Railroads of the 1920s

1920s Railroad Timeline


Congress passes the Esch-Cummins Act, returning railroads to private ownership and outlining a series of railroad mergers as the start of a national transportation policy.


The number of railroad passengers carried reaches an all-time high, then begins a modest, decade-long decline.


The AFL-affiliated craft unions withdraw from service in a wage dispute. The strike ends for some after two months; others never return.


Railroad presidents meet in New York and create a series of "Shippers Advisory Boards" to initiate programs designed to increase efficiency.

Canada's main railways, except the Canadian Pacific, are merged into the government-controlled Canadian National Railways.


The first commercially successful diesel-electric locomotive, Central Railroad of New Jersey's Switcher No. 1000, enters service.

Armed with the latest technology and new theories about the construction of boilers and fireboxes, Lima Locomotive Works builds the "A-1," the first modern "Super Power" steam locomotive.

A. P. Randolph announces the formation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union for 12,000 Pullman employees and an early civil rights organization.


The railroad industry celebrates a century of service on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, later part of the New York Central.

Congress passes the Railway Labor Act, giving railroad employees the right to select union representation without fear of reprisals from management.


The first Centralized Traffic Control system goes into service-a great step forward in efficient train dispatching and railroad safety.


The collapse of the stock market signals the start of the Great Depression; railroad traffic drops immediately.