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The railroad system has been the most innovative medium of transportation and trade in the history of American developments. However the American railroad was not always the intriguing transport system that we use in today’s time. There were many historical developments made towards the railroad which eventually brought it to how we view and use it in our modern era. In retrospect the beginning of a railroad revolution was first hinted through the use of the steam engine ship. James Watt’s early improvements on the steam engine were put to great use by John Fitch in 1787 (Railroad 2015). Fitch was inspired enough to use the steam engine as a way to propel ships on the Delaware and Potomac rivers.
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It was not long after that until the first commercial steamboat was used as a medium of domestic transportation and trade and there laid the groundwork plans of the railroad revolution. A man by the name of John Stevens is considered in American history to be the father of the railroad system. In 1826 he successfully demonstrated the feasibility of the steam locomotion on circular track used for the experiment (Railroad 2015).  He completed this experiment on his own estate in Hoboken, New Jersey and after its success he was granted the first railway charter in 1815. After this demonstration other grants for charters were approved and soon after the developments of the first operational railroads began to form.

Early Developments
Developments of the railroad began with surveying, mapping, and construction in different experimental areas on different experimental tracks. B & O company in both Baltimore and Ohio around 1830 placed fourteen miles of track to be put to use with a locomotive that relied purely on horsepower. Other American manufacturers began to take notice and jump onboard what they saw as a railway revolution. Companies like Mohawk and Hudson, which opened in September 1830, the Saratoga, which opened in July 1832, and the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, which opened in 1833, all produced contributed their developments into this railway revolution (Railroad 2015). The South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company specifically, produced a 136-mile long track which proved to be the longest steam railroad in the world at that time.

With all of these early developments in tact was not long until the concept of the transcontinental railroad begin to take shape. The railroad had come so far that by 1846 talks of connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts went underway. Asa Whitney was one of the main promoter who was obsessed of connecting the two coasts (Railroad 2015). In fact he was so obsessed that he created his own scheme outlined in book called Project for Railroad to the Pacific. It included an outline map of the potential railroad path that would eventually connect the two coast. In addition it called for Irish and German immigrants to be to ones on the labor constructing the first transcontinental railroad. However with all these plans presented Congress still failed to sanction the construction of the railroad. It was not until about 1862, with the help of pioneer Theodore Judah, that Congress finally gave their support for the railroad (Railroad 2015). The sanction was called The Railroad Act of 1862 and on May 10th, 1869 the Union Pacific railroad joined with the Central Pacific at Promontory, Utah for the first time linking the continent together.

This revolutionary act brought definite and lasting changes to the U.S that are still very evident today. The railroad interconnected the American society much like newer more innovative technology continues to do all the time. America’s trade, mail system, and mediums of transportation was forever altered in the most practical and efficient way at the time. The country has come a long way since the early developments of the railway system but those initial plans and concepts will always be remembered and so will the various pioneers that put them into action.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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