Study Guide

Boardwalk Empire Railroads

By Nelson Johnson


The rise of the railroad is a reflection of the changing landscape of 20th century America. And in this case, we actually use the word landscape literally. The Camden-Atlantic railroad, constructed by Pitney and Richards, transforms South Jersey, connecting isolated small towns to major urban centers. Though "things had changed little" in "the two generations following the American Revolution" (1.3), it's a whole new world now.

Things change even more after Richards builds the first discount rail line to Atlantic City. Richards's new railroad is a minor technological marvel—"there had never been a railroad constructed at such a speed" (1.63) outside of a war. This just goes to show that technological growth isn't always about making things bigger and flashier; it's also about making things more efficient, inexpensive, and accessible to the masses.

Ultimately, the construction of railroads throughout Jersey transforms the region, just as they did across the United States and the world. Without these railroads, Atlantic City would never become the gambling mecca it is today. All aboard!