The impact of the railroad on American society: a communication perspective of technology

-

Documents
10 pages
Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus

Description

Resumen
Este manuscrito examina el sistema ferroviario como una combinación de humanos y máqui-nas en relación simbiótica, y explica cómo el ferrocarril ejerció un importante efecto sobre la vida en América cuando hizo irrelevante el sistema de tiempo físico –natural—que existe en las ciudades y paí-ses en los que los relojes iban acordes a las condiciones climáticas. El autor apunta que el ferrocarril es un órgano social, capaz de evolucionar para servir a la demanda, modelando y alterando –pero nunca reemplazando—el contacto entre los humanos, y que continuará para mejorarlo y facilitarlo. Este ma-nuscrito analiza los impactos sociales, transculturales, psicológicos y financieros de la vía férrea en la sociedad norteamericana en los últimos doscientos años. La medida del progreso en los Estados Unidos es equivalente al conjunto de cosas que se han sacrificado.
Abstract
This manuscript examines the railroad system as a combination of humans and machines that form a symbiosis, and explains how the railroad exerted a huge effect on American life when it made irrelevant the organic – following nature – time system that existed in cities and countries where clocks were set according to weather conditions. The author makes the point that the railroad is an organ of society, that it will evolve to serve the functions we demand, that it has molded and altered – but never replaced – contact between humans, and that it will continue to enhance and facilitate it. This manuscript analyzes the social, cross-cultural, psychological, and financial impact of the railroad on American soci-ety in the past two hundred years. The measure of progress in the United States is tantamount to the mass of things that had to be sacrificed to it.

Sujets

Informations

Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 2009
Nombre de visites sur la page 16
Langue Español
Signaler un problème



Vol. 7 Nº3 págs. 451-460. 2009

www.pasosonline.org


The impact of the railroad on American society:
a communication perspective of technology


iJonathan Matusitz
University of Central Florida (EEUU)




Resumen: Este manuscrito examina el sistema ferroviario como una combinación de humanos y máqui-
nas en relación simbiótica, y explica cómo el ferrocarril ejerció un importante efecto sobre la vida en
América cuando hizo irrelevante el sistema de tiempo físico –natural—que existe en las ciudades y paí-
ses en los que los relojes iban acordes a las condiciones climáticas. El autor apunta que el ferrocarril es
un órgano social, capaz de evolucionar para servir a la demanda, modelando y alterando –pero nunca
reemplazando—el contacto entre los humanos, y que continuará para mejorarlo y facilitarlo. Este ma-
nuscrito analiza los impactos sociales, transculturales, psicológicos y financieros de la vía férrea en la
sociedad norteamericana en los últimos doscientos años. La medida del progreso en los Estados Unidos
es equivalente al conjunto de cosas que se han sacrificado.

Palbras clave: Comunicación; Ferrocarril; Sociedad; Tecnología; Tiempo.



Abstract: This manuscript examines the railroad system as a combination of humans and machines that
form a symbiosis, and explains how the railroad exerted a huge effect on American life when it made
irrelevant the organic – following nature – time system that existed in cities and countries where clocks
were set according to weather conditions. The author makes the point that the railroad is an organ of
society, that it will evolve to serve the functions we demand, that it has molded and altered – but never
replaced – contact between humans, and that it will continue to enhance and facilitate it. This manuscript
analyzes the social, cross-cultural, psychological, and financial impact of the railroad on American so-
ciety in the past two hundred years. The measure of progress in the United States is tantamount to the
mass of things that had to be sacrificed to it.


Keywords: Communication; Railroad; Society; Technology; Time.




i Assistant Professor in the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida. His
research interests include communication & technology, and organizational and intercultural communicati-
on. Please address correspondence to Jonathan Matusitz at 600 Colonial Center Parkway, Lake Mary, FL,
32746, (407) 531-5459. E-mail: matusitz@gmail.com.
© PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural. ISSN 1695-7121 452 The impact of the railroad on American society :…

