|By Andrew J. Russell (1830-1902), photographer - National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/gosp/index.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=708221|
The earliest railroads were relatively short and used primarily for hauling coal and other freight. The first railroad considered to be a "common carrier" was the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that was chartered on February 28, 1827, and the first section of the railroad began operation in 1830. As it states in Wikipedia: Baltimore and Ohio Railroad:
It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal (which served New York City) and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which would have connected Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. At first this railroad was located entirely in the state of Maryland, with an original line built from the port of Baltimore west to Sandy Hook.By 1854 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was earning $2.7 million a year with 19 million passenger miles. An interesting sidelight since we are now living in Maryland is that Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, broke ground for the railroad. We have visited the Carrollton House here in Annapolis, Maryland and we travel to Washington, D.C. from the New Carrollton Metro Station.
The B&O's right of way was also used by the United States government to build the first experimental telegraph line in America.
Once railroads got started, the proliferated at a furious pace. The rail lines became the major connecting influence for travel and movement with the United States. By 1869, the first transcontinental railroad across the United States was completed by the symbolic "golden spike" that forever changed the way people would view crossing the plains or traveling across the entire continent.
There is an interactive website showing the entire world railroad system called OpenRailwayMap.org. Here is a screenshot of North America from the website.
You may wish to look at the records of the railroad companies if you suspect that any of your ancestors worked for the railroads. Here are some links to railroad resources. Some of these links have long lists of additional record sources.
- US Migration Railroads
- Locating Railroad Employee Records
- U.S., Railroad Retirement Pension Index, 1934-1987
- Railroad Retirement Board Records
- Researching Old Railroads and Railway Records
- Railroad Employees
There are many more sources. I suggest searching for records using the name of the railroads near your ancestors' location.
Case #1: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/08/case-studies-in-american-migration-part.html
Case #2: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/08/case-studies-in-american-migration-part_26.html
Case #3: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/08/case-studies-in-american-migration-part_30.html
Case #4: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/09/case-studies-in-american-migration-part.html
Case #5: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2018/09/case-studies-in-american-migration-part_12.html