Skip to main content

American Railroads

Second Edition

2d edition
Few scenes capture the American experience so eloquently as that of a lonely train chugging across the vastness of the Great Plains, or snaking through tortuous high mountain passes. Although this vision was eclipsed for a time by the rise of air travel and trucking, railroads have enjoyed a rebirth in recent years as profitable freight carriers.

A fascinating account of the rise, decline, and rebirth of railroads in the United States, John F. Stover’s American Railroads traces their history from the first lines that helped eastern seaports capture western markets to today’s newly revitalized industry. Stover describes the growth of the railroads’ monopoly, with the consequent need for state and federal regulations; relates the vital part played by the railroads during the Civil War and the two World Wars; and charts the railroads’ decline due to the advent of air travel and trucking during the 1950s.

In two new chapters, Stover recounts the remarkable recovery of the railroads, along with other pivotal events of the industry’s recent history. During the 1960s declining passenger traffic and excessive federal regulation led to the federally-financed creation of Amtrak to revive passenger service and Conrail to provide freight service on bankrupt northeastern railroads. The real savior for the railroads, though, proved to be the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which brought prosperity to rail freight carriers by substantially deregulating the industry. By 1995, renewed railroad freight traffic had reached nearly twice its former peak in 1944.

Bringing both a seasoned eye and new insights to bear on one of the most American of industries, Stover has produced the definitive history of railroads in the United States.

324 pages | 24 halftones, 5 maps, 9 tables | 5-1/4 x 8 | © 1961, 1997

The Chicago History of American Civilization

History: American History

Transportation: Railroad

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Editor’s Foreword to the Second Edition
Editor’s Foreword to the First Edition
1: "A Perfect System of Roads and Canals"
2: First Rails
3: Early Maturity: Expansion and War
4: The Rails Move West
5: Corruption, Discrimination, and Regulation
6: Uniformity and Consolidation
7: Railroads at War
8: Railroads in Decline after World War I
9: Troubles in the 1960s and 1970s
10: The Staggers Rail Act of 1980 Brings Prosperity and Many Mergers
Important Dates
Suggested Reading

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press