Introduction and procedures, for practical ends or pur-
poses” (Monsma, 1986, p. 19), along with
Communication technology has had an transportation communication, aims to
enormous impact on society by altering the achieve goals thanks to which people can
nature of relationships among individuals feel the value of the socio-economic and
(Zillmannn & Vorderer, 2000) and it always financial structure through the improve-
gives rise to unpredicted social conse- ment of industrial productivity and living
quences (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991). As com- standards.
thmunication technology extends our vision In the beginning of the 19 century,
and our hearing, transportation technology however, humanity used little transporta-
extends our perception of moving. Indeed, tion because people barely traveled or
we can travel at a higher speed and longer moved no faster than they had in the pre-
distance. The relationships between trans- vious three thousand years: riding horses
portation and society, however, are far and sailing ships were still the principal
more complex, numerous, deep, and an- means of transportation. The application of
cient. This manuscript examines the rail- steam engine to transportation shook eve-
road system as a combination of humans rything up. Stephenson’s first steam train
and machines that together form a symbi- began to operate in the late 1820’s in Eng-
osis (Lewin, 1951), provides a brief histori- land (Matellart, 1974), but effective rail-
cal section on trains, and explains how the road operations in the United States did
railroad has exerted a huge effect on hu- not begin until around 1840. More impor-
man life when it made irrelevant the organ- tantly, during the Industrial Revolution,
ic – following nature – time system that the train was a central factor for the ex-
existed in cities and countries where clocks pansion of the United States to the West.
were set according to weather conditions. This is why it is interesting to trace the
Finally, to describe the complex relation- connection between transportation, com-
ships that form the communication net- munication technology, and society in the
work in the rail industry, this manuscript United States by looking at the early histo-
incorporates research on the social, cross- ry of the railroad.
cultural, psychological, and economic and
financial impact of the railroad on Ameri- Brief History of the Railroad
can society in the past two hundred years. According to many sources in modern
countries, transportation on rail tracks has
Review of the Literature deep historical roots. Railways have appar-
ently existed as far back as the sixth cen-
thLinked to technology, the word “com- tury B.C. In the 16 century, Europeans
munication” has had a pervasive use in the were making extensive use of rail tracks
realm of transportation, even before it with vehicles to carry coal and charcoal
[communication] became transformed into outside the mines. Humans had to wait
th“information movement” in this day and until the first two decades of 19 century
age. There is probably not a more appropri- (in Britain) to see the first mechanically
ate way to define the power of communica- worked railroad. Railroads were introduced
tion and technology by first studying the in the United States in 1829 (Chadler Jr.,
rise of the idea of transportation as com- 1981; Poor, 1970; Fogel, 1964). The intro-
munication (Polli, 1998). To a large degree, duction of the railroad system was a crucial
ththe history of transportation, the act of occurrence in the 19 century in American
moving something or someone from one history. The railroad system – improving
place to another (the term stems from the transportation, communication, and tech-
Latin trans, meaning across, and portare, nology to such a point that we can call it a
meaning carrying), has been driven by revolution – helped settle and expand
technology. Technology, “a distinct human America’s borders further to the west, in-
cultural activity in which human beings creased and improved economic develop-
exercise freedom and responsibility in re- ment and communication, as well as labor
sponse to God by forming and transforming and immigration, introduced new manage-
the natural creation, with the aid of tools ment policies, and advanced technology
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

