Maps of travel times
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Thanks to: Allan R. Pred Urban Growth and the Circulation of Information, 1790-1840 (Harvard, 1973)
They're great looking maps. Is there any information on what the travel routes and modes of transport to get to the various contours (for want of the correct word) were?
I have heard older times described as a 4 mile an hour world. We live today in a world has blasted through the 60 mile an hour pace to instantaneity.
My understanding is that most of the above improvement was due to better roads and to canals. The next few decades were to see dramatic increases in travel speeds as the railroad was introduced. The railroad was in its infancy in 1830.
It seems that there was a great improvement in travel down the Mississippi. In the 1800 map the Mississippi doesn't seem to have much affect on the travel time lines but in the 1830 the two week line tracks it closely.
The Erie Canal was completed in 1829 but at the time it took 10 days to travel it from Atlantic to Great Lakes. The Miami Erie Canal, which opened up trade between the Ohio River Valley and New York, was not even begun in 1830. When it was it did not speed things up but it did make transportation of goods easier and cheaper. I know I have seen a map like this for 1850 but I can not for the life of me remember where. I checked both volumes of The Road to Disunion, which I am reading now and leaked through a few books I recently acquired, but no luck.
#5 I don't believe there were any steamboats being built in the US in 1800. Building them was one of Cincinnati's biggest industries in the first half of the 19th century.
Here is some of the text from THIS blog, where I found the maps. There is also an 1857 version which I am unable to reproduce here (though someone with more of a knack could, I'm sure):
"Its interesting to see with just improvements in travel excluding the introduction of railroads and (for the most part) canals that travel time was basically cut in half in about thirty years' time. For example, in 1800 it would take roughly four weeks to get to New Orleans, and then six weeks to arrive in Iowa and the Upper Peninsula. By 1830, that time was two weeks to NO, and three for the other two locations. In 1800, it was a five day trip to the northern Outer Banks in North Carolina; that would be cut to two days by 1830. The trip in 1800 to the vicinity of Savannah and the northern part of Florida was a two week ordeal; by 1830, that time had fallen to 6/7 days. The Mississippi was reachable in five weeks in 1800; in 1830, that time was cut to two weeks. This as I said would all change drastically over the next three decades, once the railroad system became slightly mature."
I see that TLC is right, and that I misread the info, in that the improvement from 1800-1830 is NOT due to canals!
"By 1857 one day's travel time has been blasted to a ring encompassing the southern half of Maine, partially into Ohio and south into the northern part of North Carolina. Two days of travel will get the traveller deep into Michigan and parts of Wisconsin, and half-way through North Carolina and South Carolina (excluding the mountain region in Western NC). Three days will now get us to northern Florida, halfway through Georgia and Tennessee, and into the Midwest, past the Mississippi River. Beyond the basic reach of the railroad at this point is the rest of the country, and harder going, though one week of travel will get you deep into the central part of the country, where with some difficulty you would be able to find your way to southern California in three weeks, and the Pacific regions of Washington Territory in six weeks--basically, an entirely new world of travel and the spread of goods, service and information, not the least of which was aided by the spread of the railroads, which increased from 3,000 miles of track in 1840 to more than 30,000 in 1860."
I used to ponder, with some astonishment, on how the speed of travel increased in my parents' lives (born in 1905 and 1910) and wonder on how and by how much it would increase over my lifetime.
That was up until about fifteen-twenty years ago. It now seems to me that we've come to some kind of stop. Travel doesn't seem to get any faster, except for a bit of tweaking here and there, and it doesn't seem to be getting any cheaper for more people to take advantage.
Have we come to the end of the road (can't remember when I last used such an appropriate metaphor)? Years ago, I imagined that, by this time, we'd have modes of travel that I couldn't imagine (if that makes sense). It's a bit of a disappointment to me - I'd been looking forward to cursing the short-sightedness of the people who (here in the UK, at least) bulldozed picturesque and ancient villages to make airports and drove motorways through unspoilt countryside.
ETA - Of course, the unimagined modes of travel might have been even more environmentally damaging, but I'm always naively optimistic.
Does the internet, teleconferencing, etc count as increasing the speed of travel?
#11 - That's a facet of modern technology where I still do feel a sense of wonder and of pace and change.
In some ways we have regressed on our local travel times. My grandfather commuted from 14th street in Cincinnati to the Newport (Kentucky) Rolling Mill. It was only about four miles but it took him across two urban areas and the Ohio River. Then is was 30 to 40 minutes at the worst. Now it can take that long to get across the bridge. The store they bought groceries from has half a block away and there was a greengrocer four doors from them.
As for unimagined modes of travel, my grandfather saw a dragon. It was 1916, he was 14 years old, working with a mule to plow some land in a creek bottom outside of Vanceburg Kentucky. He heard a growling noise from over the hill top and a a winged creature belching smoke suddenly came into sight. He ran from the dragon, that was the only thing he had ever heard of that fit what he was seeing.
I used to imagine a matter-transmission device, you know - the one where you step through a portal on your end and emerge through another elsewhere. I don't see that around the corner. Or anything else that will revolutionize travel.
The closest thing may be getting off petroleum, and some kind of smart cars/highways/trains where there is more coordination, less need for close attention by the driver, fewer accidents, etc.
Somewhere I saw an article about a high speed train idea, one that has a system for getting on and off via local trains that dock with the fast one, and then peel off again. It seemed like an exciting idea. Anyone see that?
In The Roads Must Roll Heinlein had transfer points on the moving roads where you could move from one to another to move faster for longer trips.
Larry Niven had a world wide grid of outdoor matter transmitters that you could use to move across town or across the country depending on where you walked. He had one of his characters use it to "walk" around the world in order to stretch his birthday into 48 hours.
