1902 Encyclopedia > Railway, Railways (Railroad) > Railways - United States - Development. Cost.

Railway, Railways
(Part 48)


Railways - United States - Development. Cost.

Railway development in the United States has had to adapt itself to the needs of a new and rapidly growing country, a large part of which was first made available for settlement by railways. Three locomotives were imported from England in 1829, and the first trial in America took place on 8th August 1829 at Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The first railway constructed to be worked by locomotives was the South Carolina Railroad (1828-30), though trials of an experimental locomotive had been made before on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which continued to be worked by horse power until 1832. The mileage of railway construction about kept pace with that of the United Kingdom until 1850; at the beginning of 1885 it amounted to 125,379 miles. The mileage completed amounted to 40 miles at the end of 1830, to 3361 miles in 1841, and to 5206 miles in 1847, of which 1340 miles had been opened within six years. Then there was a sudden and great increase, the yearly additions for seven years being 1056 miles in 1048, 1248 in 1849, 1261 in 1850, 1274 in 1851, 2288 in 1852, 2170 in 1853, 3442 miles in 1854. The Civil War checked railway construction, only 3257 miles being opened during the five years ending with 1865, when the aggregate amounted to 32,996 miles. But during the seven years ending with 1872 the mileage of the country was nearly doubled, the yearly additions being 1403 miles in 1866, 2541 in 1867, 2468 in 1868, 4103 in 1869, 5658 in 1870, 6660 in 1871, 7439 in 1872, a total of 30,272 miles in seven years. At the close of this period of construction there was a mile of railway to every 666 inhabitants. It was followed by great financial disasters and industrial stagnation, and by a period of comparative inactivity in railway extension, only 5217 miles being opened in 1873, and only 14,057 in the five years ending with 1878 (2428 in the last-named year). During the five years ending with 1883 40,000 miles were opened, of which 11,568 fell to 1882. At the end of 1884 the population per mile of railway was 458. There was no railway west of the Mississippi until 1853, and then only 38 miles; in 1860 there were 1930 miles (24,990 on the east), and in 1865 3007 miles (29,988 on the east). Since 1865 46,600 miles have been built west of the Mississippi. About one-half of the population of the United States is in the territory lying north of the Potomac and Ohio and east of the Mississippi, including sixteen States with an aggregate area of 418,495 square miles, 29,000,000 inhabitants, and 55,725 miles of railway. France and Germany together have nearly the same area (416,205 square miles), 83,000,000 inhabitants, and 40,682 miles of railway. The United States has one mile of railway to 7·5 square miles of territory and 520 inhabitants, and Europe 1 mile of railway to 10·2 square miles and 2040 inhabitants. The two States of New York and Pennsylvania, whose area is about equal to that of Great Britain, have one mile of railway to 6·2 square miles, against one to 5·9 in Great Britain; and Massachusetts and New Jersey, with one-third more area than Belgium (which has more railway in proportion to area than any other European country), have 4 square miles of area per mile of railway, while Belgium has 4·2. In the Southern States the railways are much less numerous and have lighter traffic and earnings. The prevailing course of traffic in America is east and west, or rather to and from the north-eastern Atlantic States north of the Potomac. The eastern "trunk lines," as they are called, extending from the west to the north-eastern seaports (and also to Canada), have a heavier goods traffic than any other lines of considerable length in the world. The companies owning these lines also own or control in some way extensive systems reaching as far west as Chicago, and in several cases to the Mississippi at St. Louis. Two great systems centre on the Pacific coast. Chicago is the chief traffic centre of the interior.

The railways having at first to serve a thinly peopled but rapidly growing country, American engineers devised methods of construction and working which produced a line at very small cost, lacking very many of the appliances considered necessary in Europe, but capable of being extended and developed as the country itself became more settled and prosperous. At first many lines cost only £2000 per mile, and much better lines are now being built for £3000 per mile or less. Even when fully developed they are still usually very much less costly than European railways. Some of the large systems have cost, on the average, only from £7000 to £8000 per mile. The average reported cost in 1884 of the 125,000 miles of railway in the United States was £11,400 per mile; but the actual average cost is probably much less.

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