Movin' It

How America's railroads moved people and goods across the nation and helped to create, strengthen and embolden our nation's economy. (All content compiled from the Internet...)

U.S. Railroad History

The concept of constructing a railroad in the United States was first conceived by Colonel John Stevens, in 1812. He described his theories in a collection of works called "Documents tending to prove the superior advantages of railways and steam carriages over canal navigation." The earliest railroads constructed were horse drawn cars running on tracks, used for transporting freight. The first to be chartered and built was the Granite Railway of Massachusetts, which ran approximately three miles (1826). The first regular carrier of passengers and freight was the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, completed on February 28, 1827. It was not until Christmas Day, 1830, when the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company completed the first mechanical passenger train, that the modern railroad industry was born.

This industry would have a profound effect on the nation in the coming decades, often determining how an individual lived his life. By 1835, dozens of local railroad networks had been put into place. Each one of these tracks went no more than a few miles, but the potential for this mode of transportation was finally being realized. With every passing year, the number of these railway systems grew exponentially. By 1850, over 9,000 miles of track had been lain. Along with the proliferation of railroads came increased standardization of the field. An ideal locomotive was developed which served as the model for all subsequent trains. Various companies began to cooperate with one another, to both maximize profits and minimize expenditures. This interaction of various companies initiated the trend of conglomeration which would continue through the rest of the Nineteenth Century. In 1850, the New York Central Railroad Company was formed by the merging of a dozen small railroads between the Hudson River and Buffalo. Single companies had begun to extend their railway systems outside of the local domain.

Between 1851 and 1857, the federal government issued land grants to Illinois to construct the Illinois Central railroad. The government set a precedent with this action, and fostered the growth of one of the largest companies in the nation. With the onset of the Civil War, production of new railroads fell dramatically. At the same time, however, usage of this mode of transportation increased significantly. For example, the Battle of Bull Run was won by a group of reinforcements shuttled in on a railroad car. By the conclusion of the war, the need for an even more diverse extension of railways was extremely apparent. Soon after the war, the first transcontinental railroad was constructed. Several more transcontinental railroads were built before the end of the century, all by large corporations. Every decade brought increased standardization. In addition, labor unions were developed to protect the rights of the workers. 

History... continued

As companies grew larger, they began to take over other related fields. Soon, large trusts were formed that controlled many aspects of both the economy and society. As more and more areas became controlled by the octopus of the railroad industry, it became apparent that regulation was imperative. This interaction of various companies initiated the trend of conglomeration which would continue through the rest of the Nineteenth Century. In 1850, the New York Central Railroad Company was formed by the merging of a dozen small railroads between the Hudson River and Buffalo. Single companies had begun to extend their railway systems outside of the local domain. The Union Pacific Railroad company started building from the east, while the Central Pacific began from the west. The two companies met at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869. As they drove the Golden Spike uniting the two tracks, a new age was born. Slowly, the small railroad companies would die out or be absorbed by large businesses. With the onset of the Civil War, production of new railroads fell dramatically. At the same time, however, usage of this mode of transportation increased significantly. For example, the Battle of Bull Run was won by a group of reinforcements shuttled in on a railroad car. By the conclusion of the war, the need for an even more diverse extension of railways was extremely apparent. Soon after the war, the first transcontinental railroad was constructed. The Union Pacific Railroad company started building from the east, while the Central Pacific began from the west. The two companies met at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869. As they drove the Golden Spike uniting the two tracks, a new age was born. Slowly, the small railroad companies would die out or be absorbed by large businesses. Several more transcontinental railroads were built before the end of the century, all by large corporations. Every decade brought increased standardization. In addition, labor unions were developed to protect the rights of the workers. As companies grew larger, they began to take over other related fields. Soon, large trusts were formed that controlled many aspects of both the economy and society. As more and more areas became controlled by the octopus of the railroad industry, it became apparent that regulation was imperative.merger

re: Rise of Monopolies

Locomotives

There are two types of railroad locomotives used in the United States: Steam and Diesel (electric). [Trains Magazine reports a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive is in the making and should be operating by 2022.]

Steam locomotive (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) The LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard built in Doncaster is officially the fastest steam locomotive, reaching 126 mph (203 km/h) on 3 July 1938. The LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman was the first steam locomotive to officially reach 100 mph (160 km/h), on 30 November 1934. File:41018 Schiefe Ebene Nov 2016.webmPlay media 41 018 climbing the Schiefe Ebene with 01 1066 as pusher locomotive (video 34.4 MB) A steam locomotive is a type of railway locomotive that produces its pulling power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fuelled by burning combustible material—usually coal, wood, or oil—to produce steam in a boiler. The steam moves reciprocating pistons which are mechanically connected to the locomotive's main wheels (drivers). Both fuel and water supplies are carried with the locomotive, either on the locomotive itself or in wagons (tenders) pulled behind.

