This favorite folk song is All American, but railways themselves predate the country…by more than 2,000 years.
Railroads began appearing in the US in a primitive form at the end of the 18th century. By the mid 19th they were carrying steam locomotives throughout the Northeast. But the first transcontinental railroad changed the whole game. Construction began in 1863 and linked with the existing Eastern railroads six years later, connecting the coasts by rail.
Here are The Jesters from 1944.
While those existing railroads helped link the East and West, they also helped keep the North and South together. Held under Union control during the Civil War, the rail enabled reinforcement of troops and weaponry at a much greater speed than the marching Confederates could match.
And it all started in Greece, in the 6th century BC, as a way of transporting boats over the isthmus of Corinth. Learn more right here.