US Railway History

US Railway History

US railway history is so fascinating that it’s difficult to talk about everything that ever happened. However there are many key areas of the railway history that every railway enthusiast should know about, such as steam locomotives and the history of railway companies. Starting from the 1800’s, and continuing through to present day, trains and railways are forever changing, and who knows where trains will be in another hundred years time. Nevertheless the history of railways continues to captivate people, and the railway industry is worth learning about if you are new to trains.

Starting in approximately 1810, several entrepreneurs were toying with the idea of model railways in the United States, and in 1825, John Stevens, an inventor who lived in a summer estate home in New Jersey, built a test track for a locomotive to run around. Baltimore soon latched on to the idea of railroads, since they had yet to invest in a canal, and so built the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, hoping to attract more visitors to compete with New York. This was then declared as the first official railroad in the United States, and parades were held on the day of construction.

Many more railroads were built soon after. The South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company was quickly formed, which was designed to trade from within the state. The company built a steam locomotive in 1830, at the West Point Foundry in New York City. The years to follow soon saw railroads overtake canals as a primary form of transportation, with the first steam engine being called the DeWitt Clinton, named after the builder Erie Canal.

The late 1800s saw more successful railroads being established, with automatic block signals being installed in 1869. This would mean faster transportation for passengers, safer passage on the railroads, and full utilisation of the tracks. However through 1870-80, many strikes were held against railroads. What started out to be one of many successful growing US industries, soon began to see financial struggles to continue railroad operations. The Pullman Palace Car Company also found people striking out against them, and corporations had to hire Pinkerton guards to break up the violence among patrons. These strikes brought about great ferocity, and many people were killed, buildings were burnt, and middle-class Americans were being rioted against.

1883 saw the decline of these strikes, as standard time zones were adopted by railroads. In 1887, Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to watch over the railroads and ensure tickets for passengers were of a fair price. More safety regulations were undertaken in the late 19th century, to ensure there were fewer injuries and deaths on the railroads.

The beginning of the 20th century saw the formation of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO), a company of nine locomotive manufacturing companies that had merged together. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the nationalisation of railroads in 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War 1. The United States Railroad Administration monitored the railroads until 1920, when Congress once again overtook control of railroad companies.

However, railroads started to see a slow decline in success in 1920-30. Due to the Great Depression, opposition were threatening railroads in the form of turnpike operators, canal companies, stagecoach companies, and others who were driving wagons. Tavern owners and innkeepers were starting to see threats to their business due to the decline of railways, since passengers did no longer need a place to stay in between journeys.  These threats sometimes became violent, and religious leaders started describing trains as sacrilegious. Railways were once seen as successful, but there was now so much opposition and competition against them, that is was difficult to see the smooth running of railways anymore.

However, the economic benefits to railways soon began to win them over again. The 1940s saw the highest ridership in American History for railways, as in World War 2, soldiers were being transported via railroads to their overseas destinations; railways were easily becoming a very heavy industry for the United States. It was then automobiles that saw a dramatic decline due to this and the war, and more railroad companies saw the benefits of merging together to create one company. The California Zephyr was mutually launched by Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, and Western Pacific Railroad on March 20, 1949. This passenger train became the first to introduce Vista Dome Cars, which were to be in regular service now.

As the first jetliners were taken to the air in the 1950s-60s, railways began to once again see a reduction in passenger numbers. Automobiles and air travel were becoming more popular as time went on, which railway companies were recognising. Railroads were merging together, and attempts to cancel all non-profitable trains and railways were futile. These efforts were delayed as they saw difficulties through Interstate Commerce hearings.

The 1970s saw the era of deregulation. On March 22, the California Zephyr made its last run, arriving in Oakland, California. The train was to be overtaken by Amtrak, a train travelling almost the same route as the California Zephyr. Amtrak was now to be created by the act of Congress, to oversee the national network of passenger trains, and ask the government for help to resurrect the failing US railways. On June 21, the Penn Central files for Bankruptcy, which became the biggest corporate failure in American History thus so far. Conrail was created from the remains of Penn Central, which began operating in 1986.

