Railroads Effect Chicago

The nation network of railroads laid from 1848 through the Civil War, and
the steam powered locomotives that traversed them, supplied Chicago with
vast new markets, resources, and people who quickly transformed it from a
quiet Frontier village into a highly populated industrial powerhouse. The

Chicago of 1830 was hardly a city at all. Fort Dearborn located near the
fork of what is now the Chicago River was bogged down with mud and
tormented by disease and Indian wars. By the 1833 when the city was
incorporated, a warehouse, dry good's store, and hotel had all been built.

William B. Ogden, the first mayor of Chicago was also the first to attempt
to give Chicago a railroad. He chartered the Galena and Chicago Railroad
in 1836, but it collapsed with the economic disaster of 1837 (Berger 3).

Ogden tried again in 1846, and on October 22, 1848 Chicago's first
locomotive, "Pioneer", was loaded onto the tracks (Casey, Douglas 59). In
retrospect, "Pioneer" turned out to be a fitting name for the city's first
train, because by 1866 there were more than forty railroads serving

Chicago and the city's population had skyrocketed to just under 300,000.

There were many problems that needed to be resolved starting in the 1830s,
before a railroad could become a versatile enough to be a cost effective
carrier of freight and people. The nation's original tracks had been
built mainly of wood, although cheaper than iron, it was quickly decided
that iron's durability was well worth the extra cost. Another development
was the placement of ballas, or pebbles, that covered the bottom of the
tracks and added weight and stability along with drainage to the tracks.

Also, the trains were known to collide head on into grazing animals. The
problem lay in how to keep the animal from being pulled under the train
and causing it to derail. This answer came with the placement of a hood
plate on the front of the locomotive so that whatever hit the train would
be pushed harmlessly in front of it and could later be cleared without
endangering the train. Other major safety issues found solutions with the
utilization of lights and horns (Gordon 27-33). By 1848, when Chicago was
ready to start building railroads, the technology had already been
developed enough to conduct real business.

Charters for railroads leading to Chicago soon began to pour in.

After the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was completed shortly after

1853, it merged with the Chicago and Northwestern Railway which began its
long march to Greenbay WI. Soon came the Illinois Central, the Chicago

Rock Island and Pacific, and the Chicago Burlington and Quincy. Many more
came and connected Chicago to nearly every part of the US (Gordon 151).

If one looked at a map of all the major trunk lines that stretched over
the United States, he would see "a wheel with Chicago as the hub" (Berger

22). The busy development of all these new railroads furnished the
developing Chicago with huge markets, to both the east and the west.

Chicago's destiny as center of industry was set, but it would still take
some time for Chicago to take advantage of its potential.

The first of the markets was the ever-expanding frontier with its
agricultural surplus that lay to the west and north of Chicago. In the
frontier, a town's distance from a railroad determined what its cost for
trade and travel would be. To minimize these costs, new cities and farms
popped up very close to the railroads (Martin 81). Train loads of New

Englanders came to these new villages in search of the free homesteads
that they saw in newspaper advertisements and pamphlets back home. These
men and women became the farmers who ended up producing surplus crops
which they desired to sell (Gordon 35). According to Mayer, as they
looked for their most profitable course of action, their goal was a
destination with the most choices of routes, the highest competition, and
therefore the lowest rates (Growth 122). With connections to many of the
nation's railways, Chicago marked the spot to the farmers of the West.

Chicago was the perfect outlet to sell their heavy and relatively
inexpensive crops. The railroads in Chicago had laid the foundation for
its success limited only to the ingenuity of the capitalistic market.

To the east lay Chicago's second market, New England. By the

1850s, this region was industrialized and was producing vast quantities of
manufactured goods. Facing much the same dilemma as the West, New England
realized that Chicago was a perfect spot to export its goods.