The Deadliest Kvetch

Rodger Dodger Granger Ranger!

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Have you ever heard the term "Granger Railroad" and wondered what it meant? The word Granger refers to a farm or ranch, and agriculture was the main industry of the young United States. An encyclopedia would tell you that:

The Granger Movement: Coalition of U.S. farmers, mainly in the Midwest, that fought monopolistic grain-transport practices in the 1870s. Oliver H. Kelley (1826 – 1913), a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, organized the Patrons of Husbandry in 1867 to bring farmers together to learn new farming methods. By the mid-1870s almost every state had at least one branch, or Grange, and national membership passed 800,000. The Grangers influenced some states to pass regulatory legislation to counter the price-fixing by railroads and grain-storage facilities.

Therefore, the Grangers were not just farmers or ranchers, but members of an organization of like minded individuals with specific economic and political goals,... a "Union" of sorts.

Four railroads in the Midwest were of particular interest to farmers after the Civil War. These railroads were: the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul, the Chicago and North Western, and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific. These railroads served farmers (among other businesses) in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. All four were land-grant railroads – i.e., they received a grant of land from the Federal government for the purpose of generating money with which to build a railroad. All four were economically drawn to Chicago. The
Chicago & Alton was also an early Granger Railroad, but did not survive.

Throughout the years, products from farms and ranches were essential to the railroads, and the companies became known as a "Granger Railroads." Company representatives worked closely with farmers and ranchers, and as early as 1854 the railroad advised prospective settlers on what crops could be successfully raised in Missouri. Alfalfa was introduced by the railroad as a commercial crop in 1875. Crop and stock improvement, irrigation and soil conservation were aggressively promoted. Through seed and soil exhibits, poultry specials and livestock trains, the railroad helped bring the most advanced agri-science directly to the farmer. The Granger Railroads often would employ farmers at shop work during the winter months until they were able to establish their farms and attend to them on a full-time basis.

The National Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, commonly known as The Grange, had long been seeking redress from the monopolistic actions of railroads, particularly in theMidwest region. In 1870, the Grange was successful in getting legislation passed in Illinois that addressed farmer concerns. This legislation was revised and made more workable in 1873. Subsequently, other states -- Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota -- adopted similar legislation. The principle features of this legislation of Granger origin included:

(1) The fixing of maximum rates by direct legislation. For freight rates this was usually followed by the setting up of commissions with power to establish schedules of maximum rates.

2) Provision that such maximum rates are prima facie evidence of reasonableness before the courts.
(3) Laws designed to prevent discrimination between places by means of “long-and-short-haul” clauses.
(4) The attempt to preserve competition by forbidding consolidation of parallel lines.
(5) Laws prohibiting the granting of free passes to public officials.

The early Grange state railroad regulation applied only to intrastate rail operations. Later they were extended to cover interstate commerce. The U.S. Supreme Court at first upheld such regulations, but in 1886 this opinion was reversed. This led to passage of the Interstate Commerce Commission Act of 1887 which provided for interstate regulation of railroads and which would last for the next century. Railroads thus became the first major
U.S. industry to be subject to economic regulation. Railroads at that time had a near monopoly on both freight and passenger transportation, but that monopoly was shattered in the first half of the 20th century when federal subsidies promoted the rise to trucks, barges, automobiles, airplanes and buses. Although the monopoly had long since ended, railroads remained subject to strict regulation until 1980. ( From Railroads in the United States, M.C. Hallberg, 2009 )

Now you know, thanks to "The Deadliest Kvetch"! Thanks for reading, and check back often!

Updated February 22nd, 2012 at 07:20 AM by Euphod



  1. nomen's Avatar
    Very interesting information. Especially for someone who is living on another continent, where railway history took a different path. Thank you for your effort and I would like to here more about similar topics.
    Updated February 22nd, 2012 at 11:07 AM by nomen (typo)
  2. Euphod's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by nomen
    Very interesting information. Especially for someone who is living on another continent, where railway history took a different path. Thank you for your effort and I would like to here more about similar topics.
    Thank you for reading, and for leaving a comment with your perspective!