Bill Marvel (7)
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Epilogue Pieces of the Rock

Bill Marvel Indiana University Press ePub

More than three decades after its death, the railroad that Union Pacific President John C. Kenefick once called “a bag of bones” remains a pretty lively skeleton. An arm or leg might be missing, but thousands of former Rock Island rail miles still get regular exercise.

Most of the old Memphis-Tucumcari Choctaw Route has gone to weeds with the exception of a 74-mile Oklahoma segment operated since 1996 by Arkansas-Oklahoma, which, incidentally, decorates the nose of its red and yellow diesels with the familiar Rock Island herald.

The 57-mile Fordyce & Princeton and the 26.2-mile Ouachita Railroad operate two segments of Rock Island’s otherwise silent Arkansas and Louisiana lines.

The Kansas City–St. Louis line is being reclaimed by nature and by hikers. Only a few miles from Vigus to Pleasant Hill, Missouri, survive as the Missouri Central. Out on the rolling high plains of Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado, Rail America’s Kyle Railroad hauls grain and roofing material over the route of the Rocky Mountain Rocket. Kyle’s trains begin their trek in Belleville but stop well short of Denver and Colorado Springs in Limon, site of the old Limon do-si-do. Denver Rock Island, a switching road, serves a few miles of Rock Island trackage on the northern fringe of Denver.

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Chapter 6 The Road to Ruin

Bill Marvel Indiana University Press ePub

By the late 1950s the signs were not good for the railroad business. The prosperity that had returned with World War II had largely dissipated. Jet airliners were scooping up the high-end passenger trade, and the growing interstate highway system would soon harvest what was left. Freight was going to trucks and barges. A railroad president in 1956 had to be on his toes, especially the president of a railroad with the systemic problems of Rock Island.

Most of what was wrong with the Rock went back to the beginning. Everywhere it went, some other railroad got there first and went there more directly. And when Rock Island did get there, it was over somebody else’s tracks.

The wheat harvest has been gathered, and on August 17, 1958, No. 9011 rests under the cottonwoods at Phillipsburg, Kansas. Not a doodlebug, but a boxcab freight engine, No. 9011 was one of seven turned out in 1929 by St. Louis Car Company. Tom Lee photo, Tom Klinger collection

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Chapter 5 The Road to Ride

Bill Marvel Indiana University Press ePub

The Rock Island was usually not the shortest, nor the fastest, nor the most prosperous railroad between the cities it served. So it had to try harder.

Even in the worst of times, the railroad did its best to field a fleet that gave passengers a run for their money. And when times were flush, the Rock Island often ran ahead of the pack. It was among the first with onboard dining and streamliners. It innovated restlessly, if not always wisely. Its trains might run in the red, especially toward the end, but they ran.

As soon as the track was down and open for business in 1852, two daily trains left Chicago for Joliet. Within months the dozen passenger cars provided by contractors Henry Farnam and Joseph Sheffield could no longer meet demand, and 16 additional cars were ordered. Trains ran full, hauling passengers from Chicago’s passenger house to the end of track, wherever that might be. By 1856 the road was advertised “the Shortest, Quickest and Safest Route” to Kansas and Nebraska—though it had reached neither destination. The roadbed was raw, the crude wooden benches were hard, but tens of thousands of immigrants were already riding Rock Island trains on the first leg of their journeys to the Great American Frontier. Within the decade, they would ship their produce to eastern markets via Rock Island.

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Chapter 4 Planned Progress

Bill Marvel Indiana University Press ePub

The man who saved the Rock Island railroad was a understood every detail of the railroad. And he was a square-jawed, flinty-eyed railroader’s railroader, a slow-talker who chose his words carefully and meant every syllable of each.

John Dow Farrington despised incompetence. When he encountered it in an underling, he would fix the man in a gray, unblinking stare, a crocodilian smile would tug at the corners of his mouth, and he would begin a reaming-out the employee would never forget. Farrington understood every detail of the railroad. And he was a demon on track maintenance. So as he rode north out of Fort Worth in the office car Edward M. Durham Jr. had sent to fetch him to his new job, he learned what he was up against. Rock Island’s line to El Reno—and almost everywhere else—was a bone-shaking ordeal.

