NEB&W Modelers' Time Line

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A Personal View Of History

by John Nehrich

The following is extracted from our Guides.
This timeline is what I keep in mind when thinking about the connections between different elements of history, as they relate to model railroading. (Dark green is for events of local interest. There is a separate time line for the Prototype vs. NEB&W.)

(Jump ahead to:



Let’s start waaaay back at the beginning:

20,000,000,000-
12,000,000,000 B.C.
Astronomers say the known universe is a dozen or more billion years old.
5,000,000,000 B.C. Geologists have determined the age of the earth to about five billion.
3,000,000,000 B.C. It doesn't take life too long to get started, as determined by micro-fossils of bacteria-like organisms dating back about three billion years.
900,000,000 B.C. Multicellular life arise, as simple colonies of unspecialized cells. (Thus for over 2/3rds of the time life has been around, it was single-celled.)
65,000,000 B.C. Asteroid wipes out all dinosaurs, except for birds.
1,000,000 B.C. First humans.
It is hard to pin this down, as there was a slow gradual change from chimpanzee-like ancestors to humans. (Note, however, there were 64 million years between the last dinosaurs and the first humans, despite all the popular conceptions of prehistoric life, of caveman co-existing with dinosaurs.)
In terms of DNA, chimpanzees are so closely related to humans (we share about 98.5% to 99% of the same DNA - the same science that allows us to determine paternity) that some scientists feel under the right conditions, a human could successfully mate with a chimp.

(Talk about a really bad blind date!)
(Critics pooh-pooh evolution, claiming scientists still are so unsure, they only call it a theory. How many of these critics disbelieve atomic bombs, which are based on Einstein’s

Theory of Relatively? Notice that if you do away with teaching evolution in biology, you would also have to be consistent and do away with teaching astronomy and geology.)
447 B.C. Parthenon started. The 5th century B.C. is considered Golden Age of Greece.

Rome invents the semicircular arch at about this time.
146 B.C. Rome conquers Greece, imports their architecture, including placing Greek columns between arches.
100 A.D. Vitruvius writes about the architecture of his time.
410 Alaric conquers Rome.
900 Roman forts evolve into castles.

At some point, they place the semicircular arches on top of the columns.

1066 Battle of Hastings - Norman conquest of England. Normans skilled with bricks, and continue to use the semicircular arch in profusion, including a series of small closely spaced arches used for decoration

About this time, the horse collar is invented, making horses beasts of burden.
1300 Middle Ages. Great cathedrals.

The semicircular arch is used so much that they are overlapped, giving the pointed arch windows. Cathedrals use stone "tracery" in the windows, needed to support the weight of these massive stained glass windows, but the tracery is made to look almost like lacy twigs, perhaps because the pointed arch is associated with the shape of tree branches meeting in a forest, and the tracery carried out this theme. (The Victorians revive this style, and the tracery becomes their celebrated gingerbread wood trim.)
1400’s Renaissance - Rediscovery of Vitruvius’s writing leads to first architectural revival.
1666 Great fire of London. The city is rebuilt in the styles Christopher Wren imports from Italy, second-generation Vitruvius.

During the London fire, the panicked citizens tear up the cobblestones to hack into the wooden water mains, but this haphazard approach drops the water pressure at other points down the line. Afterwards, wood plugs that stick up to street level are inserted are various points, creating the first "fire plugs", as hydrants are called ever since.
1720 Governor's palace in Williamsburg, VA - styled after the architecture of England (third-generation Vitruvius). As this was in fashion during the reign of the three King Georges (114-1830), it is later called "Georgian". It is the only style of any importance during the rest of the colonial period.
1776 America sheds English government

With it go other English influences including English architecture. (Actually, the new styles, such as Federal and Adams, are pretty close to Georgian.)

