Transportation Deployment Casebook/2021/Alabama


The railroad is a mode of transportation on land that vehicles with flange-wheel will move over two parallel steel rails or tracks, it will be self-powered or using a locomotive to make the propulsion.

The advantage of railroad compared with other transport modes is the efficiency of cost. The transportation of shipping contains many separate parts, transferring goods from different places to the harbor, and loading them from land to ship, after shipping, goods also need to be unloaded from ship to the land. If the procedure of shipping has a high volume of freight, it would cost much more money than the railroad. Time of transit also can be promised since railroads use the tracks and they do not need to share the tracks with other modes [1].

Compared with trucks, railroads can carry a high volume of freight. It shows that the freight handled by one double-stacked is the same as 280 trucks which is much better for large load moving. Meanwhile, using railroad is environmental-friendly compared with the transport of road which the data showed the greenhouse gas emissions can be saved 70%.

The development of the railroad never stops due to the expanding demand for delivering commodities. The industry over the world has the urgent of transport, such as coal, bulk commodities, automobiles, and other heavy commodities. The great growth of transportation and logistics also push the railroad to develop [2].


Previous Modes of Transport & LimitationEdit

Before the development of the railroad, using boats or animals such as horses to transfer goods was the common method. Transportation inland mainly relied on horses, as most of the roads were poorly maintained dirt roads, it was not easy for both people and horses to move [3].

With the bad quality of the road, horsing transport usually caused uncomfortable experiences for people, the results might be increased of heart rate, sweat, dizzy and sick feeling, and vomit. Many disorders could happen to people if they take horses to transfer goods [4]. As the horsing transport needs the horses to pull the cart with goods forward, the weight of cart also has the limitation, thus it is not possible to carry too many goods at one time. Meanwhile, the transfer process will be interrupted because horses need to drink, eat and take the rest, and if they get injured during the time of transport, it would take longer to complete the journey.

There is no guarantee in time as well as the quality of goods since the occurrence of bad weather may damage the goods to a certain extent.

Another mode of transport for moving goods by water is shipping. It is much better since ships can handle large volume goods at the same time and the containers in shipping can be directly used inland. The disadvantage always comes with benefits. Since shipping highly depends on sea and weather, the time and route of the journey are both changeable. . The limitation also includes the risk for people during the trip because they have no way to contact the people inland, and they have to handle all matters if any emergency happens [5].

People want to move goods faster and safer based on the disadvantage of horsing transport and boat transport, the determination of development made the history changed. Once the railroad been invented, it opened a completely new world for people. The transfer time is much shorter and goods can be transferred in a safe way with a fixed schedule, and people find their country, even the world seemed smaller than before.

Technological CharacteristicsEdit

Firstly the rail was made of wood which was fragile, and with the development of the technology of iron production, the metal had been used on rails which are the most important addition to it in the 1760s [6].

In addition, the most vital and dramatic evolvement of the railroad was the application of steam. Before James Watt, the engineer, it has only been used for the water pumps and no one found other usages of it, and James changed the whole situation by using the pistons with high-pressure, and then Richard Trevithick invented the first steam locomotive in 1802.

In 1804 and 1808, the different versions of the locomotive were invented, and this technology had been used on railroad afterward which made a huge improvement. In 1812-1813, the very first commercial railroad with steam-operated was opened.

From the invention and development of the locomotive to the use of locomotive on the railroad, and continuously modify the invention to find the best solution, the whole process credited to chemists and engineers. Using the basic principle with many attempts to develop the technology and finally get the high-quality outcome is the only way to invent.

The process from using horses to draw carts along the tracks to the railroad with the operation of steam, the driving force was the desire of setting people free from controlling the cart and let the transport more efficient. The invention of the railroad not only carry passengers and goods, but it also can carry mails from place to place which is also a good chance for post office to improve [7].

After that, the revolution of transport and the great development of the railroad soon take around the world. And in 1879, the first electric railroad was invented by Werner von Siemens, a German engineer. At that time, the electric railroad could carry passengers for a short trip [8].

Early Market DevelopmentEdit

The year of history of the railroad in the United States is almost the same as the nation, it must be admitted that the railroad is one of the most important reasons for the prosperity of the nation.

Dated back to 1815, the first charter to build the New Jersey Railroad Company in North America was gained by Colonel John Stevens, and the construction was completed in 1832. The steam locomotive also been tested on the railroad in the nation [9].

From the beginning, the early railroad was only used for transferring goods. An example could be the first railroad in America, the Granite Railway of Massachusetts. The function of this 3 miles railroad was to transport granite slabs for the monument project.