The first thing Farrington did when he came on board as chief operating officer—at $25,000 a year, the equivalent of $382,000 today—was take to the rails for six months in a V-8 Ford sedan equipped with flanged wheels. Everyone ducked when they saw it coming down the track.

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Chapter 3 A Rocky Road

Bill Marvel Indiana University Press ePub

The great era of railroad-building was ending.

On July 12, 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner addressed a distinguished gathering of colleagues at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park. Many of those present had ridden Rock Island trains to the fair, where they could stroll the grounds and view the railroad’s exhibit of the agricultural bounty being grown along its line.

Turner’s paper had far-reaching implications for the road’s future. In it, he declared that the western frontier, the possibilities it entailed, and the energies that it had called forth had made America unique among nations. But that source of uniqueness, of greatness, Turner told the assembled historians, was at an end. The West was being settled. The frontier, he announced, was closed.

Within a few years, the Los Angeles & Salt Lake laid rails across Utah and Nevada toward southern California. David Moffat began his final assault on the Rockies with construction of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific. In 1905 Milwaukee Road’s directors approved extension of that line west to Seattle.

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Don L Hofsommer (8)
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8 Around the Horn

Don L. Hofsommer Indiana University Press ePub

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND. WELL, PRETTY close, but not quite in this case. The odyssey had begun in Iowa but would end in Minnesota – again, and by way of South Dakota. A change of jobs predictably explains new locations.

The allure of railroads and railroading had not escaped or evaporated, but the railroad landscape certainly had changed over the years. The number of Class One carriers had diminished to a handful. Gone were electric-trolley roads, steam, gas–electric cars, cabooses, most passenger trains, local station agencies, a host of branches and even secondary routes, and, of course, the wonderful employees who had been a part of them. “Off the main lines” became increasingly problematic. And favored cameras began to fail. Exposures became less frequent. But what a show it had been!

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, once had been a major hub of railroad activity offered by Milwaukee Road, Great Northern, Omaha, Illinois Central, and Rock Island. By 1987, much had changed. Rock Island left the city before its corporate demise, and IC followed. Milwaukee had been acquired by Soo Line, but its former assets at Sioux Falls were now the property of still others. Great Northern had become an integral part of Burlington Northern, but the line to Yankton was gone. Omaha had been fully absorbed into Chicago & North Western, but C&NW had become intent on disposing of branches and would soon exit. Extra 4284 East is about to cross Burlington Northern’s Willmar–Sioux City line at Manley, Minnesota. August 30, 1988.

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7 Along the Way: 1971–87

Don L. Hofsommer Indiana University Press ePub

BY THE 1970S, RAILROADS WERE AMATURE INDUStry.” It was not a term of endearment. Indeed, many observersX were ready to write off the industry, consigning it – soon, they said – to the dustbin of history. The naysayers got it wrong, happy to say, but the long decade of the 1970s proved wrenching in the extreme for those who held affection for the industry at large, for the individual companies, for the trains they ran, and for the employees who worked for them. It would be a grim ten years. Yes, there was a glimmer of hope, and a new era beckoned. It would be a hard slog getting there, but over the next several years, a very different industry would emerge – slimmed down, deregulated, and led by a talented and innovative management cadre. A new era, to be sure, one that resembled the past only at the margins.

IC for years was Iowa’s premier handler of packinghouse products, but reflecting a broad pattern, billings slipped in the 1970s as packers relocated their plants and as they increasingly turned to trucks for their transportation needs. Six days a week, however, IC in August 1976 still wheeled tonnage eastward from John Morell’s huge facility at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Train 776, shown here slipping through Matlock in northwest Iowa, would hand off most of its consist to train 676 from Sioux City at Cherokee.

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6 In the Land of the Longhorns

Don L. Hofsommer Indiana University Press ePub

WORK OPPORTUNITY AT PLAINVIEW, TEXAS, PREsented itself in 1973 and would result in a fourteen-year stay in the Lone Star State. Plainview, like Stillwater in Oklahoma, was Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF or Santa Fe) country, served, as it was, by a primary north–south line linking Amarillo and Lubbock, completed in 1907–10, and a stub southeastward to Floydada, twenty-seven miles, in 1910. Fort Worth & Denver (FTW&D or Denver) also occupied the territory in 1929 with an extension from its Amarillo–Fort Worth main at Estelline to Lubbock, with a spur to Plainview and on northwest to Dimmitt.