1793 Invention of the cotton gin to separate the seeds from the cotton bolls.
(“Gin” is shortened for “engine”, which also gave us the “spinning jenny” and “ore jimmies”.) This created “King Cotton” in the South, gave a new impetus to slavery which had slowly been dying out, and led to the Civil War.
Cheap cotton also fueled the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, as mills sprang up all over New England, and led to the demise of “linsey-woolsey”, a homespun mix of hard to make delicate linen and coarse scratchy wool.
Cotton as the main staple of clothing shifted farm animals from sheep (raised primarily for their wool) to cows, the staple of the diet from mutton to beef, and the change from Bo Peep’s shepherds to the Wild West cowboy. I think that cows must make a greater quantity of milk, so this might have led to the rise of the dairy industry and the transport of fresh milk (via the railroads).
1799 Benjamin Henry Latrobe designs the Bank of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
It is modeled after a Greek Ionic temple. Latrobe is considered to be the first professional architect in the U.S. (back when it was considered a trade, which one learned by being apprenticeship). Thomas Jefferson appointed him surveyor of public buildings in 1803.
In 1814, after the British burned the President’s House during the War of 1812, Latrobe oversaw its rebuilding. To cover the soot, the building was given a coat of whitewash, from which its name, “White House” was derived. For the first few decades of the 19th century, banks, houses, schools, courthouses, even depots were designed as recreations of Greek temples, painted white (with dark green shutters) dominated the landscape.
1807 First steamboat, Robert Fulton’s Clermont.
1823 April 23, Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. chartered.
1824 Beginning of the Greek War of Independence (from the Turks).
The Greeks were inspired by the example of America, and the U.S. in turn felt kinship to Greece and things Greece, especially as the whole concept of democracy arose in Greece. This really gives an impetus to Greek Revival architecture, which lingers into the 1850's.

Stephen Van Rensselaer forms the Rensselaer School in Troy, NY. This was the first school to teach engineering to civilians (prior to this, engineering was the domain of the military), hence "civil" engineer. During most of the 19th century, only about 30 students per graduating class.
1825 Opening of the Erie Canal.
1829 August 8, D&H's Stourbridge Lion first use of steam to turn wheels in America.
1831 August 9, Mohawk & Hudson RR opens between Albany and Schenectady.

