Growing a Nation

Historical Timeline — Transportation

17th-18th Centuries

18th century
Transportation by water, on trails, or through wilderness

1794
Lancaster Turnpike opened, first successful toll road

1800

1800-30
Turnpike building (toll roads) improves communication and commerce between settlements

1807
Robert Fulton demonstrates practicability of steamboats

1815-20
Steamboats become important in western trade

1820

1825
Erie Canal finished; canal building era begins (1825-40)

1830
Peter Cooper's railroad steam engine, the Tom Thumb, runs 13 miles; beginning of railroad era

1840

1840
3,000 miles of railroad track constructed

1845-57
Plank road movement

1850s
Major rail trunk lines from eastern cities cross the Appalachian Mountains; steam and clipper ships improve overseas transportation

1860

1860
30,000 miles of railroad

1869
Illinois passes first designated "Grander" law regulating railroads; Union Pacific, first transcontinental railroad, completed

1870s
Refrigerator cars introduced, increasing national markets for fruits and vegetables

1880

1880
160,500 miles of railroad

1888
Meat is first shipped in railroad cars cooled by mechanical refrigeration; nearly 50 years pass before this technology is widely adopted

1900

1909
The Wrights demonstrate the airplane

 

 

 

 

1910

1910-25
Road-building accompanies increased use of automobiles

1916
Railroad network peaks at 254,000 miles; Rural Post Roads Act begins regular Federal subsidies to road building

1917-20
Federal Government operates railroads during war emergency

1920

1920s
Truckers begin to capture trade in perishables and dairy products

1921
Federal Government gives more aid for farm-to-market roads

1925
Hoch-Smith Resolution requires the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to consider agricultural conditions in setting railroad rates

1930

1930s
Farm-to-market roads emphasized in Federal road building

1938
Motor Carried Act brings trucking under ICC regulation

1940

1942
Office of Defense Transportation established to coordinate wartime transport needs

 

 

 

1950

1950s
Trucks and barges compete successfully for agricultural products as railroad rates rise

1956
Interstate Highway Act

1960

1960s
Financial condition of northeastern railroads deteriorates; rail abandonments accelerate; agricultural shipments by all-cargo planes increase, especially shipments of strawberries and cut flowers

 

 

 

1970

1972-74
Russian grain sale causes massive tie-ups in rail system

1980

1980
Railroad and trucking industries deregulated

 

 

 

1990-2000

1990s
Consolidation of rail lines reduces transportation options for rural residents

1998
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century greatly increases highway spending

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