Still another aspirant in the region was Quanah, Acme & Pacific (QA&P or Quanah Route), which, in fits and starts (1903–1909), pushed a line of road west from Quanah to Paducah and finally to Floydada (1929). St. Louis–San Francisco’s (SLSF’s or Frisco’s) western reach from St. Louis and Kansas City through Tulsa and Oklahoma City stubbed at Quanah. Predictably, Frisco took an interest in and then took control of QA&P as a logical extension of its strategic aspirations. In time, and for several years, Frisco and Santa Fe teamed on long-distance, expedited traffic moving over the Floydada Gateway. Indeed, QLA and QSF were a couple of Frisco’s hottest freights; they were authorized forty-nine miles per hour across QA&P’s 110-mile route between Quanah and Floydada. But in 1973, Frisco and Santa Fe agreed to move their joint business up to the Avard Gateway in Oklahoma, and QA&P faced an uncertain future. Local business ebbed and flowed, but mostly ebbed. Abandonment was sought and permission gained, at least west of Paducah to Floydada, sixty-seven miles. The final run was made on May 5, 1981.

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5 In the Land of the Sooners

Don L. Hofsommer Indiana University Press ePub

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY AT OKLAHOMA STATE University presented itself during the first portion of the 1970s. Stillwater was Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF or Santa Fe) country, located on a spur from what once had been a concave but through route from Newkirk, Oklahoma, to Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, parallel to the east of Santa Fe’s main gut from Newton, Kansas, to the Gulf of Mexico. Passenger service had ended November 10, 1956, but local customers still provided attractive freight revenue.

Santa Fe was a well-managed company with premier routes from Chicago to Los Angeles and Chicago to South Texas. In a relative sense, it was prosperous compared to many other railroads at the time. Yet the mood across the industry was grim, and it got worse as the decade of the 1970s wore on. Causes of financial anemia were many and varied among particular companies, but a popular prescription among virtually all carriers was abandonment of line segments, especially branches and redundant secondary routes. Santa Fe was not immune in this regard.

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4 In the Land of the Gophers

Don L. Hofsommer Indiana University Press ePub

A MOVE TO ALBERT LEA IN SOUTH-CENTRAL MINNEsota offered a fresh vantage point from which to view the rapidly changing railroad landscape in the second half of the 1960s.

A Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (CMStP&P or Milwaukee Road) predecessor had pioneered railroad transportation in the area with a horizontal-axis route that led from the Mississippi River at La Crescent through Albert Lea to Wells in 1866–70 and later pushed completely across the southern part of the state and into Dakota Territory. In 1907, Milwaukee Road also completed a forty-mile feeder from Albert Lea northwestward to St. Clair.

Second on the scene was Minneapolis & St. Louis (M&StL), which reached Albert Lea in 1877. Three years later, it had punched on southwestward to reach Fort Dodge, Iowa. Eventually, it cobbled together a through route from Minneapolis and St. Paul to Des Moines via Albert Lea, which, in the process, was vested as a crew-change point with active yarding chores.

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Edited By Don L Hofsommer And H Roger (7)
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7 In Recent Times

Edited by Don L Hofsommer and H Roger Indiana University Press ePub

No industry remains static, else it atrophies and perishes. Railroads in Iowa underscore the intrinsic truth of that statement. Since the 1960s the railroad scene has undergone monumental changes. It has been a fluid period, ironically somewhat reminiscent of the building and consolidation process of the nineteenth century. A combination of happenings, including massive line abandonments, corporate mergers, regulatory reforms, start-up shortlines and regionals, and technological betterments has reshaped railroading throughout the state.

Any observant person who today roams the Iowa landscape will notice the remains of former rail lines. Although some of these abandoned rights-of-way may have been obliterated by farmers seeking to increase their production acreages and urban dwellers wishing to build structures or expand their yards, hundreds of miles remain somewhat intact, albeit nearly always chocked with weeds, brush, and trees. But a few pieces of these one-time routes of the iron horse have become public hiking and biking paths, products of an active statewide rails-to-trails movement. Testifying to the popularity of these recreational resources, the Heritage Trail follows sections of the Chicago Great Western (CGW) in eastern Iowa, and the Wabash Nature Trail follows portions of the Wabash in southwestern Iowa.