Steam locomotives were first developed in the United Kingdom during the early 19th century and used for railway transport until the middle of the 20th century. Richard Trevithick built the first steam locomotive in 1802. The first commercially successful steam locomotive was built in 1812–13 by John Blenkinsop,[1] the Salamanca (locomotive); the Locomotion No. 1, built by George Stephenson and his son Robert's company Robert Stephenson and Company, was the first steam locomotive to haul passengers on a public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. In 1830 George Stephenson opened the first public inter-city railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Robert Stephenson and Company was the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives in the first decades of steam for railways in the United Kingdom, the United States, and much of Europe.[2].

In the 20th century, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) Nigel Gresley designed some of the most famous locomotives, including the Flying Scotsman, the first steam locomotive officially recorded over 100 mph in passenger service, and a LNER Class A4, 4468 Mallard, which still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph).[3] From the early 1900s, steam locomotives were gradually superseded by electric and diesel locomotives, with railways fully converting to electric and diesel power beginning in the late 1930s. The majority of steam locomotives were retired from regular service by the 1980s, although several continue to run on tourist and heritage lines.

Locomotives...  continued

Diesel Locomotives

Since the 1920s diesel locomotives have been around, but it wasn't until the 1940s that large locomotives were made which could replace steam power. Diesel Locomotives use electricity to drive forward motion despite the name 'diesel'. A large diesel engine turns a shaft that drives a generator which makes electricity. This electrical energy powers large electric motors at the wheels called 'traction motors.

DC and AC Power:
Some locomotives use DC generators and others use AC. Modern alternating current locomotives have better traction and adhesion and are used on trains that carry heavier loads. DC is still used because it is cheaper to manufacture. Learn more about AC, DC, adhesion and traction in this article. To make a diesel electric locomotive power system it takes mechanical, electrical and control engineers. 
  
Improvements: The EMD F1 you see in the video above took up a lot of space. It takes two modules (3000 horsepower) to have enough power to pull the Royal Gorge Passenger Train. As we moved into the 1960s locomotives were designed which could have more horsepower in a smaller module. Some engineers worked to reduce the noise and the smoke exhaust caused by burning oil. Modern locomotives can have 3000-6600 HP in just one engine.

Major manufacturers of diesel locomotives include: EMD (Electro Motive Division)(part of GM), General Electric and at one time American Locomotive Company (ALCO). The collapse of ALCO happened as a result of business problems, General Motors and General Electric were able to secure deals with Union Pacific and other railroads using both the fact that they could act as a bank providing the loan. GM and GE could also give the railroads business hauling goods (cars (GM) and electrical products (GE)).

re: Edison Tech Center

Train Types

Trains are vehicles that operate on tracks.

In transit/railroad terms, a ”’car”’ means a single rail vehicle. A train means multiple rail cars connected together (2-car trains, 5-car trains).

Passenger trains vary in speed and distance. Some trains in the East Coast and abroad can operate faster than 125 mph connecting major cities. Some rail lines in the Bay Area function like a local bus with stops every few city blocks.

Below are the basic passenger train types. These categories, however, are shades of gray because a train system may have more than one function (Amtrak inter-city trains serving commuters). Also, train systems that have similar functions can have major differences in underlying technologies and legal requirements.

High speed trains

Source: Flickr

High speed trains are generally defined as trains that can operate 125mph or faster. High speed trains generally connect large metropolitan areas (with very few stops in between) and are meant to be competitive with airlines in terms of overall travel time.

Although High Speed Rail trains in general are compatible with regular passenger and freight trains (and often share tracks at major stations in Europe), it requires dedicated tracks to operate at high speed.

High speed trains current operates in Europe (France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy, and more), Japan, China, South Korea, and Taiwan. In North America, Amtrak’s Acela (Boston – Washington DC) meets the definition of of high speed rail, but uses heavier trainsets than its European and Asian counterparts.

The proposed high speed rail system in California would use trainsets similar to those in Europe and Asia.

Inter-city trains

Inter-city trains generally mean trains traveling long distances connecting metropolitan areas. Although the distances covered by some of these trains are comparable to airlines, inter-city trains generally operate at highway speed. Long distance inter-city trains may provide amenities not found on most other forms of transportation, including sleeper-cars and cafe/dining cars.