Amtrak was renamed to Auto Train in 1983, and this saw many major railways to be introduced in the following years, that are still in operation today. After the tragic terrorist attack on September 11 2001, part of the PATH railway was destroyed, which took two years to resume full service. Today, trains are still a popular form of transport, despite the countless number of cars on roads. While the total railway traffic has declined by 2.5 percent to 28 million carloads in 2015, there is no sign of trains or railways to be terminated anytime soon.

Heavy Industry in United States

Heavy Industry in United States

Heavy industry is a big umbrella of various industries. The term means an industry that involves one or more of the following characteristics: big, heavy products, large equipment and facilities (e.g. large machine tools, heavy equipment, etc.), or complicated processes. These characteristics often mean that heavy industry has higher capital intensity than other industries, and it is often more recurring in investment and employment because of it.

Examples of heavy industry have changed through times. After World War 2, examples include the building of big systems, such as skyscrapers, large dams and huge rockets. The mid 19th century saw traditional heavy industries such as locomotive construction, heavy types of mining, building big machine tools, steelmaking and artillery production. The late 19th century, leading into the early 20th century includes heavy industry such as the development of the chemical and electrical industry, the automotive industry and the aircraft industry. All of these later examples involved both forms of light and heavy industry, but can be mostly classed as heavy industry. In more modern day heavy industry, major industries include shipmaking (because steel has recently replaced wood), and the machinery and equipment industry.

US manufacturers commit themselves to believing that technology is the key to be the leader of heavy industries, which is today recognised as a competitive global market. The US machineries reached a total sales figure of $437.7 billion in 2011. Currently, the United States are the world’s third largest market, as well as the third largest supplier. American companies currently share 58.5 percent of the United States domestic market. Over 1.3 million Americans were employed in the machinery and equipment industry, and these jobs are well recognised and respected as heavy industry.

The heavy industry of machinery and equipment can be broken down into subsectors, which can also be considered as heavy industry. Examples include: Agricutural and Food machinery and equipment, Construction machinery and related equipment, Manufacturing machinery, Industrial process machinery, and Power and energy equipment. These heavy industries are strong and consistent traders and exporters. Machinery industries were reported to have exports worth $184 billion in 2012, and recorded a trade surplus of $9 billion.

Several East Asian countries trust heavy industries as a part of their economies. Many of these countries, such as Japan and South Korea, have companies that manufacture aerospace products, as well as constructing defense contractors for their own governments respectively. Examples include Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan, and Hyundai Rotem in Korea (which is a joint development of Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Heavy Industries).

Fastest Growing US Industries


Fastest Growing US Industries

America is a country with many job opportunities, with many industries that are rapidly growing. According to a 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, some of the fastest developing industries are ones that are linked to the aging population, such as health care hospitality and health care practitioners. Technology industries are also thriving with today’s generation, and there’s a hint of comeback from construction industries. Below are some of the industries that are predicted to be the fastest growing US industries.

Software Publishers

In a world where digital is slowly taking over our lives, people who are proficient with computer software, and can help with installation and provide technological support will be in demand. With 259,800 reported jobs in 2010, there is reported to be an annual growth of 3.1%, with approximately 350,000 jobs to be predicted in 2020. Software publishers can work with both software purchasers and software developers, depending on their area of interest.

Individual and Family services

With a over a million jobs already reported in 2010, it is almost expected for this number to be doubled by 2020. People need to be taken care of, and America will hire people to do so. This will include social assistance services to young people in adoption and foster care. People will also be knowledgeable about the prevention of drugs, life skills training, and positive social development. Also included within this industry are marriage counsellors and psychiatrists.