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6 The Diesel Revolution

Edited by Don L Hofsommer and H Roger Indiana University Press ePub

Every industry has experienced technology replacements and railroads are no exceptions. Arguably the most important change came with the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives, initially for switching and then for passenger and freight service. The “diesel revolution” radically altered the nature of railroading in Iowa and the nation.

Early in the twentieth century some Iowans became familiar with a precursor of the modern diesel locomotive. Several railroads, including the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (Burlington), Chicago Great Western (CGW), Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road), and Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (Rock Island), experimented with or placed into regular service internal combustion equipment. The CGW, a spunky, innovative carrier, became one of the country’s first major roads to extensively employ this form of propulsion. In 1910 the CGW tried out four gasoline-fueled combination passenger, mail, and express units. These pieces of rolling stock, built by the McKeen Motor Car Company of Omaha, Nebraska, had six-cylinder, 200-horsepower engines and provided seating for more than eighty passengers. And these self-propelled cars with their sleek contours which featured knife-noses and porthole windows anticipated the design of later-day streamliners. The CGW replaced more expensive conventional steam-powered passenger trains with these McKeen “wind splitters”; cars operated on local runs between Blockton and St. Joseph, Missouri; Mason City and Fort Dodge–Lehigh; and Waterloo and Des Moines. When automobiles later siphoned off patrons, the CGW and other roads acquired more self-propelled cars as performance quality improved and the need to economize increased. By the 1920s the General Electric and Electro-Motive companies became the principal manufacturers. Unlike McKeen cars, later gas- and diesel-electrics were designed without any consideration to streamlining. “They usually had a front end that was chopped off square with such locomotive appurtenances as bells, headlights, markers, and air horns more or less haphazardly mounted on them,” remarked railroad historian William D. Middleton. “On the roof in disorderly array were located complicated-looking pipe radiators, mufflers, and exhaust stacks.” These passenger units, commonly called “doodle-bugs,” “galloping geese,” or some equally derisive, yet affectionate, nickname by the public, frequently pulled trailers to expand their revenue capabilities. But it would be on secondary main lines and branch lines, rather than the “high iron,” where most of these doodlebugs found their regular assignments. Yet after World War II the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway proved the exception when it acquired comfortable stainless steel and air conditioned coaches that its rail motor cars pulled on the main lines between Albert Lea, Minnesota, and Albia and Des Moines.

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5 Working on the Railroad

Edited by Don L Hofsommer and H Roger Indiana University Press ePub

The distinguished American railroad historian Richard C. Overton liked to make the point that “the railroad was commonly the first wage-earning experience for farm boys.” And that statement frequently held true for Iowans. Farm lads often found agricultural work unattractive; the monotony of farm life, with its seasonal and daily cycles of often backbreaking toil, was hardly enjoyable. For decades the chance to become a railroader held bright promises. The likelihood of a steady job in an expanding industry, which by 1920 employed more than two million workers nationally, looked good indeed. As railroad unions or “brotherhoods” gained strength, pay increased and for some railroaders this meant having the means to buy a home and to have other extras for the family. Over time brotherhoods contributed to an improved work environment, including safer conditions. Then there was the excitement of the work, especially in train service, for virtually every day would hold different experiences. Furthermore, at a time when most people did not journey far from home and when paid vacations and leisure weekends had not yet evolved, a railroader could travel great distances at little or no cost, often using a trip or annual pass, or perhaps by showing a brotherhood membership card to an accommodating train crew. “There were a lot of thrills being a railroader and I was glad that I made that choice,” opined a former Appanoose County farm boy who, as a teenager with only a country school education, became a fireman and later a locomotive engineer for the Wabash Railroad in Moulton.

