The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Railroad History Timeline 1870s-Present
1870s and 1880s: Strikes break out against railroads and the Pullman Palace Car Company. Corporations hire Pinkerton guards to break up the strikes. Nonetheless, much violence occurs in the strikes. Many people were killed, buildings and rolling stock were burned, and reports of rioting shocked middle-class Americans.

1883: Standard time zones adopted by railroads.

1886: Many southern states convert from broad gauges such as 1,524 mm (5 ft) to standard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in).

1887: Congress creates the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate railroads and ensure fair prices.

1891: Webb C. Ball establishes first Railway Watch official guidelines for Railroad chronometers.

1893: Railroad Safety Appliance Act requires air brakes and automatic couplers on all trains, which greatly reduces railroad worker injuries and deaths.

1896: Supreme Court rules in United States v. Gettysburg Electric Ry. Co. that the Takings Clause under eminent domain could be applied for historic preservation.

1890s-1950s: The “Golden Age” of railroading.

1970 to Present: Congress authorizes Amtrak to take over the passenger service of many United States railroad lines, most of which were operating at a loss for many years due to the rise of the automobile and passenger flight. In recent years, rail has experienced a resurgence. In 2013, Amtrak reported 31.6 million passengers, the largest annual total in its history.