroads - after all, Chicago developed into America's railroad Mecca-this region has received much attention. As for the time period, most of the material involves the one hundred years between 1830 and 1930, the "Golden Age" of railroading, although the narrative also includes more recent happenings.
The story of people and railroads is vast and complicated. Yet the topic is worthy of scholarly attention, offering an opportunity to describe and explain the social components of American railroading. Nevertheless Railroads and the American People is mostly social rather than cultural history. The popular-culture impact of railroads covers much, ranging from pulp-fiction books to Hollywood motion pictures, and deserves to be a study in itself. For practical reasons, however, the legacy unit includes some cultural aspects. Also the subject of the social dimensions of commuter rail, whether steam or electric, has generally been avoided, and like cultural history should be explored separately.
Unlike traditional scholarly monographs, this volume has limited documentation. A listing of source books and standard works is included, offering the basic framework of materials consulted. Much of the ideas and examples represent more than forty years (even a lifetime) of my personal involvement with railroads.

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