Cornelius Vanderbilt and Development of rail transportation
Nowadays it is difficult to realize the physical obstacles against which the railway pioneers pressed with what would now be regarded as inadequate equipment. There were difficulties from end to end: from high and steep mountains; from snows; from deserts where there was a scarcity of water, and from gorges and flats where there was an excess; difficulties from cold and heat; from a scarcity of timber and from obstructions of rock; difficulties in keeping a large force on a long line; from Indians; and from want of labor.
Many of these conditions were due to the physical environment and perhaps the group which can still be appreciated are those relating to the landscape although, even in this group, it is sometimes difficult to visualize the former appearance after a century of agriculture and mining.
When a railway is being laid down on the map two main considerations prevail -- to join important places in the shortest rail distance and to avoid undue expenditure on engineering works. The balance between these two dictates the route which is selected. In industrial countries, such as Britain, expenditure per mile was much greater than could have been contemplated by a young nation, such as the nineteenth-century United States, and so in the Old World the modifications to the landscape were greater (Lewis, 164).
Cornelius Vanderbilt, Nathan Appleton, and Erastus Corning all branched out from the successful conduct of one enterprise to the control of many through strategic stock ownership.
The best-known of this trio of general entrepreneurs is Vanderbilt, who amassed the largest fortune, but much of whose fame and wealth rest on his railroad activities following the Civil War. Never a pioneer in new industries, he had a keen sense of when to interest himself in a company, ...