Jonathan Matusitz 453

(Chadler Jr., 1981). On the other side of the senger. The telegraph was accepted by all
Atlantic Ocean, 1829 was also the year the cities that had a railroad system be-
during which Stephenson’s “Rocket” was cause it was used to signal the arrivals and
riding for the first time in England, a na- departures of trains and to coordinate the
tion of which the rail network had already railroad lines efficiently. In 1869, the first
reached 430,000 kilometers (Matellart, transcontinental railroad, a railroad that
1974). crossed the entire country and that was
In the New World, however, locomotive mainly built with Chinese labor, was com-
technology only achieved a breakthrough in pleted. Without the Chinese laborers, there
the 1830s. The development of the locomo- would be no railroad. In turn, without the
tive, the “Iron Horse” (Comstock, 1971), railroad, there would have been no sea-to
from the steam engine provided the tech- sea USA. By the end of the 1880s, addi-
nology for the rail revolution (Weitzman, tional transcontinental railroads had been
1987), and industrialization provided the established. Trips that once took several
basic needs, capital and skills (Licht, 1995). weeks now took a couple of days. Railroads
The invention of the steam locomotive radi- tied the country together, brought the
cally remodeled the way products and Eastern and Western coasts of America’s
people traveled. Products could be moved at vast continent closer, and accelerated the
a cheaper rate and at a higher speed growth of the United States.
ththanks to trains and locomotives. Wagons By the beginning of the 20 century, es-
could also transport heavier loads than pecially during the period from 1900 to
ships and, not surprisingly, horses. Steam circa 1930, the railroad had outstandingly
locomotives crossing the plains of Uncle made headway in the United States, had
Sam pulled railroad cars that were full of attained an unequal status of power and
raw materials (White, 1968), and improved dominance in inland transport, and had
the “mail” system by carrying tons of let- imprint and supremacy on the countryside.
ters, gifts, packages, and official documents Likewise, on other continents, such as
from the government. Matellart (1974) con- South America, there were a lot of inde-
tinues by saying that “the networks traced pendent railroads (Matellart, 1974), whe-
by the locomotive as a machine in move- reas Africa discovered the expansion of
ment recognized the rigidity of borders, the railways as “the creation of the means for
partitions of an age in which the ‘nation’ the exploitation of natural resources and
was the motor-force” (p. 19). Peter Drucker human beings in ways that they had never
even compares the steam engine to the been exploited before” (Fernández-Armesto,
computer when he writes that “the steam 1996, p. 425). The railway was both a way
engine was to the first Industrial Revolu- of perceiving the world and a means whe-
tion what the computer has been to the reby the world could be ruled.
Information Revolution – its trigger, but
above all its symbol” (Drucker, 1999, p. 50). The Birth of Time Zones: Reflections on
In spite of the drastic change engen- Time and Railway
dered by the locomotive, many small local Although time is only accurately deter-
railroads in the United States were still at mined by the motions of the planets, time
the starting point of their operation, most and space have become divided and reas-
only going a short distance of only a few sembled in different ways according to the
miles (McKenzie and Richards, 1986). needs of each era in history. The time we
Those small railroads joined together to use today, Eastern Standard Time, was
connect their tracks and form larger com- invented by the railroads (Bartky, 1989)
panies (Poor, 1970). By 1840, railroads one hundred and twenty years ago, precise-
spread out and crisscrossed the state of ly in 1883, as individuals needed a conven-
New York. What came along with the rail- tional time belt for the whole railway sys-
road just before it expanded was the tele- tem in order to make everything work. Of
thgraph. Until the invention of the telegraph all the creations in the 19 century, stan-
in 1837 by Samuel Morse, transportation dard time has endured almost constant. It
and communication were connected: no is even the technological invention from the
messages could travel faster than a mes- last two centuries that has been the most
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

454 The impact of the railroad on American society :…

significant for humankind. A standard is Driven by a desire to mimic the order of the
simply “something set up and established universe, European monks felt obligated by
by authority as a rule for the measure of God to lead equally ordered lives. What
quantity, weight, extent, value or quality” better device could individuals have to en-
(Gordon, 2001, p. 23). As Lewis Mumford sure the precise timing of these bells than a
(1934) puts it, mechanical clock that would accurately and
The spread of rapid transformation oc- reliably measure time? With the appear-
thcasioned a change in the method of time- ance of the pendulum in the 17 century,
keeping itself. Sun time, which varies a time was adjusted to correspond with what
minute every eight miles as one travels was considered natural time, that is, the
from east to west, could no longer be ob- angle of the sun on the horizon. In other
served. Instead of a local time based words, life still revolved around the light
upon the sun, it was necessary to have a that individuals needed to see (Hawking,
conventional time belt, and to change 1998).
abruptly by a whole hour when one en- In talking about the differences between
tered the next time belt (p. 198). “ancient” time-keeping and “modern” time-
In modern times, Mumford (1934) con- keeping, Mumford (1934) contrasts organic
tinues, the clock has come to play such an time (a “time” that patterns itself upon the
important role in society that it is second natural cycle of birth, growth, development,
nature to obey fixed and standard time. degeneration, and death) and mechanical
Therefore, as explained later, the most time (a “time” that keeps a consistent
tragic consequence of the clock is the ex- rhythm, which can be set by humans at
pression and the school of thought that rates that nature cannot follow). Like in
“time is money.” To achieve this, clocks had the Middle Ages, however, each little town
to be mass-produced, so that people could in the United States had its own time, sun
coordinate their activities (Schivelbusch, time (Bartky, 1989; Kern, 1986) until the
th1987). Nowadays, the American railroads end of the 19 century. For instance, when
function so perfectly that most people are it was noon in New York City, it was 11:55
likely to take good railway service for a.m. in Philadelphia, 11:47 a.m. in Wash-
granted. It is only when a glitch interrupts ington, and 11:35 a.m. in Pittsburgh (Gor-
the railway service that we realize how don, 2001). Gordon (2001) continues his
significant, indispensable, essential, and argument by saying that,
necessary railroads are in our everyday In the days when a trip from New York
lives. Before, the measurement of time was City to Philadelphia was at the least a
taken with the aid of sundials in ancient long day’s journey; the time difference
Egypt about 1500 B.C. (Hawking, 1998; between the two cities simply didn’t
Cowan, 1958). As a matter of fact, humans matter. But when the railroad made it
recognized that the position of the sun in possible to make the journey in a morn-
the sky is an indication of the progress of ing, and the telegraph made it possible
the day. The need for a device to measure to communicate nearly instantly, the
time independently of the sun eventually traveler had to know what time it was
pushed human beings to create other de- at his destination so be could schedule
vices, such as sandglasses, waterclocks, appointments (p. 23).
and candles (Langone, 2000). Sandglasses Often a train would arrive at one station
and waterclocks used sand and water to (say 12.13 p.m.) at an earlier time than it
measure time, while candles used their had left the previous one (say 12.08 p.m.)
decreased height. All three provided a me- (Gordon, 2001). Most railway companies
taphor for time as something that flows relied on some 100 different, but consistent,
continuously, and gave birth to the way time zones. There were no official conven-
human beings perceive time (Hawking, tions that set how time should be meas-
1998; Priestley, 1964). Later, the Middle ured, or when the day would begin and end,
Ages, mechanical clocks began to appear. or what length an hour might be. Because
Mechanical clocks stemmed from the obses- the railroad system was run by strict sche-
sion with the rigorous order that characte- dules that train conductors had to follow
rized daily life in medieval monasteries. and because time zones did not become
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

