What industries evolved from the railroad industry?

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pnrjulius eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "evolved from", but the railroad industry was a keystone in the development of industrialization around the world. Railroads allowed reliable, rapid transportation of heavy machinery on land, where previously such shipping was only possible over water (and usually only in very deep water such as oceans, rather than lakes or rivers).

The Transcontinental Railroad was particularly important, as before that point the only way to cross between the coasts of the United States was to either brave a long, dangerous land trek without roads (such as the Oregon Trail), or ride in sea ships all the way around the horn of South America. (The Panama Canal would not be finished until 1914; it had a similarly huge impact on transcontinental shipping.)

Railroads made people much more mobile, and towns often sprung up in previously uninhabited areas that were turned into train stops. The need for heavy infrastructure investment in railroads changed the role of government and corporations in the economy, presaging the modern system of multinational corporations and government-financed investment.

Some historians in fact argue that the pace of economic development, particularly in the Western United States, was basically determined by the pace of railroad construction; this is controversial, however, and other historians argue that conventional roads could have done most of the job.

Railroads also created an incentive to develop new technologies, such as more efficient steel production, more powerful internal combustion engines (ultimately leading to the high-power diesel engines used in most US locomotives today), and even improved clocks, because precisely synchronized timekeeping across different regions became necessary. The current time zone system would not exist were it not for the need to synchronize train schedules across different cities.