These days it is hard to come up with something that has not been thought of before. Or is it just my imagination atrophying with age?
The train idea I mentioned actually seemed realistic and potentially transformative. It was in a tech paper, not meant as SF.
We have discussed a high speed rail in Chattanooga and other parts of the SE for years. It would be a large infrastructure investment, but apparently it is not coming in the foreseeable future.
They keep talking about a bullet train in California, but goodness knows who is going to pay for it; the state doesn't have any money.
The Concorde and SST jets apparently did not have a great market? Maybe there is not a real need for faster transporation? Or at least need sufficient to justify the cos?
The (economic) problem with the SST was that the operating costs -- mostly fuel -- were enormous, which meant that (even with substantial government subsidies, provided by both the UK and France) the ticket prices were too high to make the money-for-time trade-off attractive to most business travelers . . . the airlines' core full-fare market. Why pay five times full (regular) fare to cross the Atlantic in 3.5 hours instead of 6?
Interestingly, the major US airlines ran the numbers in the late 1960s and told the Nixon administration -- then funding development of a prototype American SST -- that they wanted no part of it: too expensive to operate, never make a profit. They opted, instead, for wide-body subsonic jets . . . volume, and low ticket prices, over raw speed.
R. E. G. Davies' Fallacies and Fantasies of Air Transport History has an amusingly ruthless analysis of why the SST was economically doomed.
The next (last?) great breakthrough in air travel will -- my guess -- be the still-hypothetical hypersonic shuttle . . . basically a winged spaceship designed to skim the top of the atmosphere. If they figure out how to build it, NYC-Tokyo takes 90 minutes, which might look attractive to business travelers.
Unless, of course virtual-reality tele-presence catches on first. :-)
G. Harry Stine's Halfway to Anywhere touches on the hypersonic shuttle concept, as does an article in Stanley Schmidt's Islands in the Sky
-- end of aerospace technology geek-out --
Here is the idea behind the train that never stops: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/transportation/high-speed-rail-20-trains-that-ne...
So, the train picks up a small "station" at the station and drops off another. A vary advanced version of the method to transfer mail bags in the 19th century. That would create a lot of stress to the chassis of both the upper and lower parts of the train and I wonder what the G force would be on the passengers.
Still, it looks doable.
Right. The main train stays at traveling speed all the time, and thus is much faster than trains that slow, stop, and speed up again. There isn't a "station" per se, as any of the small "passenger embarkation and disembarkation" trains can join the rain-line, speed up and dock with the traveling train to pick up and drop off passengers. I do not know what sort of g-forces are involved. Would they be greater than those conventional trains would be subject to?
If the Embark/Disembark pod was mechanically coupled to a point on the non-stop train as it passed the inertia would be the same as if the non-stop train hit the pod from behind. From the video it looks like there is some slippage as they come together which would buffer the effect. I can think of two ways to do that right away so there are likely many, many more ways than that.
Basically, launch the pod forward before the non-stop reaches it then, as the non-stop moves underneath, grab hold with standard brake calipers which in this case would accelerate the pod to the non-stops speed. Electromagnetic coupling would also allow for slippage and a more gradual increase in the pod's speed.
It looks good and should work with current rails after some upgrades to stabilize the ride and eliminate auto crossings. (Auto crossings are one of the biggest roadblocks to faster trains)
What about the people inside the pod? Unless they were encased in something that totally immobilized them they would be ripped apart when the pod latched onto the train. Connecting the pod to the train is only part of the problem. Zero to 250mph or 300mph near instantaneously would cause some unusual stresses on a human body. If the train and pod were travelling the same speed it wouldn't be an issue, but how much track would have to be laid for this match up to take place?
No, the pod speeds up to train speed prior to docking. I believe this thing has been thought through pretty well by engineers.
Oh, and the train doesn't have to be going super fast for this to be a substantial improvement. Just the lack of stopping at stations significantly improves the trip time.
All my engineering classes were in the 1970s and half way through I decided I would rather work with my hands for minimum wage than be stuck in an office doing equations for my entire life so I don't want to tackle the math but yeah, direct coupling would be rough on both the people and the machines.
There is only so much buffering you can do to extend the time of acceleration but part of the time saving is in not needing to stop at every station. The last time I rode the train from Cincinnati to Chicago there were at least 4 stops between those cities. This system means about 20-40 minutes on a 6 hour trip saved without increasing the trains top speed which was only about 55 mph. Eliminating the deceleration / acceleration would bump the average speed very close to that maximum. If the top speed could be increased to even 100 mph it would cut the time to about 3 hours.
I can testify that top average speed on AMTRAK today is still somewhere around 50mph, sadly. Having lived in Europe, it really struck me how old and decrepit passenger rail is in the US when I moved back. The closest analog to AMTRAK I've encountered in Europe in the last half dozen years was in Bosnia... which is embarrassing for a number of (fairly obvious) reasons.
Just stumbled upon something which is sort of related to the original topic:
An interactive map of the Roman Empire which shows approximate expected travel times based on mode of transportation, month, desired route, etc... and you can pick any two cities in the Roman world (assuming you know the Roman name for them... hehe... "Roma" isn't that difficult, but I'd imagine most people who have ever had a conversation with another human being wouldn't know offhand that Cologne/Köln = "Ara Agrippinesium" :-P
EDIT: But yeah, there is a ton of other info packed into this project as well. The site also uses the data to create several digital graphs/maps showing various things like how far away different places practically were from Rome. I.e., essentially how far away they would have "felt", if that makes sense. It is especially interesting to me when they select only one mode of transit and you contrast this with the "as the crow flies" distance. Check out the "map gallery" for some of these. Carthage and Morocco were really close to Rome via the sea; but if you had no access to ships, they may as well have been on the moon!
That's a lot of fun. More than the travel probably was, comforts being what they were.
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