Society: 1830-1900 Railroads, East St. Louis, and the American Bottom

Flyers advertising the Nickel Plate Rail Road

Railroads became the lifeblood of East St. Louis beginning in the 1840s.  In this regard the American Bottom region was at the forefront of change in America.  Just as steam power opened the country's waterways to transportation, railroads made land travel faster than it had ever been.  Railroads opened America up as never before; people traveled across the land in great numbers, they moved to the edge of rural areas and further because train tracks offered them a link back to the cities;
Photograph of a Nickel Plate Dynamometer Car from the 1890s
goods and materials could reach formerly isolated places and the time to deliver them shortened; towns and cities thrived or suffered depending on the presence of rail transportation.  Cities and towns where railroads laid tracks often boomed into commercial transportation centers.  Rail transportation came in the midst of the industrial revolution, so not only did it offer a new fast and efficient means of transport, there were more goods to move along tracks.  East St. Louis played a significant role in the movement of goods and people across the country.
Early photograph of the Eads Bridge

RiverWeb offers you a glimpse at some of these developments.  You can follow the history of rail development in America and learn how East St. Louis fits in, you can learn about the construction of the Eads bridge and its importance to rail transportation, or you can trace the history of the Nickel Plate Rail Road, one of the many companies that laid tracks in East St. Louis.

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