Jonathan Matusitz 455

necessary in the United States until trains Communicative Impacts of the Railroad on
were the first means of transportation to American Society
travel across several states in a single day,
it was clear that using the same time would It goes without saying that, over the
be the best option to make life easier for past two hundred years, the railroad has
everyone (Schivelbusch, 1987). The problem created change equivalent to that over the
of keeping track of hundreds of local times past several millennia. Up to now, the rail-
was solved by establishing railroad time road has played an important role in devel-
zones. oping modern civilization, and has contri-
Nevertheless, with the vast expansion of buted greatly to bettering humankind and
making human existence more convenient. the railway and communication networks,
When the railroad appeared in 1829, it was the worldwide need for an international
seen as a product without precedent, as a
time standard became crucial. As a result, magic tool that would forever change the
on November 18, 1883 (called “the day of economy, society, politics (Drucker, 1999),
two noons”) all railroads switched to the culture, and psycho-emotional impact of
individuals. The western world was now same time zones, very close to the same
witnessing the biggest boom in history – ones we use today (Kern, 1986; Schivel-
the railroad boom, a genuinely revolutio-
busch, 1987). This idea came from a chief nary element of the Industrial Revolution
engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway, (Drucker, 1999). In a similar fashion, what
Sir Sandford Fleming, who wanted to know changed travel by train into a mass transit
system was not any particular technologi-how to schedule trains. As time was calcu-
cal development, but an act of Congress lated in each town by checking the sun,
that asked for every public railway to run
time between places was not accurate. To trains, on a daily basis, and at strict times
correct this problem, Fleming developed a – of departure and arrival – spread across a
system of keeping a standard time over given schedule, to enable American citizens
to travel to and from their places of work at established time zones (Webb, 1993).
a very cheap rate. We can say that the By the following year (1884), delegates
shape and the outlook of Uncle Sam today
to the International Meridian Conference
stems from the railroad system. Therefore,
asked that the entire planet be divided into it becomes crucial to examine the railroad
twenty-four time zones, each one hour to ascertain the effects of its social, cross-
apart. Little by little, this coordinated time cultural, psychological, and economic and
system was adopted over all the countries financial impact on American citizens. Let
in the world. In the United States, a large us begin with the social impact of the rail-
road. part of the countryside abode by railroad
time. Within days, almost seventy percent
Social Impact of the Railroad of schools, courts, and local governments
The last two hundred years have seen a adopted railroad time as the official time
significant increase in the use of technology
standard (Blaise, 2001). For the first time
for purposes of social improvement. Yet
in history, major cities like Boston, Wash- “even when the technology is predicted
ington, New York, Atlanta, and San Fran- properly, it is rare that anyone truly un-
cisco shared the same hour and minute derstands its real impact, how it will be
(Blaise, 2001). The railroads, however, used” (Norman, 1993, p. 186). By “impact,”
could not force the American government the author means “influence on the beha-
vior of individuals.” By “social” impact, the into following their standard before 1918,
author refers to Norman (1993) when he when an act of Congress was officially
says that it constitutes “the effects upon passed. After centuries and centuries, a
the lives, living patterns, and work habits completely abstract, man-made, uniform,
of people; the impact upon society and cul-
mathematical notion of time was now start-
ture” (p. 186). Social impact, and therefore
ing to work its way into our view of the social change, leads to profound repercus-
world.
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

