The Industrialization of


by Michael Frye


 This is a painting by the industrial artist Charles Sheeler. In it Sheeler depicts factories, canals, and the railroad.  The position of the canal and the railroads in the forefront indicate that these forms of transportation  were critical in the operation of factories, both in bringing in resources and shipping out finished products. The artist depicts the importance of the rail ways running directly beside the factories. With the painting of both a canal and a train yard, it indicates that the painter is depicting factories either late in the l9th century or early in the 20th century.
Painting courtesy of Mark Harden.

                                                     Leading to Industrialization

The railroads were critical in the industrialization of the city of Youngstown. After local natural resources were exhausted, the method used to bring resources to iron ore plants were by way of the canals. As railroad tracks were laid and became more prevalent, railroads replaced canals as the favored mode of transportation since it was quicker than water travel and canals often froze in the winter.  In addition, the railroads provided employment to many of the citizens of Youngstown.  The jobs paid as much as the steel mills, and the work was not nearly as difficult or as dangerous.  With an increase in productivity, and a reduction of railway passengers, railroads began to see a decline.  With the beginning of the Federal Highway system, trucks began to replace railroads as the favored choice of transportation.  Trucks could move raw materials and finished products easier from point to point.  As railroads began to decline, they began to lay off employees.  With the closing of the steel mills in the Youngstown area, the railroads in Youngstown virtually began to cease to operate also.

               A map of railroad lines through the west end of the Brier Hill works

 This map shows how important the railroads were in the operating of the steel mills.  Not only did the railroad run along side of the plants, but also through the plant delivering raw materials and carrying out finished products.


                        The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad

The Pennsylvania Railroad was established in 1846.  At its peak in 1920 the company had 7,667 locomotives in operation. However, by 1945 the number of locomotives in operation had reduced to 4,718.  The reason for the reduction was increased productivity due to innovations, and the lack of passenger traffic.  In 1946, for the first time in the company's 100 year history, the company failed to earn a profit and to pay dividends to it's shareholders.

These images are of  locomotives on the Pennsylvania Railroad where my grandfather worked in Youngstown, OH, taken sometime between 1950 and 1965.

In 1968 the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with the New York Central Railroad to form the Penn Central Railroad company, the largest merger in U. S. history.  However, within 2 1/2 years, the newly formed Penn Central Railroad filed for bankruptcy protection, which at the time was the largest corporate bankruptcy in the nation's history. The railroad was turned over to Conrail, a company subsidized by the federal government to bail out the railroads, and the passenger routes were turned over to Amtrak. Penn Central was released from bankruptcy in October of 1978 and continues to operate a business on its own in real estate, hotels, pipelines, and oil companies.  The Railroad companies at one time employed over 2 million employees, but have seen a continuing decline since the 1930's.


                        Encyclopedia of North American Railroading:
                        150 Years of railroading in the United States and Canada
                        Freeman Hubbard
                        McGraw-Hill Book Company. New York. 1981

                        Encyclopedia of American Business
                        History and Biography:  Railroads in the Age of Regulation
                        Keith L. Bryant, Jr. Editor. Texas A & M University
                        Bruccoli Clark Larman, Inc.
                        Facts on File Publications
                        New York     Oxford, England


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