The Federal government promoted development in the Northwest Pacific area by chartering the railroad companies and granting them land grants. There were sixty railroads that received various land grants from the government. The land given by the government was over 130 thousand acres. The cost of building the railroad varied from $ 21,000 to $ 30,000 (Raugust, 2009). For each mile of land that the company received they would sell on cash or credit. This sale would therefore finance the construction of the railway. The companies would therefore own the land at no cost and sell it to finance its costs. The government hoped that the land grants to the rail companies would help in development in the country trickling down to the farmers and traders. The first transcontinental railroad construction began in the 1860’s. The railroad was constructed by the Oregon and California Railroad Company. It was completed by the Southern Pacific Company which acquired the Oregon Company.
The railway created a transport system that was nationwide. It caused great industrial revolution of the West region. The construction was done with the help of the Chinese who graded the railroad. During this time the railroad construction was conducted with a furious pace. Before the railroad construction the area concentrated on the trade of fur, fisheries and agriculture. At this time the great wealth of the Pacific Northwest was undiscovered. The timber that was in the interior regions of Oregon, Washington and Idaho was not being traded in. Only the trees that were near the rivers and were easy to transport were being cut down and sold.
The coalfields of the Cascades and mineral wealth in the Idaho region were also undiscovered. The arid regions were also not being used for agriculture. The transcontinental railroad construction in the Pacific Northwest was an important event in the region’s history. There were global trading networks from the 1790’s. There were British vessels that transported sea otter pelts to China and California had high demand for lumber. Despite all this these developments in the world the area was isolated and could not participate fully in the global economic trading. The people were aware that there were resources that were hugely unexploited. Other regions were providing goods that the region could offer yet trade in area was restricted due to accessibility and transport issues. The building of the railroad in North America therefore affected the economy positively between in the years 1865 to 1914. It set the pace for industrialisation.
The railroad helped in transportation of goods to other areas raising the level of economic engagement with other countries. The railroad rates allowed the timber industry of the Northwest pacific to compete with the timber of the great lakes and south. The logging industry particularly benefited greatly. The explorers had noted the expansive forestry in the area. The California gold rush created a high demand for wood. In 1880’s Washington was the 31st in the territory in timber production. However in the next ten years it had risen to the 5th position. Its output had increased by eight times. From the period 1905 to 1930 it was the leading timber producer. Another important point was that the forests that were around the Great Lakes began to get depleted.
The timber resources near the water banks were no longer available. This was due to the consistent harvesting of timber for decades. The lumber companies had to utilize the railroad technology to penetrate in the forests. Lumber industry became a large-scale business enterprise. The railroad companies themselves were huge consumers of the timber products. As the railroad was being constructed from 1890 and 1900s, there was a huge local demand for timber for constructing stations and other trackside buildings. About 25% of the annual timber produced during the period was used for building fences, stations, bridges and railroad ties. The railroad tracks were laid on wooden ties. The gullies and canyons were bridged by big timber trestles. The trains also used the wood as fuel. There were also steam locomotives that used the wood as fuel. They were used to drag the fallen trees using long wire cables so that they placed on the railroad cars to be taken to the mill (Engemen, 2005).
The mills were many and very huge. They were powered by the steam from burning the refuse such as sawdust, trimmings and bark. The products were transported to the East and Midwest through the railroad. The completion of the railroad in 1884 through the baker city made the loggers eye several areas. In 1911 there was a railroad built in western Oregon covering the areas of Garibaldi, Cochran and Tillsmook. In 1910 there was a railroad that was built passing through the Sumpter Valley extending to the Prairie City. The railroad enabled the loggers to penetrate inside the forests accessing more trees than ever before. The long length of the wood and thickness of the trees made transportation of the logs to the mills through the rivers difficult especially through the mud and the snow in the winter season. This mode of transport through rivers and canals was limiting. Reaching the market areas with no water proved to be a difficult process. With the construction of the railway the time taken to transport materials was too long. The construction of the railroad reduced the time taken in transportation. This helped to cut opportunity costs.
