American History

Explore the development of the United States with this collection of articles about American history. Topics in this section include the American Revolution, the gold rush and the expansion of the West.

Topics to Explore

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Old Railroads

In the early 1800s, the United States witnessed the birth of the railroad industry and along with it, dramatic changes in American society and business. What was life like before and after the railroads?

Railroad Expansion

The railroad expansion of the 1800s changed America forever. By 1900, the people North America had settled a continent that previous generations had thought would take a thousand years to occupy.

Early Twentieth Century Railroads

The turn of the century brought a new wave of optimism and amazing new technologies. It was also a time of unprecedented expansion in the railroad industry -- until World War I arrived.

Railroads of the 1920s

Railroads of the 1920s reflected a time of uncertainty in the industry at the time. Technology greatly improved train transportation, but the Great Depression brought about a bust in the industry. Learn more about the railroads of the 1920s.

Donner Party

Donner Party, a group of 89 California-bound emigrants who suffered one of the starkest tragedies of the westward movement.

Modern Decline of Railroads

By the 1960s the lonesome whistle of the steam railroads was a thing of the past. The decline of railroads came about during the 1960s and 1970s as the automobile dominated transportation.

Railroads of the 1990s

Railroads of the 1990s explains the history of American railroads through the 1990s. Technological advancements have shaped the railroads of this decade. Learn about the history of railroads of the 1990s.

Famous Locomotives

Famous locomotives, such as the John Bull locomotive, have helped shape the history of American railroads. These trains are well-known to many railroad historians. Learn more about some famous locomotives.

Shortline Railroads

Shortline railroads were slowly abandoned as truck shipping became more accepted. Fortunately, smaller railroads are causing shortlines to become popular once again. Learn more about the history of shortline railroads.

The Fair of the Iron Horse

The Fair of the Iron Horse was a huge railroad exhibit that was held in 1927 just outside of Baltimore. It was meant to celebrate the success of the B&O railroad. Learn about the Fair of the Iron Horse.

Railroad Songs

Railroad songs reflect America's fascination with the railroad over the years. These songs celebrate the rich history of the American railroad. Learn more about some of the different railroad songs.

The Moffat Tunnel

The Moffat Tunnel is a six-mile tunnel that was built in the mountains of Colorado. It was constructed by the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad in 1927. Learn more about the Moffat Tunnel.

Interurban Railway Decline

Interurban railway decline started in the late 1920s and rapidly increased in the 1930s. Abandonments averaged 650 miles per year during the 1930s. Learn about the causes on interurban railway decline.

The City of San Francisco Wreck

The City of San Francisco wreck occurred when someone deliberately derailed a train in 1939. A number of suspects were rounded up, but nobody was ever charged with the crime. Learn about the City of San Francisco wreck.

Union Terminal

The Union Terminal in Cincinnati opened on March 31, 1933, during the Depression. This magnificent building featured a 116-foot-high semicircular dome clad in Indiana limestone. Learn more about the Cincinnati Union Terminal in this section.

The Railroad Retirement Board

The Railroad Retirement Board was created in order to give railroad workers a separate pension. The pension was meant to be a separate, federally administered pension. Learn about the Railroad Retirement Board.

The Cold War Railroad

The Cold War railroad was constructed by the Russian government during the height of the Cold War. Trade embargoes limited the number of locomotives the government was able to attain. Learn more about the Cold War railroad.

Steam Versus Diesel

The steam versus diesel debate was one that lasted for 20 heated years as technology advanced. The debate centered on the concept of tradition versus technology. Learn more about the steam versus diesel debate.

The Chicago Railroad Fair

The Chicago railroad fair celebrated the centennial of railroading's arrival in Chicago. The fair was a testimony to the place railroads held in the American lifestyle. Learn more about the Chicago railroad fair of 1934.

Experimental Trains

Experimental trains were tested and were quickly dropped due to their size and unreliability. The cramped accommodations contributed to the relatively low impact these trains made when they were introduced. Learn more about some of the experimental trains.

Railroad Super-engines

Railroad super-engines were produced in the mid-1990s with the same size but more power than standard locomotives. They were produced by General Motors and General Electric, the two largest engine manufacturers. Learn about railroad super-engines.

Railroad Technology

Railroad technology has greatly changed the way in which railroads conduct business. Computers have automated much of what used to be done by the work of several people. Learn about some of the developments in railroad technology.

Railroad Test

When you hop on a train, you assume that the wrecks and accidents of the old railroads are a thing of the past. How do engineers determine if a railroad is safe?

The Union Pacific Railroad

The Union Pacific railroad almost joined with the Southern Pacific lines in 1909. Unfortunately, the man behind this deal never saw his dream realized. Learn about the Union Pacific railroad in this section.

Railroads During the Depression

The economy had crashed. The nation was still recovering from World War I, and World War II was on the way. How did the railroad industry manage to make it through the Great Depression?