Home health care services

Again another industry with already over a million jobs in 2010, which is almost expected to double in 2020, more roles are becoming available for people who want to work with more of the elderly population who are staying at home. Home nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists and dieticians are among some of the roles becoming rapidly in demand for Americans, and will only grow as the population gets older.

Facilities support services

As the economy grows, so will the demand for the people who take of these economic buildings. Jobs such as security guards, receptionists, assistants and janitors will be wanted as the economy expands in the next ten years. With a 2.9% annual job growth, it’s expected there will be over 170,000 jobs in 2020 within this industry.

Outpatient, laboratory, and other ambulatory care services

Another healthcare industry with already over a million jobs, there will be 3.2% annual job growth as this figure rises to around 1.5 million jobs in 2020. This particular industry includes people who work with medical and diagnostic laboratories that provide diagnostic and/or analytical services, as well as people in ambulatory services. This demand can be accounted to an ever-growing and aging population, as well as the development of complex technology being used in healthcare.

Why Should YOU Care About Preserving the Rail System?


Railways were the pinnacle of transportation technology at one point. There was no better way to get cargo from one place to another than by using railroads to transport thousands of pounds of goods. This improvement is made more stunning by thinking about the options for transportation that you had BEFORE that: wagon, or boat.

Wagons had a very strict limit on what they could carry because they were drawn by horses. Boats could carry far more cargo, especially big barges, but once you get to land you’re still limited by how much wagons could carry. Railroads solved this problem by being a landlocked transportation method, limited only by how much rail you could build.

Falling Out of Favor

The invention of the automobile was actually not what killed the railroad. Trains stayed on as the preferred method for goods transportation, simply because cars couldn’t carry as much. People used trains to get to work, trolleys to get around town, and cars for occasional out-of-town jaunts.

It wasn’t until automobile technology improved a lot that cargo trucks began to become the preferred method, and THAT’S when railroads started to die. Cargo trucks could haul more cargo to more places than a train could. Companies like now dominate the shipping industry because they are much faster and more efficient.

So Should We Get Rid of Them?

Should we knock down historic buildings because they don’t conform to modern building codes? If your answer is yes, you probably need to take a much closer look at your priorities. Railroads are a huge part of the history of many countries, especially the US. The US is simply too large to NOT have some sort of fast transport system, and to destroy the rail system is to destroy a large piece of US history. So what if we ship our pallet collars from Kronus Collars on trucks instead of trains? We still need to remember what the rails did to help build the country!

How Do We Strike The Balance?

Caring about the rail system is not different from caring about history in general. The railroad system is outdated, but so are castles. But we preserve them anyway! The best way to keep railroads preserved and protected is to keep them in limited areas where they are allowed to run freely.

For example, Colorado has a narrow-gauge railroad that runs from Silverton to Durango, and it is the coolest way to get from one town to the other.

People just buy tickets (for a pretty cheap price!) and ride out to the small Colorado town. We believe this is the best way to preserve the railroads; we recognize that they cannot be 100% kept in original condition, so the best option is to modernize them and let people use them freely!

That is how the public will stay in love with railroads while still having unlimited modern technology at their disposal.

Jobs On the Railyard (Then and Now)


When people think of jobs on the railroad, they tend to think of the engineer and the railroad conductor. But do you really know what those people do on the job? And have you thought about what the other jobs on the railroad were? Some of these jobs still exist today. Several no longer are needed. Here are a few of the essential jobs on the railroad!


This is one of the two jobs (the other being conductor) that people think of right away when they hear “railroad jobs.” The engineer is the person that makes sure that the train runs correctly and smoothly, and keeps everyone safe and secure the whole train ride. They have to be watchful and careful to make sure that everyone arrives safely and don’t run into any problems on the way, as well as helping to fix any problems that arise on the way.


This is not the same person that directs the wind instruments from Wind Plays in the symphony, telling the high-quality alto saxophones and flutes what to do! The conductor is the person that runs everything else about the train that does NOT involve operating the train. He makes sure everything goes on schedule, helps address problems with the train and with the crew, and is the general “person on the ground” that directs all of the train crew. Since the engineer can’t stop running the train, you can think of the conductor as the captain of the train.