456 The impact of the railroad on American society :…

sions and becomes a dimension of all our tions with large groups of people is clearly
activities from childhood to old age. In fact, illustrated in political campaigns. History
the innovations that we are witnessing has recorded that, by traveling in several
represent a deep pattern of change in socie- states during his political campaign, Harry
ty that occurs regularly in history. While Truman reached many people when he
history never repeats itself, the elements of made speeches at train stations.
the system change remain consistent and Furthermore, the railroad has influ-
stable. By extension, the study of social enced the way Americans talk. Phrases like
change is almost as diverse as the study of “on the right track” or “to blow off steam”
society: we must have an experiential mod- stem directly from the locomotive. One rail-
el of society to understand the “what is road-related phrase, however, that will
changing” and be aware that any pattern of always be associated with the acceleration
social life should be examined over time. of life in society is “time is money.” Clocks
Overall, railroads have had a deep, benefi- were institutionally and legally set by syn-
cial social impact upon the country. This chronized systems of time zones, estab-
technology was the truly revolutionary lished by the railroad system that enabled
element of the Industrial Revolution, for people to function in a coordinated way.
not only did it create a new economic di- Standardizing time challenged nature, de-
mension, but it also rapidly remodeled the mocracy, work, and industrialization. From
mental geography. Now human beings this standardization of time, the phrase
mastered distance, they had true mobility, “corporate America” meant everything.
and the horizons of ordinary people ex- Indeed, at the societal level, this adoption
panded. Thinkers and critics at that time of fixed and rigid time zones led many
immediately realized that a fundamental Americans to live in cities, to work in in-
change in mentality had occurred (Drucker, dustry, and to be connected via trade and
1999). The fate of the train, symbol of long-distance travel. More importantly,
“dromocratic” [or speed] (Virilio, 1986) time technology turned human existence
revolution of transport, was also related to into a rigorous schedule and made individ-
the construction of the “industrial nation- uals part of a societal machine that used
state” and the national upper classes such money as lubricant.
as the bourgeoisie (Matellart, 1974). The On the other side of the coin, the rail-
railroad weakened the aristocracy and the road, particularly the use of the locomotive,
established social structure, and led to the with its steam engine, was not always
starting point of an organized stock mar- harmless. Using massive amounts of wood
ket. Truly, the birth of a newly connected and coal to heat the steam, a lot of fuel was
nation engendered a new kind of American required to run steam locomotives. The
society, ambitious in its scale and demands exhaust from steam engines was partly
(Rothstein, 1999). made out of hazardous components such as
In a similar vein, not only as the rail- fossil fuels and carbon dioxide from the
throad demonstrated that we, as human be- coal. In the 19 century, one can only im-
ings, are extremely adaptable to the condi- agine how many pollutants were floating
tions in which we find ourselves (Morrisett, above a nation that once was inhabited by
1996), but it has also changed individual people who resembled more environmental-
social interactions, the nature of public ists than polluters. In line with these con-
interaction, and the notion of public space tentions, by collapsing space and reframing
(Polli, 1998). Indeed, the introduction of the time, time technology has accelerated the
railroad seventeen decades ago can be cre- tempo of life to such a point that human
dited with breaking new ground in the way beings sometimes suffer from it. As tech-
people viewed other people and profoundly nology changes, it goes without saying that
changing the way they communicated with there are intermediate times where only
one another. It has put human beings on unsuitable solutions are taken into account.
the course to universal accessibility: the Paglia (1998) notes that, modern culture
creed and ultimate goal of human commu- has been obsessed with speed since the
nication. One benefit of “taking” the train invention of the steam-powered locomotive
thto improve human relations and connec- in the early 19 century. Our sense of
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

