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Transportation

Reuben Wells engine--1894

The development of a network of transportation was both an impetus for the industrial growth of the Pittsburgh region and a result of its progress. Situated at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, river travel was an essential mode of transportation in the area. The rivers were considered highways for commerce carrying tons of goods each year. Steamboats, barges and tows were a common sight on the rivers. Not surprisingly, the first steamboat that ever travelled on Western waters was built in Pittsburgh.

As early as 1890, Pittsburgh was described as the city that originated and created more railway business than any other city in the country except New York. Located between the population centers of the East and West, both of which were eager to have easy access to the products of the Pittsburgh region, railroad transportation was an integral component of shipping goods and travel. The Pennsylvania Railroad (The Pennsylvania Railroad: Its Origin, Construction, Condition, and Connections, by William B. Sipes), the New York Central (America’s Greatest Railroad System—The New York Central by Charles Frederick Carter), the Baltimore and Ohio, the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago, the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis railroad along with several smaller short lines all had a presence in Pittsburgh. The inclines that dotted the hillsides were a more efficient means of carrying passengers and goods up the hilly terrain. This collection of material contains not only maps of the various railway lines, but also details the manufacture of the steam and electric locomotives that traveled the extensive network of track.

While the railroads and rivers were the primary means of transportation in Western Pennsylvania, canals and roads also had an important role. The Western Division of the Pennsylvania Canal and the various railroads provided a vital link that enabled industry to cross the mountains and navigate across the state. Further, as the industrialists began to prosper, owning a personal car as opposed to a horse-drawn carriage became more of a reality. The book How to Buy an Automobile published in 1914 provided a prospective purchaser with the guidance and advice necessary for such an extravagant purchase.

Although aviation was in its infancy, several small aeronautic organizations and flying clubs existed at the beginning of the 20th century. The Aero Blue Book and Directory of Aeronautic Organizations from 1919 chronicles these organizations and the overall state of aerial transportation.

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