Both knit the country together, and both are owned by the railroads. For most of human history, people stayed fairly close to home. Noon was whenever the sun was directly overhead, and when the fastest thing was a galloping horse, you didn’t have to worry about things like time zones and schedules. The trains came in the 1830s, and things really began to change. Oh, factory workers were called to in and dismissed by a whistle, but really, on time was a pretty nebulous concept.
But the rails spread, from Baltimore in the east, with a heavy concentration in the northeast and in 1869 linking the east and west coasts at Promontory Point. With trains come schedules. Tighter schedules than the canal boats needed. Trains run both ways on the tracks. Either you do what the Pennsylvania and New York Central did, putting in four tracks, high and low speed for each direction OR you put in passing sidings and allow the trains to go both directions on one track. In the long run, that’s cheaper, but you have to have enough sidings and good enough control to keep the trains from running into one another.
Although there is Centralized Traffic Control, the dispatcher will still allow a train crew to have “track and time”. The switches are manually controlled and the guys on the ground shuffle the cars onto and off of the sidings. Again, time and communication are essential. The main has to be shut down while this is going on, and the main has to be cleared as soon as possible. The orders and changes need to be communicated.
When time was, it was done via telegraph wires. If you look at old tracks there are still lots and lots of communication wires along the right of way. Now, it’s radio communication. But the railroads still have the rights of way and the wires. This explains why Sprint, for example, was owned by the Southern Pacific.
Sprint is the mobile carrier for my uni. They have package deals, and I recently took my five-year-old phone and tried to upgrade it, one with Wi-Fi capability and music, so I only have to carry one thing around. I first got a Blackberry 8310, which was quite nice, but the phone will not work with the University’s servers. So I called the Sprint rep, and he sent me a PalmPre. Again a nice thing, I like the look, but the phone will not work with the University’s servers. Not only will it not activate, the automated system told me I was a shmuck and my mother dressed me funny. I feel like I’m trapped in a Rodney Dangerfield movie.