Jonathan Matusitz 457

space has progressively contracted and intercultural contact, the “melting pot” of
collapsed because of our ability to cross different races, and more “exposure” to new
huge distances with magical effortlessness. ethnicities. In line with those contentions,
Many chronic stress-related medical com- not only has the railroad impacted intercul-
plaints are certainly aggravated by this tural relations, but it has also effected our
headlong pace, which has disrupted our species by helping diffuse DNA in its wa-
physical perception of time (p. 275). gons. Yes, the proliferation of DNA was
Likewise, the preposterous acceleration done via mass transit systems such as
of life through the equation of time with trains. By the same token, by importing
money has led to a demand for greater and exporting cattle and other animals, the
power; in turn, power sped the tempo. As a railroad has tremendously contributed to
result, nowadays people eat at noon or new forms of DNA, animal breeding, and
when it is time to have lunch, not when animal species.
they are hungry, in the same way that they However, the railroad system was not
sleep when it is time to sleep, not when used as a major vehicle for all cross-
they feel drowsy. The subordination of hu- cultural changes of the country as much as
man existence to “the iron discipline of the an opportunity to participate ambitiously
rule” (Mumford, 1934) might very well be and efficiently in a “globalizing” world and
the creation of the behavior of those who to influence international police activities
are on the edge, those who go haywire, (Pounds, 1985). As such, although nobody
those who cannot function in the most in- doubts that the traditional Hollywood-like
dustrialized and advanced societies. In a concept of the West, which contrasts land
similar fashion, as social activities rely and people, has greatly contributed to the
more on technology, major systems (socie- progress of technology, trains and locomo-
ties, cities, large industries, etc.) become tives have engendered social and intercul-
more vulnerable to crises caused by mal- tural segregation. Indeed, the railroad has
functions of or interruptions to the technol- led to globalization, better communication
ogy. For example, a glitch in the railroad technology, and class differences (i.e., crea-
network system can make individuals lose tion of more bourgeois distinctions by creat-
telephone or electrical service. As one can ing first-class and second-class train com-
see, not all changes in society brought partments, etc.), but it has fairly contri-
about by the railroad were good changes. buted to cross-cultural relations because
Society is a complex system living on a pla- the major goal of the railroad moguls was
net, influenced by the sun’s energy. It [so- not to improve relationships between
ciety] must obey the laws of nature like any people, cultures, and races, but to tie to-
other physical system in the universe. The gether industrial empires (especially in the
railroad system also has carried many late 1800s and in the early 1900s).
health-related problems to individuals, Consequently, the expansion of the lo-
such as pollution and other dangers. There comotive and trains dissolved the hetero-
was a new demand for sources of energy geneous and diverse geography of the
and fuel. American countryside and allowed for
greater spatial separation along culture,
Cross-cultural Impact of the Railroad class, race, and ethnic lines. In fact, the
Adequate cross-cultural communication phrase “you live on the wrong side of the
is accomplished with tact. Knowing when tracks” reflects the class differences be-
and how to be tactful, mindful, or diplomat- tween the rich (living on one side of the rail
ic requires knowledge of the cultural con- tracks) and the poor (living on the other
text. Cross-cultural relations in the United side). Similarly, the proliferation of trains
States over the past two centuries have brought about the diffusion of families
been impacted by technological develop- across states, as well as continents and
ment and by railroad-related challenges oceans.
that have reshaped both its meanings and
thits methods. Since the 19 century, the Psychological Impact of the Railroad
mushrooming of transportation on rail In addition to the cross-cultural impact,
tracks has increased cross-cultural trade, the railroad has psychologically influenced
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

