Across the Lower South, the iron horse, symbol of a speeding new industrial age, dawdled at the pace of the largely preindustrial communities it connected. A modern jet races over the approximately 650 miles between New Orleans and Charleston in a single easy hour. A modern automobile speeds over the approximately 750 miles of superhighway between the two cities in a single hard day. Mid-nineteenth century trains could meander over the approximately 1000 miles of tracks between the two centers in a long, unforgettable week – if one made connections.
Connections alone made the week unforgettable. No railroad connected New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, or Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama’s capital. One had to take a steamer from New Orleans to Mobile, then transfer to a horse-drawn carriage at Mobile to traverse the 75-mile dirt road to pollard, Alabama. Fairly direct train tracks to Montgomery and on to Atlanta, Georgia, and Charleston were then available. But one had to transfer successfully between six different railroad companies.