Interchanging Parts: Productive Railroad Cooperation in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries


  • Judge Glock Director of Research and Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, USA


Although many economic and business historians have examined how American railroads colluded to raise rates or limit service, they have paid less attention to the many ways railroads cooperated to exchange cars and freight between companies and build needed interconnections. This article examines such productive cooperation in three spheres: first, the setting of policies on “interchange”, or the exchange of cars and freight between railroad lines; second, the creation of “car service associations” to organize and pay for cars shared between roads; and third, the building of cooperative infrastructure such as belt railways or union stations. Finally, the article will examine how regulatory battles over interchange and interconnection were an underappreciated part of the struggle to regulate railroads.