As people found the advantage of the railroad of cost and time saving, as well as convenient for transferring goods at one time, more railroad projects had begun to start. The technology of tracks develop to carry more cargo, meanwhile, some railroads also could become a role for passengers to travel across the states. The Mohawk & Hudson Railroad built the connection of Hudson River at Albany with the Mohawk River at Schenectady to share the market of transfer people and goods with Erie Canal [10].

The improvements of the function of railroads such as improving the quality of tracks and upgrading the containers with the enhancement of discovering new function, such as expanding the service groups from transferring goods for merchants to passengers of traveling all can attract more people engage in this industry and also make it have better and faster development.

Policy in the “Birth Phase”Edit

While the railroad develops in the early stage, it didn’t replace shipping in the field of transfer, but with the results of reliable high-speed operation, it was proved that the railroad would have a promising future in the industry. One significant point for the railroad was the charter of Pennsylvania Railroads formed by the state legislature in 1846 [11]. Using the legislation to settle the function of the city, and also combined the city with railroads to make the railroads have a long-term development plan.

Government must have a clear view of the railroad development, with the general plan of railroads, it can be seen the railroad would experience a birth phase with success.

Public and Private Sector in “Growth Phase”Edit

It has shown that the number of railroads in 1860 was more than tripled compared with the early stage. As the technology experienced rapid development, railroads, as the witness of the growth of the society, also had a great increment. Due to the need for iron, the government decided to start the plan of completing the railroad across the continent of Golden State [12]. The public sector, in this case, played the vital and irreplaceable role of the leader to control the direction of development. During the evolution period, it was essential to making the right decision on time.

As for the private sector, with the official plan set by the federal government, investors would have the ambition and confidence to invest more money in the industry which makes the system keep circulating. Only in 1850, there are $372 million had been spent on railroads from investors [13].

On the other hand, the people in opposition may disagree with the development of the railroad which may have some bad impact on the railroad. Due to the market conflict of the railroad and other transport modes, the government must balance these industries as well as consider the whole strategic plan of the railroad to let it develops on the right track, and with the changes of time, the correct direction would be proved.

Opportunity to “Re-invent” the modeEdit

During the mature period, it seems the railroad reaches its limitation, some changes need to be made to best fit the market. The railroad is not capable of transporting commodities between two continents. Meanwhile, it is not cost-effective to use railroad transporting some customer goods which makes some companies less participate in the railroad transportation. The industry should find a way to corporate with those customer goods companies to figure out the method of collaboration, such as combing goods from several companies in the same containers to cost less money to attract the clients.

Some technologies have also been applied on the railroad. The enhancement of safety and efficiency on railroads such as smart sensors, advanced fuel management systems, positive train control, and automated inspection equipment all contribute to better railroad service and experience [14]. To meet the need of the market, the railroad must combine much more technology with them to attract more business to make the expansion.

Quantitative analysis of the Alabama Streetcar NetworkEdit

The Life-Cycle ModelEdit

As the graph of life-cycle shown, it illustrates the changing trending of miles of track over the time of 27 years in the state of Alabama, the United States of America. It contains the birth phase, growing phase, and mature phase. With every phase, the external market environment, policies from the public sector, as well as the technology used on the railroad vary with time.

The raw data of miles of track from 1894 to 1920.

Year Miles of Track
1894 246.9
1895 231.3
1896 215.7
1897 200.1
1898 208
1899 168
1900 196.38
1901 168.2
1902 180.7
1903 207.13
1904 244.12
1905 251.68
1906 243.03
1907 273.68
1908 240.43
1909 284.43
1910 281.23
1911 312.01
1912 269.56
1913 284.47
1914 363.58
1915 364.67
1916 365.75
1917 366.84
1918 366.89
1919 365.54
1920 365.98

To identify the phases of the railroad along the selected period of time, S-curve will be used to predict the life-cycle of the miles of track of the railroad in Alabama by mathematical method. The details will be explained by the following equations.

  Where, S(t) is the technology size (miles of track),

K is the saturation status level,

t is the time (in year),

b is the coefficient,

t0 is a inflection time (the point of downturns)

Thus, using K and b, any given year (t) can be put into the S-Curve equation to find the miles of track.

Parameter Value
K 450
b 0.076847317
t0 1901.137684
Lifecycle of Alabama Streetcar Network

As the graph shows, it can be seen the actual miles in Alabama experienced a period of fluctuation which may because of the loss of data collected. The total trend of actual and predicted miles of the track both increased. In 1914, the miles of track reached the peak point, and then it declined and gradually became flat.


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