The issue of transport time taken was an important factor in the transportation of agricultural products. Without the railroad, transport costs for these agricultural products would have doubled. It is worth noting that prior to the railroad construction the trading centres, manufacturing centres, towns and the areas of industry were tied or had to be located to water sources such as rivers, lakes or oceans. Water was the predominant mode of transport. To enable access to an area with no water source meant a canal had to be constructed. With railroads, when accessing a new area, there would be obstacles but with the construction of tunnels and bridges, it was much easier than constructing canals (World Lingo Editors, 2009). The railroad did not have this limitation. The railroad enabled sellers to sell their products in distant markets. With railroad logging the railway companies were indeed freed from the geographical limitations of rivers. The loggers had become quite innovative in using narrow river streams to transport timber when there were no railroads. The railroad also made it possible for certain species of wood to be sold. There were varieties of wood that could not be transported by rivers since they were not buoyant. These species of trees were unmarketable and the lumbermen did not regard them highly (Manikko, 2005).
The equipment that was used for railroad transport was steam-powered and capital intensive. The lumbermen had to transport large volumes of timber so as to get good profit from their investments. This increased the level of timber trade in the region. There were companies that were able to take advantage of the economies of scale. The forest companies recognized they had to practice sustainable forestry. Instead of them harvesting trees and migrating to other tracts of land they choose to harvest trees as they grow trees in other already harvested areas of land. This came to be known as tree farming. The railroad helped create demand and accessibility for timber that continues till now. By the 1930, the supply of timber was restricted. In fact the demand for it also went down since the population now wanted brick and concrete. However there was high demand for pulpwood and chemical wood. The type and quantity of timber to be harvested was different. Younger trees could be harvested to produce the timber products in demand. There were technological innovations such as power chain saws in the 1930’s that mechanized the harvesting of timber. Even now the forest industry is still a very important industry in the America. There is continuous demand for timber products and the only way for the industry to survive is to have sustainable forestry practices. In 1910 Washington was the highest producer of timber. The timber industry had employed so many workers. There were large sawmills that were constructed to harvest the wood. There were many town settlements around the logging locations. There were about three hundred sawmills in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho around this time (Raugust, 2009).
Wealthy businessmen such as Frank Weyerhaeuser purchased land and incorporated companies to harvest the timber. The primary destination for the harvested timber was outside markets. The railroad constructed spurred economic development in several other ways. Prior to the railroad system the movement of people and goods was difficult. It was also slow and difficult. Most goods were produced at a small scale therefore the product prices were very high. The federal land grants helped in constructing an efficient railroad system that connected the east and unexplored west. Farmers could now locate their manufacturing plants at any location and be able to transport their finished products to the market areas. The railroad construction therefore accelerated population shifts, business and agriculture. As the rail road construction was conducted across the United States there emerged industrial cities where the railroad was passing through. Many people moved from the Northeast to the Midwest. There were new migrants coming to the area from East and Europe. The area experienced a population boom. There were many people who travelled from the east to the west to take advantage of the business opportunities such as cheap land, gold, new businesses and more. The area now had over 2 million people residing there. Businessmen from other regions invested heavily and settled in the area. To feed these populations there was demand for food so agricultural production increased in these areas. Over 25 million migrants entered the USA. The population growth assisted in industrialization in two ways. It increased the number of consumers creating large markets for the products and services. The population growth secondly provided the workers needed to work in the factories and new businesses.
Timber in abundance provided the material for construction of houses and wooden products. The businessmen realized the opportunities to increase exports to the rest of the world. The people were optimistic the economy would pick up due to the railroad and it proved to be true. The railroad companies also played an important role in economy development (CSPN, 2010). They built towns at strategic locations and they advertised the area through flyers and pamphlets in the Eastern States and Europe. They even hired agents to aggressively advertise emigration to the area. These companies made enormous profits. They sold land to the people coming in the area and also charged them railroad fare to be transported to the region. As the owners of huge tracts of land they regarded the forests as private property and were careful to conserve the timber resources. The companies transported machinery to the Northwest to help them in cutting down the trees.
