The entire steam-track mileage of railways in the United States, in 1902, was 204,787. To this, must be added 70,105 miles of second and side-track, making a total of 274,892 miles of track. In other parts of the world there were 300,000 miles more, which gives our own country about two-thirds of the entire mileage of the world.
If the actual cost of construction and equipment, the production of the materials out of which the lines are built, the employes engaged in railway operation, and the interests which depend for their prosperity on the railway, are considered, it may be safely said that the railway is the greatest industrial factor in the world.
In every direction., East, West, North or South, old roads, are being reconstructed and new ones are being built, with the utmost care to assure the permanency of their tracks, the economy of their administration, and the comfort and safety of passengers. Heavy, ninety-pound steel rails have supplanted the light ones of iron, and rock ballast is now used instead of sand, as here-to-fore steel bridges span the streams, where once wooden structures sufficed. Iron culverts lessen the danger of being burned away, and curves and grades are straightened or leveled wherever such a thing is possible. In the mountainous district, tunnels are being dug through the earth that the trains may not have to surmount steep grades. In the large cities the roads are being elevated or are already elevated, thus eliminating grade crossings, and the perfection of various block and safety signals and safety switch systems, helps to give additional security to traffic and make high speed possible.
In every part of the world a spirit of energy rules in railway construction. On our own continent, our neighbors to the North and South are active. One transcontinental line crosses Canada, a second will soon be completed to Hudson Bay, and the Mexican Republic has, within a recent period, completed the construction of 10,000 miles of railway within its borders.
Surveys have also been made for an intercontinental railway to connect North and South America by way of the Isthmus of Panama. In South America, the Andes range of mountains has been a difficult obstacle for transatlantic lines to overcome, but already the mountains have been penetrated and within the next five years the locomotive will be able to run from ocean to ocean. The Argentine Republic and Brazil have also been penetrated with lines of railway, and even in Asia, the whole political and military situation has been affected by the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway, built by the Russian government.
Trains on the Siberian railway are equipped as our own railways in America are, with sleeping and dining cars of Russian pattern. These trains also have bathrooms, gymnasiums and a church car, which travels with the train at intervals, in which priests hold services for the benefit of the faithful while they are speeding through the heart of Asia.