Amtrak is the operator of inter-city trains in the United States. Although Amtrak is much slower than airlines, inter-city trains serve small cities between metropolitan areas aren’t served by airlines.

Historically, inter-city passenger trains are operated by railroad companies that also haul freight trains. After World War II, ridership on passenger trains steadily declined with competition from automobiles and airlines. At that time, many railroads wanted to abandon passenger train service to cut operating losses. In 1971, Amtrak was established by Congress to nationalize inter-city passenger rail business. Outside the Northeast Corridor (Boston and DC), Amtrak uses tracks owned by various freight railroads.

Commuter/regional trains

Caltrain locomotives (Source)

Commuter trains generally mean trains connecting suburban areas with the central city and primarily serves riders to and from work. Commuter trains typically run on weekdays, during rush hours, and only in the peak directions. A prime example would be Altamont Commuter Express, which run from Stockton to San Jose during weekday mornings, and from San Jose to Stockion during weekday afternoons. However, commuter rail systems like Caltrain and Metrolink can run trains all day in both directions.

In the United States, typical commuter trains are locomotive-haul. The locomotive on one end of the train either pulls the unpowered passenger cars (from the front) or pushes them (from the back) to make them move. Most locomotives are powered by diesel fuel and some (in the East Coast) by electricity.

Many commuter trains in Europe, as well as some in the U.S. use electric multiple units instead of locomotives. In a multiple-unit train, every car (or every other car) in the train has motors which are capable of propelling the vehicle. Multiple unit trains are more reliable (with multiple engine/motors rather than one engine) and more efficient (by easily changing train length for peak and off-peak hours).

Proposed Caltrain EMU

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Rapid transit

Most commuter trains in the U.S. share tracks with Amtrak and freight trains, therefore they are subject to Federal Railroad Administration regulations. FRA regulations require commuter trains to be heavier (in the belief that heavier trains are safer) and less efficient than commuter trains in Europe.

BayRail Alliance goal is to improve Caltrain service by converting its power source from diesel to electric, and use light weight European style rail cars. Caltrain is currently pursuing these goals under Project 2015.

Rapid transit, which is also known as metro, subway, and heavy rail, mean trains that generally serve the urban-core, have large passenger capacity, and operate totally separate from road traffic. In order to run separately from road traffic in the city-core, rapid transit trains would run either above or underground.

Many major cities (like New York, London, Washington D.C.) have extensive systems that make traveling within a city fast and convenient. BART is the rapid transit system in the Bay Area. However, BART does not serve San Francisco as well as other systems do in their cities.

Because of the grade-separated nature of rapid transit systems, it is generally much more expensive to build per mile compared to light rail and commuter rail. Also, these trains lack seatings and other amentities. Rapid transit technologies such as BART are not cost effective to provide long distance-suburban service.

Light rail

Sacramento LRT

Sacramento LRT

Light rail, which might be also known as trolley and streetcars, mean trains that function as local transit in an urban-core and can operate on the street-level. Compared to rapid transit, light rail costs less, is more pedestrian friendly, but has less passenger capacity. The major advantage with light rail is that it can operate like rapid transit or like local buses, depending on the available infrastructure.

In Sacramento, San Diego, Portland, and San Jose, light rail trains run faster in the suburbs (dedicated tracks) and slower in downtown (street median). In San Francisco, trains operate in mixed traffic outside downtown and underground in downtown. Light Rail stations can be a few city blocks apart in downtown and a mile or more apart in the suburbs.

Most light rail systems are integrated with the local transit network. Fares for most light rail systems are the same as the buses.

Although most light rail can physically share tracks with freight and commuter trains, it is not legally permitted because light rail trains do not meet the weight requirement set by the FRA. FRA however does grant waivers to some systems to share tracks as long as freight trains only run at night when there’s no light rail trains on the same track.

Most light rail systems are electric (powered by overhead wires), but some suburban-only systems (Sprinter in Oceanside, Riverline in New Jersey) run on diesel. The proposed SMART system in the North Bay would run on diesel as well.

Modern streetcar

In some cities such as Portland and Seattle, they have a urban streetcar system that is somewhat compatible but operated separately from their light rail system. Those streetcars typically have smaller dimensions and operate at slower speed than their light rail counterpart. The streetcars are meant to facilitate local circulation in the urban core (and serve as a catalyst for transit oriented developments) rather than connecting nearby suburbs with downtown.

Other cities are planning to build downtown streetcars modeled after Portland and Seattle. Those include Los Angeles and Oakland.

re: Bayrail Alliance

List of major United States railroads

  • Amtrak.
  • BNSF Railway.
  • Canadian National Railway.
  • Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • CSX Transportation.
  • Kansas City Southern Railway.
  • Norfolk Southern Railway.
  • Union Pacific Railroad.