John B. Jervis invents the “bogie” or four-wheel lead truck for locos. This makes them handle curves better. First use was on the Experiment built for the Mohawk & Hudson, the first link in what was to become the New York Central/Penn Central/Conrail.
Since the pilot truck was attached via a pivot, the 4-2-0 offered three-point suspension, which is very stable.
1834 First use of the hot blast in iron making in Oxford, NJ.
It is hard to pin down an exact date as to when iron went from scarce hardware used for making barrel hoops and nails to the common material we think of it today. (Even the first railroads only used a thin strap on top of a wood rail to cut down on the expense.)
Iron making goes back into pre-history, when some cave person perhaps found a puddle of iron coming out of campfire, if they happened to have lined the fire with limestone and iron-ore rocks. An organist in Nuremberg, Germany in 1550 thought of using a wooden bellows to create a blast (the same bellows used to power the organ).
In 1830, the total annual U.S. production (165,000 tons of pig iron) was over three times what it had been in 1810, a mere 50,000 tons. In 1850, production was 12 times the 1810 number. In 1870, it was 36-fold increase over the 1810 figure. The peak was 26 billion tons in 1907.
As they say in the commercial, "this changed everything." The availability of cast iron made possible the famous pot belly stove, which in the 1830's changes the nation's heating system. (The Franklin stove had been invented decades earlier, but not practical in its original sheet metal form.) Previously, the massive fireplaces needed equally massive chimneys, but the pot belly stove gave us the modest chimney we know today.
Iron was cheap enough to be used for roofing. (It was given a coating of tin, and sometimes called a "tin" roof.) Such a roof was watertight enough to allow the roof pitch to be all but flat, forever changing the urban skyline. From then on, architects ignored the local climate and copied buildings from sunny semi-arid Italy and Greece for the typical "Victorian" type of row building, even in rainy, snowy New England.
Cheap pipes allowed municipal water supplies, gas lighting, and indoor plumbing.
Miles and miles of iron rails were rolled, allowing for the expansion of the railroads and then a supplemental street car system that allowed the downtown of cities to grow as concentrated as we think of urban areas.
1835 August 18, opening of the Rensselaer & Saratoga.
1837 First 4-4-0 loco, built by Henry Campbell for the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown.
This became the most common wheel arrangement in 19th century America, so much so that it was called the “American” type. This design, coupled with the newly invented “equalizer”, which used a series of levers and springs to keep all the drivers on the rails at all times, made for an extremely flexible engine suitable for the cheaply built American railroads. Locos of more than two sets of drivers had been built prior to this, but they had a rigid frame. The equalizer is one of the most important developments in loco development.
1839 Henry Burden of Troy invents a railroad spike machine which can make 50 spikes a minute, doing the work of some 50 blacksmiths and their helpers.
1842 Andrew Jackson Downing ushers in the first of Victorian architecture.
Downing publishes Cottage Residences and Treatise On The Theory And Practice Of Landscape Gardening Adapted To North America, popularizing both Gothic Revival and Italianate architecture, which essentially begin what we might call Victorian styles. (John Notman is credited with the first Italianate villa, built for Bishop Doane in Burlington, NJ in 1837, which Downing discussed in his book.)
1840’s Powered sawmills, availability of nails, balloon frame.
The balloon frame allowed freedom from the simple rectangular block structure previous. (The old technique was to use a heavy 12 inch by 12 inch beam in the corners, and thus the less corners, the less timbers were needed.)
Powered sawmills allowed fret-sawed "gingerbread" add-on trim which became so much the rage, it sometimes defines the era.
1843 Champlain & Connecticut River RR chartered in Vermont, the first link in the Rutland RR system.
1847 November, C&CR RR changes name to Rutland & Burlington.
1849 English art critic John Ruskin publishes The Seven Lamps Of Architecture.
He argued for building materials to be used "honestly". This philosophy slowly takes hold in America in the late 1860's with High Victorian Gothic, but doesn't really catch on until about 1880. It epitomizes the final phase of Victorian styles (Queen Anne, Richardson Romanesque, Craftsman, and its variants, such as Eastlake Stick, Shingle, even to a degree, Bungalow.) Dec. 18, Rutland & Burlington completed from Bellows Falls to Burlington.
1853 First terra cotta (literally “cooked or baked earth”) in the U.S., made by James Renwick, a Columbia University Chemist.
1854 Feb. 22, opening of the Troy Union RR. Steam engines enter Troy first time. The second station, on 6th Avenue, is opened.
1855 An international exposition in Paris popularized the mansard roof.
It was named after Francois Mansart, a 17th century architect. Since this was during the reign of Napoleon III, said to be the second empire, the style was called "Mansard", "Second-Empire" or sometimes "French" (for the roof itself).
This style doesn't become popular until the 1870's in America.
1857 First Otis Safety elevator installed in E.V. Haughwout’s store in New York City.
This was from an invention by Elisha Graves Otis in 1852. This made practical tall buildings, as previously the attic or garret was all but unrentable, except for starving artists.
By the way, Hollywood loves the plunging elevator scene in their disaster movies, but when was the last time you heard of this really happening. An elevator may be one of SAFEST places to be in during an earthquake, as Otis's invention keeps it from falling.
1859 Oil is discovered in Pennsylvania, Ontario and West Virginia. This is the beginning of the shift from a coal-based culture (steam locos, home heating, coal tar chemicals) to a petroleum-based one (autos, Diesel engines, petrochemicals). Also, this is the start of the enormous Rockefeller/Standard Oil empire and the related Union Tank Line fleet of tank cars.
1860 Pony Express begins when first relay rider leaves St. Joseph, MO with 49 letters on April 3rd. - Service lasts only 19 months, rendered technically obsolete by the telegraph line strung along the right of way of the transcontinental railroad being built. (Information from “The Way West” on A&E’s American Experience TV program, courtesy Jim Hill)
1862 First mail sorting car put in service - Hannibal to St. Joseph MO (Information from Early American Railroading Jul./Aug. '84, courtesy Jim Hill)

