Friday, January 9, 2015

Leaders of America's Railroad Labor Unions

Eugene Debs (1855-1926) was a prominent leader of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (BLF) in his youth. Later he helped found the American Railway Union (ARU) in 1894, the Socialist Party of America (1901) and the Industrial Workers of the World (1905). Eugene Debs ran for president of the United States on the Socialist Party ticket five times between 1900 and 1920, winning millions of votes. Although many of his dreams were not realized during his lifetime, Debs inspired millions to believe in "the emancipation of the working class and the brotherhood of all mankind," and he helped spur the rise of industrial unionism and the adoption of much needed progressive social and economic reforms. 

A. Philip Randolph helped organize and served as the first President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.   It was the first labor organization led by African-Americans to receive a charter in the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1935.Randolph expanded his agenda once he became the leader of this foremost black labor organization in the U.S. Randolph was chosen as the leader of the National Negro Congress, an umbrella organization founded in 1937 that united many of the major black civil rights organizations of the day. Randolph helped negotiate the return of the CIO to the AFL in 1955, by which time he had also achieved elder statesman status within the civil rights movement.  In 1978, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters merged with the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks (BRAC).

Jennie Curtis
Jennie Curtis, a teenager, was a seamstress for the Pullman company in the repair shops sewing room. She was also the President of American Railway Union (ARU) Girl's Union, Local 269, at Pullman.  She appeared before the 1894 convention of the ARU where she described the plight of the Pullman factory workers who had suffered repeated wage cuts side by side with the high rents charged by the company. In response to her appeal for help, the delegates voted to impose a boycott of Pullman cars, sparking the infamous Pullman Railroad Strike.  See

Other notable union leaders in the U.S. to check out include:
For more detail, go to the Railroad & Rail Worker web site.

Looking for Railroad Industry & Rail Worker Web Sites

Doing a little research on Railroads and Rail Workers across the U.S.? To save you some time, check out the following links to key national railroad industry and rail worker web sites:

Labor Unions

Major Railroad Companies
Other Rail Organizations Is there another railroad organization you would add to this list? Please share it with us.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

History of Railroad Technology

This is a brief overview of some of the major inventors, advances, and events related to the history of Railroad Technology. The more complete version is posted on the Railroad & Rail Worker web site.  Go ahead and get started.
  • The history of rail transport apparently dates back to early Greek history, around 600 B.C. - See Wikipedia
  • Wagonways were relatively common in Europe from about 1500 through 1800. Typically used in mining operations, they consisted of horses that hauled wagons on wooden tracks.
  • The first iron plate covered wooden rails were used on wagonways in Europe around the late 1700's.
  • James Watt, a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer, developed a reciprocating steam engine capable of powering a wheel and then began investigating the use of high pressure steam acting directly upon a piston. This raised the possibility of a small engine that might be used to power a vehicle. Watt actually patented a design for a steam locomotive in 1784. His employee William Murdoch produced a working model of a self-propelled steam carriage later that year.
  • The first full scale working railway steam locomotive was built in the United Kingdom (U.K.) in 1804 by Richard Trevithick, an English engineer.
  • The first commercially successful steam locomotive was Matthew Murray's rack locomotive 'Salamanca' built in England for the narrow gauge Middleton Railway in 1812.
  • In 1812, Oliver Evans, an American engineer and inventor, published his vision of what steam railways could become, with cities and towns linked by a network of long distance railways plied by speedy locomotives, greatly reducing the time required for personal travel and for transport of goods.
  • In 1814, George Stephenson, an English civil engineer, built one of the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotives. Stephenson played a pivotal role in the development and widespread adoption of the steam locomotive. His designs considerably improved on the work of the earlier pioneers.
  • The first railroad charter in North America was granted to Col. John Stevens in 1815. Grants to others soon followed, and work began on the first operational railroads in the U.S.
  • The American railroad mania began with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1828 and continued through much of the 19th century.
  • Designed and built by Peter Cooper in 1830, the 'Tom Thumb' was the first American-built steam locomotive to be operated on a common-carrier railroad.
  • From the beginning, there was a distinction between the light fast passenger loco and the slower more powerful goods engine. For more detail on the various advances in locomotive design, go to Wikipedia.

To find out more about the History of Railroad Technology from 1830 through the present time, go to the History of Railroad & Rail Workers web site. Check it out!