Abstract: Operating Early Amerian Railroads: A Comparative Approach

Aaron W. Marrs


Although the historical literature on railroads of the southern United States is small, southern railroads have generally not fared well when being compared to their northern neighbors. I will be arguing for a reconsideration of southern railroads and employing a comparative framework for much of my discussion. By using this framework, I hope to accomplish two tasks. First, this technique demonstrates that problems faced by the southern railroads were not due to some unique "southernness" or a planter-inspired opposition to modernity, but were rather railroad problems faced by companies nationwide. Second, a comparative approach integrates southern railroads into the historiographical mainstream by demonstrating that they had some of the characteristics lauded by Alfred Chandler in his landmark <i>The Visible Hand</i>. In short, situating southern railroads in a wider national and international context makes their perceived shortcomings appear less problematic.