Impact on travel time from the transcontinental railroad and average transportation speeds
An exhibit at the Huntington Library called Visions of Empire: The Quest for a Railroad Across America, 1840-1880 had a display describing coast-to-coast travel time:
- 6 months – before the trans-continental railroad. ( I think that was before the stage coach lines were in place.)
- 1 week – after the railroad was completed
Twenty-six weeks versus one week. That would be a 96% reduction in travel time.
The exhibit also had a display listing the average speed of travel in miles per hour:
- 3 mph – foot
- 10 – horse – (obviously a single rider)
- 4-7 – wagon – (multiple passengers and a large load)
- 5-10 – ship (no further explanation on the display – presumably this would be for sail driven ships of the mid 19th century)
- 15 – train, mid-19th-century steam
- 20-70 – automobile (obviously this would be into the 20th century)
- 600 – airplane
The alternative to the train was a wagon. An increase from 4 or 7 mph to 15 mph. That is a doubling or tripling of travel speeds over an established route.