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4 Shipping by Rail

Edited by Don L Hofsommer and H Roger Indiana University Press ePub

The bread and butter for railroads in Iowa involved freight, including carload and less-than-carload shipments. Simply put: freight paid most of the bills. It was common for the early carriers to dispatch only a single daily except Sunday freight train that conducted switching chores at the various stations. As a system of trunk carriers matured, however, long distance or through trains traveled main lines and likewise the number of local freights increased. On branch lines and shortlines, however, the freight volume generally remained light, with perhaps only a lone movement. And these poky freights might even provide space for passengers, either in an attached coach or caboose, thus becoming “mixed trains” that accommodated “hogs and humans,” as the expression went. Since some traffic moved seasonally or was tied to the vagaries of the local, regional, or national economy, extra trains accommodated these needs. This was particularly true for the annual grain rush that followed the summer and fall harvests and for such shipments as blocks of ice that were cut during the winter months and coal that increased during the heating season.

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3 Down at the Depot

Edited by Don L Hofsommer and H Roger Indiana University Press ePub

Before the widespread presence of internal combustion motor vehicles rails bound together state and nation. At every official railroad station Iowans gained formal access through the depot building to the iron horse or perhaps to an electric interurban car. For decades the gateway to the community, each “deeepo” (a popular pronunciation) meant much to residents.

The depot was usually placed in a central location, although because of line routing, the structure might appear in an outlying area. The selection of a more remote site may have been the result of the local topography or because the railroad arrived after the town site had been established and it was discovered that the expense of a more suitable place was unacceptable. A. B. Stickney, founder and longtime head of the Chicago Great Western Railway (CGW), told fellow executives that “the depot should be built in as close to the business center of the city as possible . . . That way the public will remember you.” It is understandable, then, that when his company constructed its Omaha Extension between Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs in 1902–1903, the depot in Carroll stood only a few steps from the main commercial establishments and just a block from the courthouse.

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Gayle Gregory (7)
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7 - Think Big, Start Small

Gayle Gregory Solution Tree Press ePub

Think Big, Start Small

Think big, start small, act now.

—Barnabas Suebu

Good teachers take all they know about the brain, researched best practices, and student differences and creatively plan multiple opportunities for students to be successful. In addition, educators must acknowledge the differences in learners of the 21st century. With the daily use of technology, students’ brains are wiring in new and unique ways. By considering some of the major differences, we may be able to understand how this generation is changing how school must be done. In his book Grown Up Digital, Don Tapscott (2009) summarizes eight differentiating characteristics of our students:

1. They want freedom in everything they do, from freedom of choice to freedom of expression.

2. They love to customize, personalize.

3. They are the new scrutinizers.

4. They look for corporate integrity and openness when deciding what to buy and where to work.

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6 - Evaluating the Learning

Gayle Gregory Solution Tree Press ePub

Evaluating the Learning

Frequent formative assessment and corrective feedback are powerful tools to promote long-term memory and develop the executive functions of reasoning and analysis. Frequent assessment provides teachers information about students’ minute-to-minute understanding during instruction.

—Judy Willis

In this high-stakes environment, teachers are striving heroically to help all students be successful. There is a huge push to increase student success and show well in international comparisons such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) tests. Differentiation is necessary for success because of the differences in the brains of our learners:

 Their prior knowledge and experience

 Their interests and preferences

 Their rate of grasping new concepts and understandings

 The number of rehearsals that are needed to reach mastery

We recognize the need to differentiate instruction, but what does this mean for assessment practices? If students are different and have different needs, then we must also give them multiple ways of demonstrating understanding or mastery over time without penalty for rate of learning. To accurately evaluate student learning, assessments should focus on authentic achievements, genuine products, and creative performances. Assessments must be aligned with how brains learn best.

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5 - Extending and Expanding Learning for Every Student

Gayle Gregory Solution Tree Press ePub

Extending and Expanding Learning for Every Student

The mission for a school of the future (or the present?) should be to optimally meet children's learning needs. That carries the implicit recognition that every child's brain is unique. And whereas most brains follow a normal developmental trajectory, each is also idiosyncratic in its strengths and weaknesses for learning particular types of information

—John Geake

This chapter will address some common strategies for modifying tasks and concepts for students who are working below the basic expectations or struggling with learning differences. Included are proven differentiated strategies that should be used at RTI Tier 1 every day. Teachers must also add to their bags of tricks a variety of ways to provide lateral enrichment opportunities for students as they meet the standards and expectations. To provide all students with a level of challenge appropriate for their abilities, teachers must learn how to raise the bar and extend the learning beyond the grade-level standards.