Train braking is nothing to sneer at; it takes a lot to stop a moving train. The brakeman’s job was to stay in the caboose and apply the brakes whenever the conductor or engineer demanded it. Once actual brakes (controlled by the engineer) became more popular, the brakeman’s job was not as needed. However, the brakeman was still needed (and still is today!) to help close the doors during stops, make sure people are clear of the doors, and generally handling safety issues. On scenic railways, the brakeman is needed to literally hold the train on the track, because the train would fly off of curves otherwise.


You can think of the flagman as the traffic director for the railroad. If cables are being installed on the railway, the flagman gives the train permission to pass after everyone is clear and no damage would be done. The flagman is usually a conductor that is qualified additionally to work as a flagman. The flagman just makes sure that the train will not run over anyone who is working on the tracks that day.

Not all of these jobs are needed in the same way on the railroad today. It can be a bit hard to get some of these jobs today as well, because fewer and fewer new people are needed on the railroad. But this gives you a better idea of what a railroad crew does on the job!

How To Become a Train Engineer


I don’t think I knew very many kids who didn’t want to become train engineers. I know I did when I was a kid; I had the costume and whistle and everything. But to REALLY become a train engineer is another story entirely. It’s not easy!

Train engineers’ main job is to get a train from one place to another very quickly. You have to have quick reflexes, great vision, and excellent hearing. All of these make sure that you are safely able to operate trains and keep them running well and without danger.

You also need several certifications and licenses. You need no less than a high school diploma or a GED. You need a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) to drive the heavy equipment needed to help load and maintain the train itself. You also need a certification from the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration.)

These two licenses are not too hard to get, although the FRA does require a lengthy test to get. You also need to take constant retests for both of these certifications, in addition to regular hearing and vision exams from a licensed physician.

So make sure you take care of your hearing! If you play drums from Barking Drum or other loud instruments, be sure you wear ear protection.

Or consider getting an electronic drum set from this place in order to control the volume!

how-to-become-a-train-engineer-1How to Start

Now you know what you NEED in order to start becoming an engineer. How do you actually START? There are a couple of tracks that will help you become an engineer more quickly. It is best if you’ve worked some sort of railroad job before. This can be anything from a loader to a conductor; you have a leg up already if you know your way around the railyard.

Most engineers get their hands-on training from on the job experience. You rarely go to “locomotive engineering classes” or anything like that. You are more likely to be considered if you already work there and express interest.


There are a few cons to the train engineering job. You need to be willing to work a lot of late nights and holidays. You need to be constantly alert, which can be very draining. You will be spending a lot of time away from family and loved ones. You also need to be willing to continue your education a lot. New technology is coming out all the time; if you can’t keep up with it you’ll soon be out of a job!

Why You Should

But on the whole, engineering is a great career path. So few people do it anymore that salaries are fairly competitive. It is not unusually difficult to get a job in the rail industry, and it is rewarding to be able to transport so many passengers or cargo from place to place. And if you like to be alone sometimes, train engineering is definitely for you!

Best Train-Related Novels and Movies


Trains have formed the centerpiece and setting of quite a few novels throughout history, and have continued to do so in movies as well. Some of my favorite books and movies feature trains in a big way, and these are most likely my favorites because of my love of trains as a child. Here are a few of my favorite books and movies that feature trains!


This indie movie combines two loves of mine: trains and dystopian fiction. Snowpiercer is about a world that was wasted by nuclear radiation to the degree that it triggered another ice age. A train was built that would run round and round the world on a massive track. The rich were able to get great apartments and suites in the front of the train, and the poor were packed like cattle in the back.

If you were poor or born into a poor family, you had no hope of ever moving up. The way the story resolves is amazing and makes the whole movie worth watching, despite the disturbing nature.