May 10, great fire of Troy. Third station built on site of second one, which was consumed in the fire.
1864 The first Bessemer Process for making steel began operation in Troy, NY (yea!).
Henry Bessemer invented the process in England in 1856. Steel had been around for millennium, for such specialized applications, particularly swords, but the Bessemer Process dropped the price so that it was common.
Steel beams would revolution architecture, allowing skyscrapers and also concrete-faced curtain wall buildings such as offered in HO by City Classics.
1871 First US narrow gauge railroad begins building from Denver on Aug. 16th - reaching Colorado Springs on Oct. 27th of this year. (Information from the Mar./Apr. '85 Early American Railroading, courtesy Jim Hill)
Narrow gauge has the advantage of allowing tighter curves, which can hug the contours of rugged terrain closer than standard gauge, greatly decreasing construction costs. (In going around a curve, the inner wheel travels a shorter distance than the outer one. On a wagon or auto, each wheel can turn at a different rate, but railroad wheels have to be rigidly affixed to the axle in order to maintain the gauge. This means railroad curves so broad their radius can be measured in miles to kept the relative difference between the two wheels to a minimum. Bring them closer together and the curves can be sharper.)
While these lower costs seem wonderful and many miles of narrow gauge are built in outlying regions, this advantage proves to be outweighed by the greater operating costs of not being to interchange cars.
1872 H.H. Richardson wins competition to design Trinity Church in Boston.
After graduating Harvard in 1859, he was the second American to attend the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and returned to this country in 1865. He is considered one of America's greatest architects, introducing a revival of the late Roman period, or Romanesque, but done in a Ruskin fashion.
1873 Eli H. Janney is issued a patent on the knuckle-type coupler. It wasn't until 1878 when the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago adopted the coupler for all their passenger cars. The PFW&C was a subsidiary of the mighty Pennsylvania, and in 1882, they gave their "seal of approval" on it by using in 100 stock cars.
The railroads were slow and uncertain in their acceptance of this to replace the old link and pin couplers, until a reformer, Lorenzo Coffin, began to speak out on the dangers of the old system. In 1893, Congress passed a bill requiring knuckle couplers on all cars by 1898 (an extension was granted, giving the railroads until 1900).
1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition popularizes Queen Anne.
Also, with renewed pride in our colonial history, gradually Georgian features creep in, paving the way for the Beaux Arts era.
1879 Edison invents electric light, using a fragile carbon filament.
1880’s Rise of the machine industry
Steel gears for bicycles, autos and diesels, transmissions, rear-axle differential, geared steam locos, the "western" type of windmill.
Gears had existed before, particularly for clocks, but it took steel and the ability to cut gears in steel to be able to transmit any degree of power.
The bicycle causes an intense but short-lived (and all but forgotten) craze in 1890’s, literally paving the way for the auto by creating demand for better roads, allows women more freedom of movement.
Steel gears are needed to slow down the speed of an internal combustion engine and electric motors to make its power usable. Without a transmission, an auto could not get around tight corners in street driving.
Also, in the 1880's, there is a sudden rise in various types of geared steam locos, like Shays, Vulcans, and Heislers, used primarily in logging.
Steel beveled gears also allowed the spindly windmill identified with the range country, doing away with the Holland-type of windmill.
1882 First sulphite wood pulp process introduced in the U.S.
Paper goes back to Chinese, credited to Tsai Lun, c 105 A.D., spread to the West when Arabs captured some Chinese papermakers in Turkestan c. 700, and slowly spread through Europe during the Middle Ages. The first paper mill in the U.S. was built in 1690, in Germantown, PA.
But paper making was dependent on using rags, and this was a real bottleneck. Wood for pulp was long considered a possibility when someone noticed termites and wasps making paper-like nests from wood. In 1866, the first wood grinder was introduced in the U.S., but paper so made quickly turned yellow, so it was limited to cheap newspapers and paperback books (“pulp fiction” and “yellow journalism” being terms derived in the late 1800’s from this association of low cost.)
Using harsh chemicals, such as sulphurous acid to “digest” the components of the wood that degraded, left purer forms of cellulose. This led to a magnitude increase in paper production, a better educated public, and subsequent speeding of newer inventions and technologies.
In 1889, annual production in the U.S. topped one million tons for the first time. A decade later, it had more than doubled, to 2,167,593 tons. In 1940, it was 14,372,000 tons.
1883 Standard Time adopted by railroads throughout the U.S. on Nov. 18th. - government makes it official in 1918. (Information from Early American Railroading Jul./Aug. '84, courtesy Jim Hill)
1887 ICC formed, strengthened in 1910.

Westinghouse demonstrates the superiority of his improved air brake system at the Burlington, IA trials conducted for the Master Car Builders.
1888 Frank Julian Sprague builds first electric street cars, in Richmond, VA. The overhead power collector runs off a pair of overhead electric wires, with a little wheeled conveyance that is pulled or "trolled" along behind the street car, thus giving these the name "trolley".
In a mere 7 years, there are over 800 trolley systems throughout the U.S. By 1904, it is possible to go from Maine to Delaware entirely by trolley (although it took a lot of transfers). By 1915, one could take electric "traction" from Ithaca, NY to Freeport, IL, a distance of over 1,000 miles.
The trolley network, a step up of the horse car system, totally revolutionizes the downtown because of the magnitude of the people that could easily get to the heart of a town or city. See the Downtown Century for an idea of how important this was.
1890 Wainwright Building in Chicago was erected, designed by Louis Sullivan. Sullivan said to be the inventor of the skyscraper. This building was said to be one of his best works.
1893 Columbian Exposition - also known as "White City" from all the examples of Beaux Arts (a style named after the Paris school). In a sense, this was a revival of Colonial Georgian, thus a fourth-generation Vitruvius, but with overblown elements.

