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Railroads for Michigan

Graydon M. Meints
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 640
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  • Book Info
    Railroads for Michigan
    Book Description:

    In this thoroughly researched history, Graydon Meints tells the fascinating story of the railroad's arrival and development in Michigan. An engaging and accessible text, the book describes the long-awaited and often-troubled advent of the railroad in the state, the building of which shifted from private to public efforts and back again, amid tumultuous social, business, and political developments. The railroad would come to play a role in almost every critical event in Michigan's history, including the Civil War, the Granger Movement, and the Gilded Age, before beginning to wane following the arrival of the automobile, the Interstate Commerce Commission, World War I, and the Great Depression. A brief growth spurt during World War II was short-lived, and it was followed by the collapse of several major railroads and the formation of Amtrak and Conrail. Looking ahead to the future of the railroad in the Great Lakes region, Meints assesses the strengths and shortcomings of this revolutionary invention. With careful attention to the personal impact of the railroad, Meints recognizes in brief biographies the many men and women responsible for the development and operation of Michigan railroads, as well as the triumphs, tragedies, and spaces that shaped their lives and work.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-374-6
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. CHAPTER ONE The Pioneer Years, 1830–1855
    (pp. 1-46)

    “I have no hesitation to say that it would be to the advantage of Government to remove every inhabitant of the Territory, pay for the improvements and reduce them to ashes…. From my observation the Territory appear[s] to be not worth defending and merely a den for Indians and traitors. The banks of the Detroit River are handsome, but nine-tenths of the land in the Territory is unfit for cultivation.” General Duncan McArthur wrote his candid opinion to William Woodbridge in late 1814. President James Madison had offered Woodbridge the post of secretary of the Michigan Territory. Then thirty-four years...

  4. CHAPTER TWO The Railroads Come of Age, 1855–1875
    (pp. 47-130)

    By the middle of the nineteenth century the railroad was no longer a source of wonder or even a novelty. As more people rode trains, the railroad entered the flow of usual American life. This could not have been otherwise since no other form of land conveyance provided such speed, convenience, and affordability. There was no other technology on the horizon that matched it. Nor was it any longer so much a pioneering business. Railroads began to develop standardized methods of operations and types of equipment and, most important, had created an ideal method of financing. The design of trackwork...

  5. CHAPTER THREE The Explosive Years, 1875–1897
    (pp. 131-260)

    The booming prosperity that followed the end of the Civil War was brought to an abrupt stop by the financial panic of 1873. If one event has to be named as triggering the depression that followed, it was the collapse of the Philadelphia banking house of Jay Cooke on 18 September 1873. The effects rippled quickly through the country and soon grew into the most severe depression in the nation’s history. The Civil War furnished new stimuli to the Industrial Revolution so that by the war’s end the nation’s industrialists, now wealthy from the war effort, were plowing money back...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR The Golden Years, 1897–1920
    (pp. 261-362)

    Despite the severity of the short depression following the panic of 1895, the ebullience that preceded it could not be kept down for long and in fact soon reasserted itself. President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat with law-and-order attitudes who helped to break the Pullman strike in 1894, was blamed for the financial panic. The voters replaced him in 1896 with Republican William McKinley. Prosperity returned, thanks in part to the Spanish-American War and in part because industries began to renew their aggressive development of foreign markets. In September 1901, less than a year into his second term, Cleveland was assassinated...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE The Roaring Twenties, the Depression, and World War II, 1920–1945
    (pp. 363-408)

    The “Roaring Twenties” of the 1920s and the “Great Depression” of the 1930s aptly describe the two decades following World War I. That these twenty years changed American society completely is an understatement. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which, respectively, instituted prohibition and granted the vote to women, were two grand experiments to improve American society. In its trail Prohibition brought widespread smuggling, a new cottage industry to meet the increased demand for alcohol, a disregard for the law, and a guarantee of profits to organized crime. Universal suffrage had far more benign effects, although it was...

  8. CHAPTER SIX The Waning Years, 1945–1976
    (pp. 409-440)

    World War II changed American society profoundly. The automobile became a necessity. A new house in the suburbs, new kinds of businesses, and the increased desire for higher education all characterized the postwar years, but are outside the scope of this work. The railroads turned to an overhaul of their physical plant after years of wartime stress. They designed new and more powerful higher-speed steam locomotives. They ordered new freight cars of all varieties and also a large fleet of new passenger cars. Between 1948 and 1953 the railroads spent more than $1 billion annually, about three-quarters of it for...

  9. CHAPTER SEVEN The Return of the Rails, 1976–2000
    (pp. 441-474)

    When the nation’s bicentennial opened in 1976, the future of the American railroad business could not have seemed gloomier. The litter of bankrupt roads with historic names was everywhere. In Michigan the Ann Arbor; the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific; and Penn Central were in the bankruptcy courts. The Rock Island and the reincarnated Erie and a good many other eastern roads were at the edge of collapse. Penn Central, the merger that brought together archrivals the Pennsylvania and the New York Central as a way to solve their problems, which then promptly fell into bankruptcy, was the most visible...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 475-478)

    This narrative relates the beginnings, growth, and maturity of a vital and fascinating Michigan industry that extends over nearly two centuries. I began writing this near the beginning of the new millennium, and with each passing year it becomes clearer that Michigan’s railroads have played an important, even critical, role in the state’s development, in a process that began before Michigan became a state and extended for nearly the next 100 years. For whatever reason, the railroad’s place in Michigan’s growth is sometimes ignored, occasionally misunderstood, and often underestimated. But plainly put, Michigan would not and could not have developed...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 479-490)
  12. Index
    (pp. 491-523)