The Growth of the American Economy: An Introduction to the Economic History of the United States

By Robert G. Albion; Harold F. Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 23
Development of a National System of Transportation

THE YEAR 1870 found the country with a well-formed network of railroads east of the Mississippi and north of Washington and the Ohio River. Two-thirds of the railroad mileage ultimately to be in New England was in operation, as was nearly one-half of that in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Through railroad routes extended from Boston to the West, via Canada, or via Albany and New York State. New York City was connected with Chicago by railroads operating over the present routes of the New York Central and the Pennsylvania. The Erie and the combination of the Central of New Jersey and the Baltimore & Ohio furnished additional service as far west as Ohio.

The railroads of the South were still far from complete. While local lines connecting the Atlantic ports to the hinterland were well developed and had served military needs during the war, the present-day through north-and-south routes of the Southern, the Atlantic Coast Line, and the Seaboard Airline east of the Appalachians were hardly in evidence. In this area coastwise water carriers still moved a sizable amount of traffic. In the interior, however, the Louisville & Nashville had pushed as far south as Decatur, Alabama; while the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis had a connection with Atlanta. The one through line from the large cities of the East came from Roanoke diagonally through the mountains to Knoxville and Chattanooga along the present route of the Norfolk & Western and the Southern railways. North and south in the Mississippi Valley there was only a partially completed route, for here again the water carriers were dominant, and the bridging of the lower Ohio offered engineering difficulties.

In the West a number of railroads had been built across Illinois and southern Wisconsin; a few had pushed west to the Missouri River, and one extended north through Wisconsin to Minneapolis. Although the Mississippi River had been first bridged, in 1856, at Rock Island, it was not until 1865 that a second bridge was built at Clinton, and not until just before 1870 that bridging was general. The Missouri River was yet to be bridged. The Union Pacific alone had pushed beyond and crossed the continent to the Pacific. In the Southwest, one line reached from the Mississippi across into Arkansas, and another in Louisiana extended toward the eastern edge of Texas. As for the remainder of

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