458 The impact of the railroad on American society :…

thindividuals. In the 19 century, a decisive Financially speaking, one of the most
shift in terms of appropriate behavior oc- important standards by which we live to-
curred, including a new stress upon emo- day is standard time, established for com-
tional control that was profoundly related mercial and financial reasons (Gordon,
to the development of the “city-slickers” 2001). Thanks to fixed time, stock markets
thmindset and urban-industrial capitalist were standardized in the 19 century and
society (Kasson, 1991). Truly, the railroad trades mushroomed. Railway networks
has shown adaptive trends in dealing with made it possible to travel for purpose of
humans. It has sensed human emotions negotiation to an extent never experienced
and has been able to respond to them; now before. The role that the railway system
it patterns its own actions by duplicating played in improving finance is often over-
human behavior. Therefore, the railroad looked. Ultimately, railway development
can demonstrate its own emotional and helped increase financial output for nation-
psychological patterns of behavior, and al and international markets. One other
shape our chemistry with technology, effect that railway networks produced was
around us and in our lives. that of increasing contact (Turnock, 1998)
among financial gurus for purposes other
Economic and Financial Impact of the Rail- than transport or travel.
road
Railroads have become key drivers of Discussion
ththe world economy. Already in the mid-19
century, steam railways were the dominant This manuscript has demonstrated that
form of continental transport (Licht, 1995) the measure of progress in the United
in the United States. American railways States is tantamount to the mass of things
rapidly developed as the largest and most that had to be sacrificed to it. An actual
complex examples of ideal systems that the progress always appears in the shape of a
world was longing for; their geopolitical, “will to power” (Nietzsche, 1967) and a de-
economic, business and managerial struc- sire to improve society. As a matter of fact,
thtures later influenced the growth of large- in the 19 century American citizens sacri-
scale corporate business. The railways’ ficed a great deal to the prosperity of a rail-
advantages of fast connection, capacity, and road system that would forever change the
economy made them more than just simple way they perceive life. The dream of having
tools of industrial and business develop- connections between all 48 continental
ment (Hindle & Lubar, 1986). states was more than a quaint, Jules
Although railroads were built to open Verne-esque quixotic story. Besides, this
the American west for settlement and agri- manuscript will hopefully convince readers
culture, early thinkers saw the birth of that the “rail model” (Virilio, 1986) is above
trains as a way for individuals to escape all a model of the administration of time,
their miserable lives and the tedious as- “the iron discipline of the rule” (Mumford,
pects of agricultural and industrial work 1934) that fulfilled the need of individuals
(Licht, 1995). In fact, railroad construction to have a conventional time belt for the
expanded the growth of ironworks and en- whole railway system in order to make
gineering shops. Even in poor areas of the everything tick like “a clockwork orange”
United States, engineering works and coal (Burguess, 1962). Of all the creations in the
thmines were mushrooming thanks to the 19 century, the “standard time” that we
opening of numerous steelworks and rolling know today has endured almost constant.
mills. There was now an expansion of labor Third, the author has made the point
and equipment productivity, as well as a that the railroad is an organ of society, that
rationalization of old networks. Nowadays, it will evolve to serve the functions we de-
however, passenger railroads struggle more mand, that it has molded and altered – but
as they must compete with airlines by of- never replaced – contact between humans,
fering more convenient service and solving and that it will continue to enhance and
increased conflict between freight and pas- facilitate it. The railroad has had such deep
senger service, each requiring more rights impacts on the United States that it has
to rail track use. sculpted larger patterns of human activity.
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

