Importance of a Railroad Job in the Rural South : LUSENET : Southern Railway : One Thread

Was a Southerner with a job on the railroad truly a "king?" Besides a great salary and benefits package, what was the impact of the railroad on the rural South?

-- J. K. Barker, Jr. (, June 25, 1998



Two good resources to check.

1. Southern Railway's Spencer Shops. In addition to talking about the shops, the book also covers the impact SR had on the town and its inhabitants. It also demonstrates what can happen when a town becomes dependent on one major employer such as Spencer found itself when the shops began to be scaled back and shut down.

2. The Floods of 1916 - How the Southern Railway responded to an Emergency. This book is a reprint of a report prepared in the years following the floods of 1916 and shows how rural areas of that time that were served by railroads depended on the railroad for their livlihood.

There are also serveral issues of TIES that showcase SR service to small towns and the type of business that was done, especially the Less-Than-Carload (LCL) type, equivalent to today's Less-Than-truckload business that is handled by companies such as Yellow Freight Lines or Overnite. I can give you some specific issue numbers or you can email SHRA for an index.

Hope this helps.

-- Kenneth Selvidge (, June 29, 1998.

I can't answer the first question, but I can help a bit on the second question about the impact of the railroad on the rural South. For a scholarly answer examine the book "The North Carolina Railroad, 1849-1871, and the Modernization of North Carolina" by Allen W. Trelease. This excellent book describes how railroads changed North Carolina's politics and culture and how the railroad affected jobs. There are other books discussing this issue, but this is one of the best.

Hope this helps.

Dave Bott

-- David Bott (, July 01, 1998.

I can't answer the first question, but I can help a bit on the second question about the impact of the railroad on the rural South. For another decent book on the subject try "Passage to Union : How the Railroads Transformed American Life, 1829-1929" by Sarah H. Gordon. In this book, Gordon suggests that the promise of economic prosperity brought to rural areas by the railroads failed. Instead, a select few got good jobs on the railroad, but the railroad itself destroyed much of the local manufacturing and farming and funnelled most of the wealth from local areas to the banking and industrial centers of the Northeast. Therefore, a southern railroader might be "king" but he was more of a duke who must obey the whims of the financial and industrial "kings" in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

I guess it all depends upon how you want to look at it, huh?

Dave Bott

-- David Bott (, July 01, 1998.

I don't think they lived like kings but I do remember my mother telling me that , when the depression hit, my grandfather's job continued on and the family was relatively unaffected. As I understand it, his main job priority was to travel (usually via pushcart, later by truck) to locomotive watering facilities and make whatever repairs were necessary. According to his journal, he also inspected rolling stock.

-- W.David Paschal (, October 04, 1998.

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