During the period before the American civil war, there was a challenge in the movement of people from one region to another. Because United States was still achieving economic development, transport was necessary to enhance economic growth. This was achieved through the expansion of the railway system. The government supported railway expansion through funding and coordination of several railway roads.
The railway was the most important milestone because it enabled the movement of goods and people within the country.1 Railway lines also had a wide coverage on the whole country. This was more advantageous to the general population unlike canals which provided transport in areas close to the water bodies.2 This was also enhanced by the fact that railways were more and therefore enhanced quick transport unlike water transport which was less flexible. Canals were also few and this implied that they covered limited distances.
Railway transport therefore has played a great role in the promotion of economic development in the United States. The wide railway coverage implied that it provided transport for farm goods to the market and to the industries for processing into refined products.3 This was further enhanced by it being cheaper compared to ships and boats which provided a means of water transport only. The farmers therefore were able to afford the costs and industries accessed farm produce and also coal that was used as a source of energy.
In conclusion, railway transport had a great role to play in the development and promotion of economic growth of the United States before the civil war. This was based on the fact that it had a wider coverage and therefore gave people a cheap source of transport and enhanced economic growth.
Council for Economic Education.“Economic Growth in the United States 1870-1900”. Understanding Economics in U.S. http://ushistory.councilforeconed.org/visuals/lesson26_visuals.pdf (accessed August 12, 2011).
Gordon Robert, U.S. Economic Growth since 1870: One Big Wave. USA: University Press, 2003.
John Steele. An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power. USA: Chicago, 2004.