Railroads, Industrial Railroads, Trolleys and Interurbans

Railroads were a dominant industry and means of transportation from the mid-nineteenth century through the late post-WWII era. Their significant effects on the landscape, settlement patterns and economy, and their physical remnants and lore are important aspects of geography, material culture and architectural history.



Infrastructure, including transportation systems, played an important role in the historical economic development of Ohio, as it did elsewhere. Types of transportation included rivers, trails, canals, roads and railroads. The use, construction and improvement of these transportation methods altered the pattern of settlement and farming. Settlers entered the area on the transportation routes that were available, and they preferred to live near a means of transportation. With easier access to markets, it benefitted the farmer to put more of his acreage under the plow, consequently increasing his income (Noble and Wilhelm 1995).

[to include:
  • Early railroads in Ohio - 1838
  • 1st boom in RR construction
  • 1852 canals begin loosing out
  • Peak about 1903
  • consolidation postwar ]

    Early railroad lines, like early roads, tended to radiate out from the principal population centers. They also ran north-south like the canals, but the newer systems tended to travel east-west. By 1860, there were four major east-west lines crossing the state, and nearly every substantially sized community had at least one rail connection. Like roads and canals before them, the railroad network influenced the future development of cities and towns (Knepper 1989).

    Beyond expanded market opportunities, railroads had many other effects. They provided thousands of construction jobs and opportunities for local labor such as train crews, depot agents, maintenance workers, and supervisory officials. The railroad's demand for iron and steel rails was a boon to Ohio's metal industry. By 1900, many Ohio towns had the railroad as the principal employer. The railroad was also a social phenomenon. Not only was it a link between the small town and the metropolis, it was a symbol of power, travel, speed and adventure (Knepper 1989). All industries in the county benefitted from the arrival of railroads. Railroads, like the canals, gave industries and farmers access to larger, outside markets.

    Railroad Character

    Types of Railroads

    Gauges of Railroad Track

    Gauges were not standardized until after the Civil War.

    Parts of Railroad Track

    Railroad Places

    Railroad Buildings

    [Selected Bibliography]

  • Way way up to "Geography"
  • Way up to "Transportation"
  • Up to "Transportation: An Overview of Early Historic Transportation Systems in Ohio"

  • You are at "Transportation: Railroads" (including Trolleys, Interurbans, Industrial Railroads)

  • Over to "Transportation Structures: Nomenclature"
  • Over to "Transportation Structures: Evolution/Chronology"
  • Over to Route Typologies, Part 1: Introduction and Outline of Lists
  • Over to Route Typologies, Part 2: Descriptive Lists
  • Over to Transportation Structures: Route Elements and Glossary (Route Typologies, Part 3)

  • Way over to "Barns"
  • Way over to "Architectural Locations"

    "Transp - Railroads.html" v1.0.1 - 10/25/02, 6/29/02
    Intrepid Historical Services - Kevin B. Coleman - Columbus, Ohio, USA
    (Adapted 06/28/02 in part from the Word Perfect document "I_Railroads"
    entitled "Railroads, Trolleys and Interurbans" Third Draft - December 23, 1998 - v 3.3