Rail Commerce

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On May 10, 1869, as the last spike was driven in the Utah desert, the blows were heard across the country. Telegraph wires wrapped around spike and sledgehammer transmitted the impact instantaneously east and west. In San Francisco and New York, wires had been connected to cannons facing outward across the ocean. When the signal from the spike came through, the cannons fired. The world was put on notice: the transcontinental railroad was completed and America was moving to the forefront of the world's stage.

The World Grew Smaller
One day later, the first transcontinental freight train rumbled out of California on its way to the east coast. It carried in its hold an emissary of the Asian markets: a shipment of Japanese teas. On May 15, though the road required hundreds of thousands of dollars in patchwork along its length, regular passenger service opened for business. Travelers could make the trip between San Francisco and New York in a week. No longer did passengers or cargo have to take the treacherous route across ocean and Panama that had killed railroad advocate Theodore Judah. The coasts were connected -- and the world as Americans knew it had grown smaller.

A Competing Canal
Railroad pioneer Asa Whitney had once dreamed an iron route would re-center the world toward America, making it a conduit of exchange between Asia and Europe. In this sense, his vision of the grand project remained unfulfilled. Just six months after the meeting at Promontory Summit, workers half the world away consummated their own monumental feat of engineering. Opened in November, 1869, Egypt's Suez Canal linked Asia and India to Europe by a single waterway, thus ensuring that exchange between the two regions would continue to circumvent American soil.

Surging Interstate Trade
However, the transformation achieved in intracontinental trade was substantial. Within ten years of its completion, the railroad shipped $50 million worth of freight coast to coast every year. Just as it opened the markets of the west coast and Asia to the east, it brought products of eastern industry to the growing populace beyond the Mississippi. The railroad ensured a production boom, as industry mined the vast resources of the middle and western continent for use in production. The railroad was America's first technology corridor.

Rail Commerce... continued

Improved Public Discourse
As it encouraged the growth of American business, so too did it promote evolution of the nation's public discourse and intellectual life. Americans could travel across the length of the continent in a matter of days, and gaze upon their country in its entirety from the windows of their train cars. Conversations begun in the east ended in the west. Books written in San Francisco found homes on New York shelves just one week after their publication. The rails carried more than goods; they provided a conduit for ideas, a pathway for discourse. With the completion of its great railroad, America gave birth to a transcontinental culture. And the route further engendered another profound change in the American mind. Here was manifest destiny wrought in iron; here were two coasts united; here was an interior open to settlement. Distances shrank, but identification to land and fellow American grew in inverse proportion.

A Disaster for Native Americans
Not everyone would benefit from that transformation. The transcontinental railroad was not the beginning of white settlers' battles with Native Americans. Nor was it the final nail in the coffin. But it was an irrevocable marker of encroaching white society, that unstoppable force which would force Indians onto reservations within decades. By 1890, even the Powder River Valley — the rich hunting ground so hard won by red Cloud and the Oglala Sioux — would be lost. New treaties scattered the Indians to reservations and opened the last great Native American holding to the settlers so steadily branching outward from the iron road. And the buffalo herds upon which Indians depended had been nearly depleted. They were easy prey to sport-hunters brought to the plains by the carload. More disastrously, the railroad introduced the herds to American industrial production, for which they became one more resource to be mined en masse. Millions of buffalo fell to indiscriminate slaughter, their hides shipped back along the rails to the markets of the East.

A Web of Rails
The transcontinental railroad did not long remain the sole venue of travel through America's center. Lines spiderwebbed outward from its branch points, conveying north and south the settlers coming west to consume millions of acres of land. By 1900 a number of routes ran parallel — the Northern Pacific and Southern Pacific among them — reaching westward from Mississippi to the Pacific just like the pioneering road.

re: PBS

Trains vs. Trucks

train-truckAs the first two decades of the 21st century come to a close, the freight railroad industry looks very different from the struggling, inefficient, overweight group of carriers that had just received a massive shot of adrenaline from the Staggers Rail Act of 1980. 

re: Railway Age

Affects of the U.S. Railroad

commerce21. It made the Western U.S. more important.

“What the transcontinental railroad did was bring the West into the world, and the world into the West,” explains James P. Ronda, a retired University of Tulsa history professor and co-author, with Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes, of The West the Railroads Made. In particular, it helped turn California from a once-isolated place to a major economic and political force, and helped lead to the state’s rapid growth.

