Views are short interpretive historical presentations from materials in the Railroads collection. Each View is aimed a research question or problem and assembles information from multiple sources: documents, lists, records, orginal maps, and other historical sources. Rather than using traditional footnotes or citations, these Views contain direct links and references to relevant sources used in their assembly. Views are "assemblages" of data and interpretation and should be considered multimedia experiments in the presentation of digital history.
The first experience of the railroad for many Americans was a revelation. Passenger traffic developed quickly as the railroads extended their lines from city to city. Small towns became linked with the larger urban centers and Americans' increased mobility changed conceptions of time, space, distance, and identity.
Henry Adams, in The Education of Henry Adams, remarked, "The generation between 1865 and 1895 was already mortgaged to the railways, and no one knew it better than the generation itself." The railroads were a centripetal and centrifugal force, a kind of powerful vortex, in American society. Their reach into the lives of everyday Americans, was Henry Adams' chief concern. He could see that railroads were "but one active interest, to which all others were subservient, and which absorbed the energies of some sixty million people to the exclusion of every other force, real or imaginary." Railroad corporations employed thousands and their services spanned the continent, reshaping the economies and social relations in whole regions. For everyday Americans the railroad cut travel time and changed the spatial relationships in their lives.
This view uses Imageflow software to present galleries of images of the railroad. We include the full run of images in Porte Crayon's "Artists' Excursion on the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road" in Harper's Monthly, June 1859. And other collections of images for comparison and analysis. By Rebecca Wingo, Leslie Working, and William G. Thomas.
NET Radio Interview with William G. Thomas and Leslie Working explores the project goals and the ways railroads have been presented in history.