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4 - Exploring the Learning

Gayle Gregory Solution Tree Press ePub

Exploring the Learning

To take advantage of their engaged state of mind, students should have opportunities to interact with the information they need to learn. The goal is for them to actively discover, interpret, analyze, process, practice, and discuss the information so it will move beyond working memory and be processed in the frontal lobe regions devoted to executive function.

-Judy Willis

The five senses keep the body safe. The brain is constantly scanning the environment for interesting, novel, relevant things to pay attention to and ignoring everything else. In the previous chapter, we examined ways to engage learners, capturing their interest and attention so that they may participate in the learning process.

Once attention has been garnered, the information is moved to short-term, working memory. It doesn't have a very long shelf life there (perhaps seventeen to twenty seconds [Wolfe, 2001]), and if the learner is not actively involved in some task, the interest will wane quickly. Teachers are challenged with designing numerous rehearsal tasks that cause students to interact with a particular content or skill until it can move to long-term memory. It is during these rehearsal tasks that students explore and develop concepts and skills that will create lasting memory. With multiple interactions, the pathways that receive more use become stronger, smoother, and more efficient.

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3 - Engaging, Exciting, and Energizing the Learner

Gayle Gregory Solution Tree Press ePub

Engaging, Exciting, and Energizing the Learner

One principle that propels the digital revolution is our brain's craving for new, exciting, and different experiences…. Whether excessive or subtle, the instinct to pursue new and exciting experiences frequently drives our behavior.

—Gary Small

One of the more difficult aspects of teaching can be getting students’ attention so that they attend to and ultimately learn the lesson and task. Knowing what types of stimuli will engage the brain can help teachers plan strategies to get their students’ attention. When not involved in survival issues, such as reacting to perceived threats, our brains are most sensitive to novelty and changes that arouse curiosity. New and unexpected sensory input in the environment will immediately get our brains’ attention. Even slight changes in one's surroundings will create curiosity, and the brain will reorient toward the new information. Developing novel situations and using a variety of differentiated strategies can increase a teacher's chances of shifting students from disinterested to excited and energized!

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H Roger Grant (11)
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7 What Might Have Happened

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub

7

A GREATER CHARLESTON

Suggesting what might have happened if something did not occur or occurred only partially – that is counterfactual or virtual history – is a risky business. Yet the question “What if?” can lead to insights. The case might be made that Charleston, which once enjoyed an envied status as a dominant Atlantic port, might have retained its position for decades, even permanently, had the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road (LC&C) been completed. “There is every reason to believe, that CHARLESTON possesses some peculiar advantages, which will entitle her to command a larger share of this [Western] trade, than rightfully belongs, to any other city in the union” (italics in original), stated the 1835 pamphlet on The Proposed Rail-Road from Cincinnati to Charleston.SHE STANDS IN THE FRONT RANK, and [with the transmontane railroad] she will enter the list when she finds the course clear for Southern competition. AND SHE WILL WIN” (capitalization in original). Even in distant Boston, observers perceived that the LC&C was destined to make Charleston the American seaboard port. “To this end was Charleston to be forthwith converted into the great commercial rival of New York, and that the importing and exporting for the South and West was to be done no longer by the Northern cities.” Yet a consensus existed that Charleston would never again regain its once enormous wealth. In the late eighteenth century it was said that nine of America’s ten wealthiest men lived in the greater Charleston area. Still, Charlestonians expected to benefit from the LC&C, perhaps regaining for their hometown the status of the “Commercial Emporium of the South.” The feeling went that “the more prosperous my beloved city, the more prosperous the beloved I.”1

