By CLEVELAND RODGERS
In the United States, at least, railroads have been the, most important single factor in shaping cities and in regional and national development. Cities founded before the days of steam power have been reshaped by railroad routes and terminal facilities, while the location and subsequent growth of newer communities and regions were predicated on where trains were to run and where they were to Stop. Yet, despite revolutionary changes in transportation and the tremendous development of the country, larger patterns remain much the same as they were before the days of railroads, automobiles and airplanes.
The American continent was opened up through its ports and navigable rivers. Overseas and coastal trading developed first; then came the river routes into the hinterland, with settlements at the heads of navigation, later supplemented by canals. The Erie Canal, linking the Hudson River and the Great Lakes, was constructed before the days of railroads. Other canals projected or started would have joined the Potomac and the Ohio, and have connected the Columbia and Mississippi rivers with the Great Lakes. Thus, without steam or internal combustion engines, we would have had a nation-wide transportation system.
In the beginning the railroads merely followed canal routes; then they began making short cuts between communities already