Railway Material in the
ERNEST W. WILLIAMS, JR.
O adequate histoty of American railroads has ever been
w ritten, notwithstanding the publication of an enormous
literature dealing with various phases of their history.
Several regional histories exist, some of excellent quality, yet the
task of capturing the btoad sweeps of railway development in the
United States in a comptehensive work remains to be achieved.
.And this is so despite the fact that nothing exerted a more signifi¬
cant influence upon the character and rate of our economic develop¬
ment than did the rapid expansion of our railroad net. Nor was that
expansion patalleled in rate or in character anywhere else in the
The romance of the steam locomotive and the attraction of
seemingly endless bands of steel extending to far places were well
known to several generations of Americans. But while the railroad
was clearly indispensable and service in the railroad ranks was a
frequent objective ot young men, railroad corporations achieved
an odious reputation and were acceptable objects of political attack.
The economic aspects of railroad transportation were never well
understood by the public at large even while the railroad w as the
pre-eminent form of transportation, both of freight and of pas¬
sengers. Armchair strategists were legion, yet the nation continued
to face, year after year, a railroad problem. The system reached
its greatest extent before the first \Abrld War and has been looked
upon as a mature, if not a declining, industry since. The grow th of
other forms of transport has tended to remove railroads and their
problems from the public consciousness. \'et the daily press, partie-