During the latter half of the nineteenth century the railroads matured as an industry of national stature. Numbering in the thousands, railroad companies pushed back frontiers in all parts of the nation. In doing so they were forced to rely largely on their own separate ingenuity and resources in solving various technological, operational, and organizational problems. This self-reliance resulted in a great multiplicity of designs and procedures. With the criss-crossing of the continent, the individual lines found themselves becoming more and more interdependent. Conflicting standards and policies resulted in service deficiencies and higher costs. Within a thirty-year span the railroad industry resolved the major differences and established procedures for addressing future problems. This was quite possibly the greatest exercise in industrial statesmanship and self- discipline the nation has ever witnessed, resulting from the demands of the railroads themselves and not from outside authorities.
The extent of standardization in the United States today is taken for granted--a fact of modern life. New Jersey light bulbs fit California sockets. A motorist can drive almost anywhere and find parts for his automobile. Railroad cars and locomotives routinely cross the country in interrailroad service.
Such was not the case during the mid- 1800's. The lack of transportation and communication facilities eliminated the need for national standards. Each community had its own time, setting noon at the time the sun was directly overhead. The concept of interchangeable parts was still a new idea with only limited application.
Both freight and passengers changed cars when changing from one railroad to another. Each crew on a railroad had its own locomotive and caboose, and the equipment stayed on its assigned run except when going to