2. It made commerce possible on a vast scale.

By 1880, the transcontinental railroad was transporting $50 million worth of freight each year. In addition to transporting western food crops and raw materials to East Coast markets and manufactured goods from East Coast cities to the West Coast, the railroad also facilitated international trade.

The first freight train to travel eastward from California carried a load of Japanese tea. “The Constitution provided the legal framework for a single national market for trade goods; the transcontinental railroad provided the physical framework,” explains Henry W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West. “Together they gave the United States the single largest market in the world, which provided the basis for the rapid expansion of American industry and agriculture to the point where the U.S. by the 1890s had the most powerful economy on the planet.”

3. It made travel more affordable.

In the 1860s, a six-month stagecoach trip across the U.S. cost $1,000 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars), according to the University of Houston’s Digital History website. But once the railroad was built, the cost of a coast-to-coast trip became 85 percent less expensive. That made it possible for Americans to visit distant locales that previously they might only have heard about.

4. It changed where Americans lived.

During the railroad’s construction, numerous temporary “hell on wheels” towns of tents and wooden shacks sprung up along the route to provide living quarters for workers. Most of them eventually disappeared, but others, such as Laramie, Wyoming, evolved into towns that provided rail terminals and repair facilities. Additionally, about 7,000 cities and towns across the country began as Union Pacific depots and water stops. And, as Ronda notes, the first transcontinental railroad and the other lines that followed made it easy for immigrants to spread across the nation. “People come across the Atlantic on ships, get on trains, and end up in places such as western Nebraska,” he says.

5. It altered Americans’ concept of reality.

In an 1872 article, naturalist John Muir wrote that the transcontinental railroad “annihilated” time and space. As Ronda explains, it changed the way that people viewed distances. “When you’re walking or riding a horse, you experience the world one way, but when you’re sitting in a railroad car, you see it differently,” he says. “In the West, where the distances are so great, the railroad brought near and far closer together.” The railroad schedules also helped to push the United States into changing how it marked time, leading to the adoption of standard time zones in 1883.

Affects... continued

6. It helped create the Victorian version of Amazon.

In 1872, just a few years after the transcontinental railroad’s completion, Aaron Montgomery Ward started the first mail-order catalog business. As Ronda notes, the first transcontinental railroad—and other transcontinental lines that followed—made it possible to sell products far and wide without a physical storefront, and enabled people all over the country to furnish their homes and keep up with the latest fashion trends.

7. It took a heavy toll on the environment.

The massive amount of wood needed to build the railroad, including railroad ties, support beams for tunnels and bridges, and sheds, necessitated cutting down thousands of trees, which devastated western forests. Towns and cities that sprung up along the railroad further encroached upon what had been wild areas. And the railroad and other rail routes that followed made it easy for large numbers of hunters to travel westward and kill millions of buffalo. That slaughter impacted Native Americans, who had hunted buffalo in moderation, and weakened their resistance to settlement of the west.

8. It increased racial conflicts.

The completion of the transcontinental railroad led to heightened racial tensions in California, as white workers from the East Coast and Europe could more easily travel westward where immigrant laborers were prevalent, says Princeton University Assistant Professor of History Beth Lew-Williams, author of The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America.

Upon completion of the railroad, many Chinese workers returned to California in search of employment. “The flood of goods and laborers who arrived in the West, combined with the boom and bust economy of the late-19th century, put pressure on the labor market," she says. "The presence of Chinese immigrants did not create the economic uncertainties of the 1870s, but they were often blamed nonetheless.” Growing prejudice against and fear of the Chinese eventually manifested itself in Congress’ passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first of several laws that blocked Chinese laborers from entering the United States until 1943.

9. It pioneered government-financed capitalism.

The Central Pacific’s “Big Four”—Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker—figured out how to tap into government coffers to finance a business that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. As Richard White, author of Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, says, “They put little of their own money in it —they didn’t have much. It was built on land grants, government loans, and government guaranteed bonds. When their loans came due, they refused to pay and the government had to sue. In effect, they stumbled into a business model where the public takes the risk and those taking the subsidies reap the gain.”

Other entrepreneurs and industries would follow the Big Four’s lead in tapping government help to build their businesses.

10. It instilled national confidence.

The transcontinental railroad had a major effect on how Americans perceived their nation, and it became a symbol of America’s growing industrial power and a source of confidence that led them to take on even more ambitious quests. As Ronda says, “It’s one of the transformative moments in American history.”

re:  History 

The future of rail travel includes high speed rail (e.g., Bullet Trains) which can travel faster than 300 MPH.high speed rail