What's Coming Down the Line? The Railroad in the American Mind
A Road Scholar Program by Mike Matejka
Dec 7, 2023
Open to the public
Illinois is the nation’s railroad cross-roads. This not only shaped the state’s economy and communities but created an industry with a cultural allure. The speeding locomotive was a real-life representation of progress, and people gathered trackside to marvel at the big city opulence represented by an Illinois-built Pullman car.
Railroads not only accelerated Illinois’ economic development and population growth, but also became icons that influenced American culture. The national land-based transportation network radically changed the economy, how people traveled, and how corporate structure evolved. Rail workers were seen as heroic as they faced an extremely dangerous occupation. The railroad became a cultural symbol, reflected in advertising, cinema and children’s toys.
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