The new industry structure was indeed a monopoly: not one created by some sinister plot, but rather one which grew from the efficiencies inherent in railroad technology at that time. The monopoly was the result of "the exclusive right to use the railway which the company owning it possessed."13 It is important to note that this monopoly applied to the use of the railroad and not to any specific region or city.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century "monopoly" was used in a different context, referring to cities and areas served by only one railroad. When a competing railroad was built, the first railroad's monopoly over the city was broken. Although the city received competitive service from the two railroads, each railroad still had exclusive use--a monopoly--of its own tracks. The city was given competitive rail service by having two monopolies compete for its business. Those localities served by a single railroad were monopolized, because (1) they were served by only the one railroad and (2) that railroad did not allow any other person or company to operate trains over its tracks. It is the latter fact which differentiated the pre-1820 tramroad from the new railroad of the 1840's. Although railroad company charters continued to refer to turnpike-type operations, "this possibility was but a legal theory" and had no effect on the new railroad industry.14
By 1840 America had some 2800 miles of railroad compared to 23 miles a decade earlier.15 The railroad had taken on a new form, a new structure. Advances in railway technology and the consequent changes in railway operation met with general approval. The industrial revolution was getting up steam, both literally and figuratively. The railroads were often hard pressed to keep up with the demands placed on them. Railway technology was soon so far in advance of any other means of transport that driving a horse-drawn wagon on a railroad track was only a laughable--and highly dangerous--prank.
The railroads were at the threshold of their "Golden Age," armed with a new structure, one which would serve the industry for over 130 years. By 1970, however, many were questioning the viability of that structure.