railroad travel

How Trains Changed Travel in America

If you wanted to travel across the country before the advent of the railroad, the wagon train was your fastest, safest way to go.  Never mind it took years to get to your destination and you were most certainly at the mercy of inclement weather and marauding renegades.

The first railroad was constructed in 1763 in Lewiston, New York and was part of the main “portage” for good and services around Niagra Falls. But it wasn’t until 1870 that construction was completed on the first ever transcontinental railroad linking the east to the west. Now travelers could travel East Coast to West Coast in a matter of weeks not years, and do so in relative comfort.  The railroad also provided more efficient mail delivery like never before.  Communication was accelerated. People could stay in touch with family and friends more often and businesses could run more efficiently with faster shipments of goods and services. Suddenly towns, farms and communities sprang up across the country where once there were only prairies and wilderness.

Even with all of its obvious benefits, the railroad presented obstacles to some. There was the noise to contend with and the chaos of collisions and derailments. Strong resistance was encountered  in many cities where bringing the railroad through town was considered much too disruptive.  Often people were not willing to sell their land.  Yet the benefits seemed to outweigh the detriments over the years, as people enjoyed the swiftness of travel, the pleasures of touring the country and the ease and affordability of shipping things of all sizes.

Today many people believe that trains are the transportation of the future as they are more fuel efficient than other means of transportation. With Japan’s high speed train powered by magnetic force, and France’s high speed electric train, the expectations seem positive for future generations, as trains continue to wind their way through our lives and our imagainations.