American Consequences - June 2019

a good look at two streaks of strap iron... but our ponies to a ‘man’ refused to cross this new invention.” Other Toledoans understood railroads but misunderstood what they were good for. Railroads were conceived as being short lines with light-duty rail beds connecting local farms to lake and canal ports from which the real shipping would be done. And different railroads were deliberately constructed with different gauges... because you didn’t want some other railroad sneaking its caboose onto your railroad and getting a free ride. By 1860, Toledo had become the hub of six railroads – Michigan Southern; Lakeshore & Michigan; Toledo, Wabash & Western; Cleveland & Toledo, and so on, all headed to where it sounds like they were headed.

There was a boom in shipping. Most Midwestern grain was transported down the Mississippi River. The Civil War closed the Mississippi, and grain transport shifted to the Great Lakes. Toledo saw its future as “Corn City.” Then the Mississippi opened again. Also, by this time grain had begun to be shipped on long-haul rail lines. It came as a surprise to Toledo in 1867 when Commodore Vanderbilt’s New York Central began running heavy freight trains owned by a single railroad company straight through from Chicago to New York City. The New York Central did stop in Toledo – as briefly as possible. Toledo’s port facilities shifted to coal. The city became the world’s largest coal-shipping port. Unfortunately, the coal being shipped was low-grade bituminous coal mined in the Midwest. What the new steel industries

Right: The High Level Bridge Bottom: WPAworkers dredging an old canal lock.

American Consequences


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