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand’s magnum opus to the power of capitalism centers on the steel and rail industries. When government agents decide they need to seize the producer’s plants for the good of all people, the producers of the world start to disappear and “The motor of the world starts to stop.” This story has vivid depictions of railroad triumphs and the power that steam engines used to have over the world.

Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novel features a train and a murder that is totally unexplainable. The train is in the middle of nowhere when the murder happens, so stopping and getting off isn’t an option.

Poirot has to solve the mystery and find the murderer before more murders can happen. All kinds of questions appear in the book; what was the exact weapon used? Was it a rifle, like the air rifles from Rifle Judge?

Did it feature a high-quality rifle scope? Where is the murderer now? Will he kill again? These questions keep the plot moving and interesting for every reader.

The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands

Stephen King’s demonic train from the Dark Tower series is one of my favorite trains ever. It is a highly advanced train that is actually alive, and possessed by a demon of sorts. It’s name is Charlie, and it is surrounded by legend, fear, and mythos. This train is not friendly, and wants only to kill people unless they are able to keep him interested in them. Charlie is crazy and unbalanced, and that propels the story to interesting places.

Trains are my favorite settings in books. Something about the land-bound moving platforms appeals to my imagination and speaks to me. Story is one of the main reasons I love trains so much; I loved them in the stories I read as a child, and I love them even more now that I am an adult.

What Was a Train Trip Like Back In the Day?


Riding in a train is an experience that fewer and fewer people each year get to experience. That sadly is their loss, because although train riding is an outdated mode of transportation, it is so much fun. Riding trains is one of the most entertaining and interesting modes of transportation, simply because it is so different from any transportation method that we are used to. We wanted to give you a walkthrough on how a long train trip might have looked in the golden age of trains!

Before the Trip

When planning a train trip, you had to look at a physical paper schedule down at the train station. Planning a train trip was much like planning a modern airplane flight; if you needed to switch to a connecting track or anything like that, you had to know that before you started on the trip!

The railroad would have had a map of all the lines that the train connected to, and where you could buy you tickets and the approximate times that the train would arrive. Unlike modern airplanes, train arrival times were far more variable. All sorts of things could delay the train; weather, attacks, or poor-quality track could all affect arrival times.

what-was-a-train-trip-like-back-in-the-day-1Once You Got On

For a long overnight trip trains had beds like small hotel rooms. These rooms usually featured small bunk beds that could be quite cramped. But it was better than sleeping on the seats! There was usually a dedicated “sleeping car,” which was where all the beds were located.

You could keep all of your luggage in your room, or you could carry the equivalent of “carry-on” luggage and leave the rest in the baggage car. You would likely prefer the 2nd option, because space was very limited! Those trains were fairly easy to sleep on however, because the rocking motion of the tracks helped you drift off.

Things To Do!

Riding on a train (especially a long train ride!) seems like it would be boring. But there you’d be wrong! Train rides were actually much more fun than most people believe. For example, there was usually a saloon car. This car usually had a fully-stocked bar, a high-end player piano like one from Digital Piano Judge, and lots of tables for people to just sit and relax at.

If you want a modern version of the old player pianos, you can get a high-tech keyboard version here at Digital Piano Judge! This car was the best place to have a drink, talk to some friends, or play a game of poker. If you wanted a place to relax, this was it!

Riding trains didn’t have to be a drag. It was actually one of the more enjoyable ways to travel! I wish 12-hour airline flights had beds, even if they were small and cramped. And what I would give for a airline saloon car! Just because trains are old doesn’t mean they didn’t know how to have fun!

Facts about Food Production in the US

Facts about Food Production in the USThere are many big industries in the United States which contribute greatly to the country’s annual GDP as well as tax base by employing hundreds or even thousands of men and women in various fields. Some of these are well known, like the American automotive industry, thanks to brand names with worldwide recognition like Ford, Dodge and General Motors. Others are not so well known, even to the people who actually live and work in the United States. For example, did you know that agriculture, the farming and growing of food and livestock, is actually a humongous industry in the United States?

