Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/303

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JULY, 1883.


GEORGE STEPHENSON, in October, 1829, made his memorable journey in the Rocket over the Railhill trial course; the next year the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened, and soon every civilized nation adopted the new method of locomotion. In the United States a variety of circumstances have concurred to make the railways the most extensive, the most economical in working, and the most influential in the world. The immense area of the country, the small value of most of the land required for the roads, the easy grades marked out by the great water-courses of the continent, and the broad prairie-sweeps, conjoined with the ease and cheapness of obtaining charters, make American railroads but one third as costly in construction as those of Great Britain and the European Continent, and much less expensive in operation. On this side of the Atlantic railways are built with embankments, culverts, bridges, and tunnels, much less elaborate and substantial than those of England and France. The requirement here is not the best but usually the cheapest thing that will serve. This is one of the reasons among others why American freight charges are the lowest in the world. In 1881 the average cost of moving a ton of freight a mile was 1·66 cent in France, 1·5 cent in Belgium, and but 0·9 cent in the United States. The railways of the Union are now 114,000 miles in extent, and construction proceeds at the rate of thirty miles a day. The aggregate capital of the lines is 86,500,000,000, one eighth the valuation of all kinds of property in the country, according to the best estimates.

Less than fifty years ago, within the clear recollection of men now living who were then actively engaged in business, the great problem was, how soon the country could be provided with railroads. Far-