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How the Railroads Built America


The issue of human settlement plays a pivotal role in defining and understanding the key social processes, including urbanization and intercommunication between individuals and environmental systems. However, only since the advent of the innovative technology era, has humanity been able to trace the dynamic landscape evolution due to operational remote sensing technology. In the Maptastic series, the Financial Times’ (2020) representatives explore the fascinating vision created by new data and GIS computerized mapping software on the United States maps since 1810.

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Railroads Building the United States

The most pivotal moment in the history of railroad establishment in the United States is the 1860s’ first railroad that connected the West Coast to the East Coast. It was a turning point in American history as it marked the emergence of population along the western shore and the origin of the cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle (Financial Times, 2020). Computerized mapping is crucial for illustrating the gradual development and expansion of the American population and urbanization process. More specifically, only after building a railroad to the west coast, Americans begin to occupy the unexplored territories and founded the cities considered the most influential in the United States. Moreover, the researchers emphasize that such fundamental and well-developed railroad mapping directly determined the country’s geographical landscape.

After 1956, the United States decided to build the interstates, which strengthened the connections between the American cities and mitigated the mobilization process for the society. The painstaking tracing shown on the map help better understand the U.S. development process in historical, geographical, and economic terms. The end of the second half of the twentieth century considerably shaped the country’s mapping with a pinch of density between its western and eastern parts (Financial Times, 2020). The mapping history defines the historically laid allocation of the agricultural land and more advanced urbanized territory, which is a crucial economic factor for America’s manufacturing and development capacity. It is indeed a captivating digital experience to trace the commencement of the country’s establishment and its current outlook and recent advancements on the map. Therefore, the main question regarding the railroad’s contribution to the U.S. development as a leading nation implies the significance of the first railroad that connected the eastern coast with the western. Otherwise stated, would the United States look differently nowadays if the key railroad in the 1860s would not exist.

The Digital Era and Modern World Map

Based on the mapping analysis, one should note that the cities and civilizations were building up due to the connections at that time, particularly the railroads. In terms of modern society, the population is dramatically expanding based on innovative cyber connections, including the Internet and global social media network. A modern world connections map demonstrates a rapid growth of the online networking system over the last thirty years (Shelton, 2016). It provides a new dimension for worldwide networks with no limitations by promoting the spread of ideas through instantaneous communication. Furthermore, the social media network enhanced the ability to share and discuss ideas on a global level for all the online users around the world (Chaniotakis, Antoniou, and Pereira, 2016). It is a unique capacity for people to have the opportunity to connect with someone they have never met and might never meet. With this said, modern society has tremendously evolved to allow humans to disseminate knowledge and reinforce critical connections around the globe within a few seconds without any physical transportation.

The Relationship between the Railroads and Internet Networks

The physical mapping of fiber-optic networks in the United States was designed in 2015 by researchers at the University of Wisconsin. They mapped the fiber backbone locations within the country, aiming to understand how it was impacted by the existing infrastructure, including railroads. According to the research, there is a strong interconnection between the fiber lines’ allocation and the localization of major roads built in the middle of the twentieth century (Vollum, Goldman, Myers, and Goldstein, 2019). These are the crucial findings for analyzing Internet connectivity as it suggests that cities obtaining a well-developed physical connection during the industrial revolution remained to be the best-connected destinations in a digital era. The government in the United States greatly funded and supported the construction of railroads in the same way it significantly maintained the development of the Internet. Therefore, the railroads contributed to the further progress of the connection opportunities within the country and facilitated the modern potential to traverse the boundaries of much greater distances.


The digitalized method of illustrating the map of the United States with a gradual historical and geographical transformation is an essential topic for enhanced research. The computerized railroad mapping helped understand how it considerably impacted the country’s growth and set the groundwork for future technological innovations, including the emergence of the Internet and social media. The way the railroads built America is examined through increasingly accessible county-level data and computer-based railroad maps. Even the digitized way of demonstrating the railroads’ establishment connects this part of history with the rapid growth of social media and the Internet in a paradoxical way. Railroads had a critical historical impact on the American economy and shaped the modern outlook of the country. Social media, instead, keeps reshaping the contemporary world mapping due to reinforced capabilities for the society enabling the continuous stream of data on the global level.


Chaniotakis, E., Antoniou, C., & Pereira, F. (2016). Mapping social media for transportation studies. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 31(6), 64–70.

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Shelton, T. (2016). Spatialities of data: mapping social media “beyond the geotag.” GeoJournal, 82(4), 721–734.

Vollum, D.C., Goldman, S. T., Myers, C. R., & Goldstein, E. B. (2019). Evaluating and mapping internet connectivity in the United States. Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Web.

Financial Times. (2020). Maptastic (ep 3): Mapping how railroads built America [Video]. YouTube.

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