Jonathan Matusitz 459

nemann. In fact, it has permitted capitalism to infil-
Chandler Jr., Alfred. trate society, imposed lifestyles, shaped the
1981 The railroads: the nation’s first big way we interact with other cultures and
business. New York: Arno. races – even diffusing DNA from humans
Comstock, Henry. and animals – and created needs that did
1971 The iron horse; America’s steam
not exist before. The railroad is rapidly locomotives: a pictorial history.
being changed by new technologies. Since New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
technology breeds technology, the range of Cowan, Harrison.
options and the impacts of the railroad on 1958 Time and its measurements. Cleve-
land, OH: World Publishing Com-human existence will continue to expand as
pany. even newer technologies are introduced
Drucker, Peter. every year that may alter the railroad sys-
1999 “Beyond the information revolu-tem in many ways.
tion.” The Atlantic Online, 284: 47-
Truly, railways, like industries, are 57.
breaking new ground every day. Now we Fernández-Armesto, Felipe.
can see cameras in subway systems, that 1996 Millennium, a history of our last
being a reminder of the all-seeing eye of the thousand years. London: Black
Panopticon (Lyon, 1994). Although the pa- Swan.
Fogel, Robert. nacea-like nature of technology is always a
1964 Railroads and American economic constant that erases any failures or prob-
growth: essays in econometric his-lems of the past, it creates new problems of
tory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. its own. As mentioned earlier, the railroad
Gordon, John Steele.
has brought about pollution and health-
2001 “Standard time.” American Herit-
related issues. Entering a new millennium, age, 52: 22-24.
Americans are inundated with technology Hawking, Stephen.
in a society – anxious about both its imme- 1998 A brief history of time. New York:
diate and its long-term future – whose in- Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub.
tellectual needs are fulfilled by science and Hindle, Brooke, and Steven Lubar.
1986 Engines of change: the American whose material needs are lived up to by
Industrial Revolution, 1790-1860. technology. In this day and age, network
Washington: Smithsonian Institu-systems, whether railroad systems, subway
tion. systems, or even the Internet, require that
Kasson, John.
visions of the future be rapidly malleable,
1991 Rudeness and civility: manners in
that long-range plans be easily changed, nineteenth-century urban America.
and that we incorporate mechanisms for New York: The Noonday Press.
adjusting to innovation. The society of the Kern, Stephen.
future will need a large population of tole- 1986 The culture of time and space,
rant and psychologically strong individuals. 1880-1918. Cambridge: Harvard
UP. The ultimate question is “can we foresee
Langone, John. the future of society?” The answer is a re-
2000 The mystery of time: humanity’s sounding “That’s the question.”
quest for order and measure. Na-
tional Geographic. Bibliography
Lewin, Kurt.
1951 Field theory in social science. New Bartky, Ian.
York: Harper. 1989 “The adoption of standard time.”
Licht, Walter. Technology and Culture, 30: 25-56.
1995 Industrializing America: the nine-Blaise, Clark.
teenth century. Baltimore: The 2001 Time lord: Sir Sandford Fleming
Johns Hopkins UP. and the creation of standard time.
Lyon, David. New York: Pantheon Books.
1994 The electronic eye: the rise of sur-Burguess, Anthony.
veillance society. Minneapolis: Uni-1962 A clockwork orange. London: Hei-
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121

460 The impact of the railroad on American society :…

versity of Minnesota Press.
MacKenzie John, and Jeffrey Richards. Sproull, Lee, and Sara Kiesler.
1986 The railway station: a social histo- 1991 Connections: new ways of working
ry. Oxford: Oxford UP. in the networked organization.
Matellart, Armand. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts In-
1974 Mapping world communication: stitute of Technology P.
war, progress, culture. Minneapolis: Turnock, David.
University of Minnesota Press. 1998 Historical geography of railways in
Monsma, Stephen. Great Britain and Ireland. Ashgate,
1986 Responsible technology. Grand VT: Brookfield.
Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Virilio, Paul.
Publishing Company. 1986 Speed and politics. New York: Se-
Morrisett, Lloyd. miotext(e).
1996 “Habits of mind and a new technol- Webb, Michael.
ogy of freedom.” First Monday, 1: 5- 1993 Sandford Fleming: railway builder.
9. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman.
Mumford, Lewis. Weitzman, David.
1934 Technics and civilization. New 1987 Superpower: the making of a steam
York: Harcourt Brace & Company. locomotive. Boston: David R. Go-
Nietzsche, Friedrich. dine.
1967 The will to power. New York: Ran- White, John.
dom House. 1968 American locomotives: an engineer-
Norman, Donald. ing history, 1830-1850. Baltimore:
1993 Things that make us smart: defend- Johns Hopkins Press.
ing human attributes in the age of Zillmannn, Dolf, and Peter Vorderer.
the machine. Cambridge, MA: Per- 2000 Media entertainment: the psycholo-
seus Books. gy of its appeal. Mahwah, NJ: Erl-
Paglia, Camille. baum.
1998 “Rock around the clock.” Forbes,
162: 274-277.
Polli, Andrea.
1998 “The ‘Live Live!’ project: public art
and technology.” Artists Using
Science and Technology, 5: 12-19.
Poor, Henry.
1970 History of the railroads and canals
of the United States of America:
1860. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
UP.
Pounds, Norman.
1985 An historical geography of Europe,
1800-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge
UP.
Priestley, John.
1964 Man and time. Garden City, NY:
Doubleday.
Rothstein, Edward.
1999 Looking at the transcontinental
railroad as the internet of 1869.
New York Times, 15668, p. A1.
Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. Recibido: 09/07/2009
1987 The railway journey: the industria- Reenviado: 21/09/2009
lization of time and space in the Aceptado: 30/09/2009
th19 century. San Francisco: Uni- Sometido a evaluación por pares anónimos
versity of California Press.
PASOS. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, 7(3). 2009 ISSN 1695-7121