When the Railroad Leaves Town
American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, vol. 1
Vol. 1, Eastern United States
Railroads once spread across the American landscape, radiating from towns like spokes on a wheel. They were the backbone of the municipal economy and essential to commercial and civic life. In thousands of communities, however, this remarkable era has ended. With technological innovation, the changing needs of industry, and rising competition from other modes of transportation, the nation’s railroads have eliminated more than 130,000 miles of routes—over half of their total mileage since 1916.
When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment considers the rise and fall of rail service in 64 communities in the eastern half of the U.S. distinguished by their notable railroad histories or unusual experiences with rail line abandonment. It tells the story of transportation providers struggling to survive in a changing economy only to surrender to the relentless forces of the marketplace. In many communities, the withdrawal of the railroad had unexpected consequences; in others, it forever altered the rhythm of daily life.
Using an interdisciplinary approach drawing upon the fields of history, geography, and urban planning, the book illuminates some of the dominant forces that led to the development of steam and electric railroads as well as the economic and political factors eventually accelerating their decline. Illustrated with maps and photographs depicting rail lines at their zenith as well as their abandoned remnants today, it provides a vivid portrait of an industrial saga that has touched the lives of millions of Americans. Prepared with the cooperation of more than 100 town and railroad historians, this book features places last served by carriers predominantly on the Atlantic side of an imaginary line that once separated America’s eastern and western railroad systems.
You may also like When the Railroad Leave Town, Volume 2.
Recommended Reading.… An accessible and pleasingly designed look at 64 communities in the eastern United States that grew up with, and then lost, railroad service.
Do we need another book on railroad abandonments? The answer is “Yes.” This book by Professor Schwieterman deals with the post-abandonment results, directed principally to land use. It is timely and unique.
When the Railroad Leaves Town is a meaningful addition to the intellectual capital and is an essential read for opinion leaders and decision makers focused on the economics of railroad abandonment. Schwieterman’s promised second volume, focusing on abandonments west of the Mississippi, should be an equally compelling read.
—Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics & Policy
This book is appropriately documented, sports excellent maps, and contains a variety of striking historic and contemporary images. All levels/collections.
A work of impressive and seminal scholarship, Professor Schweiterman’s informed and informative text is enhanced with the inclusion of maps and illustrations. When The Railroad Leaves Town: Volumes 1 & 2 is especially recommended for academic library American History, Social Issues, American Transportation Studies, and Urban-Planning reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Reflections on Twentieth-Century Railroad History
Eastern United States Communities
About the Author
Joseph P. Schwieterman is professor of public services management and director of The Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. He has published extensively on air, rail, and urban-planning issues and is a long-standing contributor to the Transportation Research Board, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences. He holds a master of science degree in transportation from Northwestern University and a doctoral degree in public policy studies from the University of Chicago. A native of Maria Stein, Ohio, Schwieterman is a member of the National Railway Historical Society and the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.