They also transported workers to the area to work in construction. They reduced the costs of transportation of the timber from the forest to the mills and to the Eastern states. The rates were set at low and affordable prices. These companies were also highly effective in their work structures and policies. They had a corporate structure and they employed managers, engineers, conductors, support staff and laborers.
These structures were borrowed from the military. These were implemented by the men who had participated in the Civil War. They were the first companies to have central and regional divisions for sales, passenger, legal divisions and freight. Due to these improvements in efficiency the rates came down by half in the years 1865 to 1924 (Durham, 1999).
The railroad companies were private companies that were market driven with a vision of getting larger markets and growth. These qualities helped in fostering competition. The railroad companies went through years of great boom. There were splits and consolidations. The major companies were Great Northern, Central Pacific and the Union Pacific. Many of these companies merged and in 1917 many of them were taken over by the government. In the agriculture sector, the farmers purchased land from the railroad or other land owners since the rail company had been granted large tracts of land. The farmers could get loans from the rail company and pay for the land in manageable installments. Once the farmers had harvested their crops, they used railroad transport to transport their produce to other outside markets.
The dealers of precious metals were also dependent on the railroad to transport their goods to distant markets. With the railroad there was investment in production methods. There were machines used in the timber industry and also in the manufacturing companies. There were many workers hired to work in the factories. The improvement in technology helped reduce the prices of goods. The people now had higher purchasing power which again worked to raise the sales of goods and services. The Northwest had mineral resources and rich natural resources. The minerals were used to produce steel which played a big role in the industrialization process. The steel was used to construct machines, bridges, automobiles, skyscrapers and railway tracks. The steel companies were very interested in the railroads being profitable as they had invested heavily in these companies. As time passed on, the producers of steel transported the highest weight in freight through railroads.
There were other valuable minerals in the region such as copper, silver and petroleum. The petroleum was important as the automobiles started being used widely in the 1900’s. The water supply was used to power the industrial machines. There was an increase in distribution, communication and sales during this period. In the late 1800’s the railroad distance increased from 14,000Km to 320,000Km in the 1900’s (Sherman, 2004). The workers put railway tracks from Central Pacific to the Union Pacific railroads in Utah such that the whole country was fully interconnected with a railroad system. These railroads made transport ion of minerals and manufactured materials easier and faster.
There was also improved sales methods and advertising. The big businesses sent salespeople all over the region to promote their products.
Companies had catalogues to promote their products. The railroads replaced the stagecoaches in delivery of mail. There were also banking and investment in the areas. As the companies made profits the people wanted to invest in the companies and share in the profits. The banks were there to give loans to the businesses to enable them to expand their business operations. There was also an increase of monopolies in the region and it brought various advantages.
The government did not really regulate business in the 1800’s. The monopolies worked hard to eliminate competition. The prices of goods and services were steady which worked well for the consumers. There were adverse effects of monopolies at that time however the market stabilized. As shown in the various examples the railroad was a key element in the development of the region. It catalyzed development and is still used as a major transport medium for the transportation of timber. The area engaged in international trade like never before in its history.
Sherman, G (2004). Conquest and Catastrophe: The triumph and tragedy of the Great Northern
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Durham, R (1999). Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads. Chicago: Aurburn
CSPN (2010). Lesson Fourteen: Industrialization, Technology, and Environment in Washington .
Retrieved from: http://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn
Engemen, H. (2005) Subtopic : Revival Styles, Highway Alignment: 1890-1940: The Timber
Industry Climax.. Retrieved from: http://www.ohs.org/education
Manikko, N(2005) Forestry industry. AmericanBusiness.Org.
Raugust, D (2009). The Economic Development of the West Federal Economic Assistance,
Land Grants, Railroads, Homesteads. New York: Bantam Books
World Lingo (2009). History of rail transport in North America
Retrieved from: http://www.worldlingo.com