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6 What Happened

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub

6

BLUE RIDGE RAILROAD

Building schemes during the Railway Age did not always work out as planned. The goals of bold, long-distance lines made by some promoters, including those who backed the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road (LC&C), were not achieved, but other energetic proposals succeeded. The much publicized New York, Pittsburgh & Chicago Railway was one notable flop. This grandiose project, organized at the turn of the twentieth century, was intended to be a high-density, low-grade freight line that would compete directly with the busy main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad between Gotham and the Windy City. But construction never began. On the other hand, backers of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad embarked on building that difficult route through tamarack swamps, desolate badlands, rugged mountains and mostly unpopulated country between Lake Superior and Puget Sound. “You can’t build a railroad from nowhere to nowhere,” quipped Cornelius Vanderbilt about the Northern Pacific. But that monumental struggle, begun in 1864 with aid from a federal land grant, ended successfully in 1883, and claimed to be the nation’s single greatest corporate undertaking of the era. Then there were those projects that started, sputtered along after completing some mileage, but never achieved their objectives. A good example involved the tireless efforts made by Gilded Age entrepreneur and visionary Arthur Stilwell, who sought to push his Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railway from Kansas City, Missouri, to Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico. He succeeded in creating a much smaller road, connecting Wichita, Kansas, with Alpine, Texas, and completing modest sections in Mexico under the banner of the Kansas City, Mexico y Oriente Railway.1

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5 Crisis and Contraction

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub

5

PANIC OF 1837

Throughout the nineteenth century Americans lived through repeated financial panics. Serious economic dislocations began in 1819 and occurred again in 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith mused that the intervals between these major panics corresponded “roughly with the time it took people to forget the last disaster.” As the national economy matured, with expanding industrialization and urbanization, the potency of financial downswings increased. The final large-scale economic disruption of the century, triggered by the Wall Street panic of May 1893, spawned five troubled years and caused the worst depression in American history, exceeding the intensity of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent Great Recession of 2008.1

Although the relatively short-lived Panic of 1819 shook the business community, the Panic of 1837 affected more people and was more widely felt. It became, sadly for Americans, the “First Great Depression.” Earlier some fatalists had called the Great New York Fire in December 1835, which consumed the New York Stock Exchange and most buildings around Wall Street, an omen of impending economic doom. In their minds it was a sign from Providence. When disaster struck two years later, some Americans feared that depression would never lift, believing religious millennialists who claimed that end-times were near. Even a secular Philip Hone, former mayor of New York City and inveterate diary keeper, held similar thoughts. “Where will it end?” he asked. The answer he thought: “In ruin, revolution, perhaps civil war.” On April 1, 1837, the New York Herald described the growing economic calamity this way: “Wall street [sic], and its business neighborhood, from river to river, has been for a week in a terrible convulsion. The banks – the merchants – the brokers – the speculators, have been rolling onward together in the undistinguishable mass, down the stream of bankruptcy and ruin.”2

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4 Surveys, Finances, and Construction

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub

4

SURVEYS

Essential to achieving the objective of the Knoxville Railroad Convention was locating the exact route for the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road (LC&C). The geography of this vast proposed service area meant that decision makers needed to make choices, and often their choices became contentious. Robert Hayne and his supporters strongly favored the French Broad River valley for crossing the spine of the Southern Appalachians. Such a pathway would benefit South Carolinians, both Charlestonians and residents of other important communities in the Palmetto State. Routing options included possible service to Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, and York.1

This building strategy through the Midlands and Upstate South Carolina would permit several transportation-starved counties in western North Carolina to receive rail service. As for a route through the western section of the Tar Heel State, rumors flew. Some believed that the LC&C presence would be more extensive. The longer path, it was reported, would enter the state near Rutherfordton before turning generally westward over the crest of the mountains toward Asheville and the French Broad River. So many were hopeful.2

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4 Legacy

H. Roger Grant Indiana University Press ePub

LEGACY

4

THE LEGACY OF THE RAILROAD IN AMERICAN LIFE IS ENORMOUS, extensively documented, and remembered by passing generations. In the twentieth century the automobile became the dominant form of personal transport and in the process helped to shape the national identity. Still, the railroad had a greater initial impact; after all, the iron horse represented a radical change from previous forms of intercity travel. Prior to the Railway Age transportation options involved slow-moving ships, steamboats, and canal packets and only slightly faster stagecoaches. Then there was the matter of dependability. Weather conditions – floods, snows, ice, winds, and fogs – repeatedly hampered the incumbent forms of transportation more than they did even pioneer railways. The adoption of motor cars also proved to be more gradual than that of passenger trains, the result of primitive technologies, high costs, and poor roads. For years citizens considered automobiles to be impractical toys, noisy and dangerous nuisances, appropriate only for tinkerers and the wealthy.

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