How Railroad Companies Were Able to Standardize Their Timetables in 1883

istockphoto 1310838090 170667a
istockphoto 1310838090 170667a

In 1883, there was no US government regulation of railroad companies. However, the fragmentation of schedules emphasized that some companies were operating faster than other ones. In response to this, the railroads standardize their schedules in order to create more efficiency and reduce transportation costs. 

Do you know which best explains how railroad companies were able to standardize their timetables in 1883?

The standardized timetable allowed these railroads to remain competitive against each other and prosper through mutual competition rather than price gouging tricks. 

While many companies are still the same today, it has not been without its struggles as America’s railroads continue to face difficulties like price increases and security incidents.

Here some points are discussed-

1. Why was there pressure to standardize timetables ?

The competition between railroads in the nineteenth century created a need for uniformity. In the early 1860s, there were at least 900 different companies using approximately 12,000 different timetables. 

At this time it became increasingly difficult to sell tickets along the routes that many of these lines shared, and it was during this period that American railroads used standardized schedules. By 1883, ten major railroad systems had adopted the new system. 

Furthermore, at least 25 other railroads adopted a similar system by 1885. In addition to the financial benefits of standardization, improved co-operation among railroads encouraged technological innovation and led to further growth for these industries. 

2. What was the motive behind standardizing timetables ?

The motive behind standardizing schedules was to improve efficiency and reduce transportation costs. The railroads were competing against each other due to their different practices regarding the use of their lines. Prices were often negotiable, with crossties helping to reduce costs. At this time the courtship of passengers by rail companies was also extremely lucrative, so much so that companies such as Burlington Railroad began advertising free tickets for themselves but not for rival railroads.

3. How were the companies able to achieve this standardization ?

Railroad companies were able to accomplish the standardization of their timetables by working together. The United States Railway Association (USRA) was formed in 1879 by several major railroad companies. 

The association’s stated purpose was to discuss and settle grievances, but it quickly discovered that for it to accomplish its goals, there was a need for uniformity of practices that would benefit all parties involved. This uniformity could only be achieved if all members agreed to use a set timetable, and the USRA persuaded member railroads to adopt uniform time tables in 1883. 

4. How the railroads benefit from it ?

Railroads operating along the same routes were now able to compete on an equal basis. Some companies started real competition in 1883, but this was not yet widespread as many timetables continued to exist. 

The standardized timetables enabled these companies to remain profitable against others and make price increases as they saw fit without letting customers know of their intentions beforehand. 

Alternatively, some railroads realized more profit by allowing competitors access to their lines for long periods of time when there were no traffic increases. This increased the ability of these companies to charge higher fares than usual and remained profitable despite rival companies operating at almost the exact same time as them.

5. How has the standardization affected the customer ?

The standardization of timetables was a benefit to all rail carriers, but it did not affect the customers on their own. These passengers paid less for their tickets than those who’s companies operated without a uniform timetable. 

This resulted in savings for many passengers who chose to travel in these greater numbers. These customers were now able to choose which railroads they would stop at, doubling the number of stops where they could save money. 

6. What were the issues faced by the companies ?

The main issue with the standardization of timetables was that some companies that moved slightly faster than others were forced to slow down. However, this problem was solved as some railroads did not want to turn away potential customers. 

This is where competition between railroads arose, as they tried to outdo their rivals by increasing their own speed while still adhering to standardized timetables. 

7. What changes happened due to this standardization ?

Standardized timetables allowed for easier booking and selling tickets along routes shared by more than one carrier, which in turn encouraged passengers to travel at all times of the day instead of specific ones that suited one particular carrier over another. The standardization of schedules also improved inter-company co-operation and led to further technological innovations.


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