Railroads in The Early US (before 1865) and Industrial Revolution Are Linked Together

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The Industrial Revolution is considered one of the global phenomena, which was associated with the transition to new manufacturing process between the years 1760 and 1840. Industrial Revolution commenced in the United Kingdom and developed textile production, which was sent from Britain to other continents like the United States of America and Europe. The most iconic feature during the industrial revolution is the steam engine. The fusion of iron rails and steam was instrumental in the production of railways, which was a new form of transport that grew tremendously to affect the industrial and social life in the late nineteenth century.

Development of Rail

Richard Reynold was responsible for the creation of a set of rails, which were to be used to transport coal at Coalbrookdale in 1767. However, it was not until in 1801 when the first Act in Parliament was passed permitting the development of a “railway,” during the period, it involved a horse which pulled the cart along the rails (Schivelbusch). Furthermore, construction of the rail occurred but in small bits. Meanwhile, the development of the steam engine was undergoing evolvement (Schivelbusch). While Trevithic was responsible for the invention of the steam-driven locomotive that ran on the road in 1801, it was William Hedly who constructed Puffing Billy, which was to be used in mines. One year later, George Stephenson invented the engine.

            In 1821, Stephenson constructed the Darlington to Stockton railway utilizing steam power and iron rails. Stephenson objective was to disrupt the local monopoly of the canal owners. Even though the original plan was for horses to be used to provide the moving energy, Stephenson pushed for the steam engine. The first siting of a railway utilizing a genuine steam locomotive operating on rails operated between Manchester and Liverpool railways functional during the 1830s (Schivelbusch). This was most likely the real landmark in rail and emulated the route of the groundbreaking Bridgewater Canal. The owner of the canal had resisted the introduction of the railway for the sake of protecting with his investment. The Manchester to Liverpool railways issued the administration with blueprints, which were to be utilized when conducting later development.

Most railroads created a memorandum of understanding with private entities who prepared the maps and sold them to the townsites. Railroad engineers decided the suitable region for their operational office and business. They then send assessed the information critically before provided it to the townsite agents (Schivelbusch). After that, the townsite employed surveyors who in various instances were from the railroad to carry out the imaginary line drawing to calculate the size of the area to be covered (Schivelbusch). There existed no shortage of men who desired to join the business, more so during the boom seasons that involved the West war migration. However, there were limited opportunities for the majority of them

The railroad basically bestowed responsibility of the townsites, which were on a line to either a small group of individuals or a single man. Individuals who were awarded the responsibility were well linked financially with the road (Hudson). Even though James J. Hill who was the owner of the Great Northern Railway persisted that his organization did not engage in the business (Hudson). Hill had made a significant investment in various townsite organizations, which seemed to be a different entity from the railroad that he owned. However, such types of the agreement were permitted during the era.

General Grenville M. Dodge, is considered one of the greatest creators in the western townsite. Dodge was responsible for the Union Pacific’s towns, even though there exist minor evidence that he developed to be well acquainted with his developments.  General Dodge was responsible for convincing Former U.S president Abraham Lincoln to select the Union Pacific route (Hudson). Dodge managed railroad operation covering Washington where he was an influential member. The popularity would be beneficial to the Union Pacific (Hudson). He requested for more than once for cavalry units to provide protection to construction gangs located in Wyoming and Nebraska.  

The effects of the railway were significant. According to a former railroad agent, he states that as the transcontinental railway extended west during the 1860s and 870s, every temporary terminus was converted to a city, short loved and wonderful (Hudson). Successful or not, railroad towns served as a part of corporate objectives to control individuals, to command space and resources for the sake of maximizing profit for the organizations.

Railway had a great economic effect, especially on farming products. Goods like dairy produced could be transported over long distance prior to them becoming inedible as a result to the increased trade, the living standard in towns which had operational terminus for railway increased significantly (Hudson). New organizations were created tasked with the managing railways and capitalize on the possibilities, and as single core employer emerged (Hudson). At the pinnacle of the railway boom, a huge amount of Britain’s industrial output was channeled into the construction, boosting industry (Hudson). Therefore, when the British boom declined, these materials were transferred for the construction of railways abroad.

Effects on Social Lives

Another factor brought about by the emergence of the railway during the industrialization period was the effect on the social lives of individuals in major towns where the rail passed. In order for the train to operate efficiently using a timetable, it was necessary to develop a standardized time across entire Britain in order to make the place uniform in terms of operations (Schivelbusch). Suburbs started to formulate as white-collar employees went beyond the inner cities, and several working-class regions were demolished to pave the way for the establishment of new railway buildings.

The opportunities to travel increased while the working class now had the opportunity to travel to distanced region freely and at ease (Schivelbusch). Even though the general process was productive in the community, various conservatives were concerned that the process might result in a revolt. Communications were sped up while regionalization started to disintegrate.

The invention of the railway during the Industrial Revolution period was not responsible for the major advancements experienced during the period because the railway only developed after 1830. During the period, the Industrial Revolution had already been initiated. Even though when railways were introduced, they faced a slow start (Schivelbusch). The number of railway users increased tremendously since the train made it possible for lower classes in society had the opportunity to travel much further and efficiently.

 It is during this period when the regional difference in Britain started to disintegrate (Schivelbusch).  However, railway acted as the sufficient transportation system, which enabled the process of Industrial Revolution to continue. Additionally, it issues further stimulus as well as assisted in the transportation of perishable goods much easier in bulk.

Based on the above analysis it is evident that during the major Industrial Revolution, great changes were experienced in different sectors of society. Similarly, the system used for transportation of good and humans across different towns advanced (Schivelbusch). According to historians as well economist, it was relevant to construct efficient transportation means, which would be iconic in fostering trade across different nations.

In order for any society to experience industrialization, it is necessary for the city to have an effective transportation system (Schivelbusch).  The system would open up east of attaining raw materials as well as the end product created. Even though historians at a time tend to disagree about whether the development of the railway was fast experienced by Britain first before the rest of the world, the transportation network changed absolutely.


Industrial Revolution is considered as one of the most significant effects to have ever faced the world. The process led to tremendous growth of regions, where curriculum vitae is not that crucial. Even though most individuals acknowledge that the railway had a significant impact on the industrial revolution, the sentiments tend to be incorrect. The railway developed during the 1830s, and by the Industrial Revolution had also started. The relevance of the railway during the period was the ability to transport bulky material across the different spectrum.

Works Cited

Hudson, John C. "Towns of the Western Railroads." Great Plains Quarterly 2.1 (1982): 41-54.

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century. Univ of California Press, 2014.

November 13, 2023
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