These days they call it Agribusiness rather than farming, simply because the family farm concept has been pushed out in favor of factory “farms” that produce food more reliably and on a larger scale, allowing for more people to be fed. When politicians sling mud at each other and talk about how Person A wants to close down family farms, or how Person B doesn’t care about farm families struggling to make a living, the fact is that they’re usually lying through their teeth. This is one of the real dirty facts about food production in the US, and it’s shocking how few people seem to know about it.

To speed up the growing cycle and get food to grocers and other outlets faster, these factory farms don’t rely on natural sunlight like the farms you might see when driving through the back country where you live. That would just take too long, you see. Instead they dump a ton of energy into growing operations that keep plants under constant light, giving them the UV radiation they need to grow and rarely cutting it off. We’re not talking about great grow tents that people use to make mini-greenhouses in their backyards – we’re talking acreage, huge tracts of land dedicated to factory food production.

These massive factory farms don’t operate like traditional farms. Where you would normally have chickens to peck up bugs and stop pests from killing crops, these agribusinesses use heavy doses of pesticides to make sure their operations produce food for people to eat, rather than bugs. Some of these insecticides don’t discriminate in what they kill, so in addition to killing off pests like aphids, they also kill useful insects like honeybees which would normally pollinate flowers and contribute to the growth cycle of various types of produce.

Perhaps the worst fact of all is that even with these huge businesses producing more food than the people of the United States can eat in a year, there are still tons of folks starving, wondering where their next meal is going to come from. These businesses may be able to produce on a large, corporate scale, but they also waste on a large, corporate scale, which is totally unnecessary in this case. You can learn more here about the various types of artificial growth lights which are available for use. You might even feel the allure of growing (at least some) of your own food. Who knows?

Problems with Preserving Railways

Problems with Preserving RailwaysOne of the biggest issues with taking care of the west’s aging railroad system is that unless you’ve got the right permits, papers and permissions, or some sort of job connected to the rails, you can’t really interact with them in any way. It’s not like people can go tear up sections of rail and put down new ones, even if it would help to preserve the lines by keeping them running. And rail travel in the United States isn’t nearly as prevalent as it used to be – everyone seems to fly these days, what with airports being just about everywhere.

These are all problems that come up when trying to preserve these aged railways. They deserve our respect and help though, and here’s why. Those railways built this country back in its infant days, and though they may not all be stashed in a single place like the Lincoln Memorial or Mount Rushmore, they’re as much a national landmark as any of the other sights people travel  across the country to see. That’s why we do what we can to preserve them and keep them working, even if our own power tends to be limited. JP Morgan and Andrew Carnegie may not be around, but their work still is.

Most of our preservation efforts are in the form of cleaning debris and trash from the sides of railways, making sure things like rocks and other hazards are removed from the rails if we find them present, simple stuff like that. If we happen to spot something wrong while doing our runs, we take pictures and make phone calls to the right people to tell them about our findings, passing information right up the line. This preservation work is satisfying in its own weird way, but it also has the potential to be dangerous. Railways aren’t exactly the safest places in the world, you know?

That’s why we like to use lots of bright lights when we’re out doing our thing, especially in late afternoons or evenings once the sun goes down and it gets dark. Being visible in a setting like that is important, not just for being seeing by passing trains but also so you don’t go losing the other people you’re working with in the dark. Portable LED light bars that are easy to take and travel with are a great option here, because they’re very bright and affordable to boot.

Of course, it just makes more sense not to do such work during the evenings in the first place, so it’s not something we do very often. Sometimes the best way to preserve those railways is to write letters and lobby with politicians to try and get them to take more interest in the issue. It’s becoming tougher with fewer people riding the rails these days, but that massive piece of infrastructure isn’t something that should just be ignored and forgotten about. It could instead be one of the keys to making the United States great again, if it got the care and attention it needs.

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