Alcoa first user of the new hydroelectric power generated at the newly dammed Niagara Falls.
According to The Chemical Process Industries, aluminum is possibly the most abundant metal in the world. However, it binds so tightly to form its compounds, it wasn't until 1825 that it was produced as a metal. (Aluminum is so reactive that it would easily corrode, except that its oxide clings to the surface, thus forming a molecular protective layer. With iron, the oxide flakes off, exposing new material for attack.)
At first aluminum was sold for $100 a pound, and this precious metal was used to cap the top of the Washington monument. By 1886, the price had come down to $8 a pound, when Charles Hall in Pittsburgh developed the "Hall process", using electricity. It took awhile for the electrical industry to be able to furnish the gigawatts of power needed, but by 1893, the price was down to $2 a pound. (The energy costs represented about a third of the total production costs.) By WWI, Hall's company had brought the price down to 15 cents a pound.
Hall formed the Pittsburgh Reduction Company in 1888, but the name was changed to the Aluminum Ore Co. in 1907. In 1910, they introduced aluminum foil (the key to this product was the low cost). (By the way, "foil" comes from Latin "folium" meaning "leaf", both natural and as in "gold leaf". The root also gave us "foliage" and "folio".) March 2nd - Congress passes Safety Appliance Act which requires all roads to equip their cars with knuckle-type couplers and air brakes within five years. An extension was granted, giving them until Aug. 1, 1900 to comply.

May 10th - First Land Speed Record - New York Central No. 999 makes first 100 m.p.h. run. (Information from Early American Railroading Jul./Aug. '84, courtesy Jim Hill)
1895 Pennsylvania RR builds their GG class.
These cars were classified as "gons", but with slope sheets and hoppers, thus one of the first self-cleaning hopper car design. In 1898, the first all steel hopper cars were built, so there wasn't time for a fleet of all-wooden hoppers to accumulate.
1897 Spanish-American War. The federal government builds fortifications using Portland cement, thus demonstrating its value, and demand doubles in a few years.
The Romans had used what is known as natural or hydraulic cement, but the mix was lost during the middle ages, not rediscovered until 1756.
In 1824, Joseph Aspdin in England created a mix of materials he termed "Portland" cement since it matched the color of stones from the Isle of Portland. Over the years, the mix of ingredients evolved into what we know today as Portland cement.
David Saylor, in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, was the first to make Portland cement in the US, and this wasn't until 1871. The development of the rotary kiln in the 1890's produced a unified product, not varying in quality from mix to mix.
However, it wasn't until about 1910 that concrete replaces cut stone for bridge abutments and the like. Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie builds the first all-steel hoppers.

Tom Lucas said that the U.S. Army switched to olive drab for the uniforms. This was the first war since the Civil, and a lot of Southern boys didn't want to wear "Yankee blue". Lucas said that green was chosen, reflecting Ethan Allen's uniform color for his Green Mountain men. (My theory is that previously, a bright color was used for uniforms as the guns were such short range, there was little reason to try and blend into the background. But with longer range rifles, the ability to see, or not see, the target became important.)
1898 First steel hoppers in great numbers.
The Pennsylvania RR begins buying over 20,000 steel hoppers it calls "GL", a 10-panel fishbelly side-sill car.
1901 Industry adopts 36 feet as the standard length for box cars.

Jan. 7, Rutland opens its "Island Line", utilizing the large islands of South and North Hero and a three-mile causeway up through the widest section of the Lake Champlain.
1902 If memory serves me right, this is the date when the mileage fee paid for off-line cars was changed to a per diem rate. (Private owned cars continued with the mileage fee.) A per diem rate greatly accelerated interchange traffic.
1903 Bettendorf Co. makes a practical cast steel truck for freight cars.
As a result, within a short time, 30 and 40 ton car designs are obsolete, replaced by cars of 50 and 70 tons. The general service box car design of 36 feet long jumps to 40 foot. Steel hoppers become common, replacing wood gons for coal shipments.
1904 B&O Old Maud is the first Mallet loco and represents the first use of Walschaerts valve gear in America.

1909 First single-sheathed box cars.
Canadian Pacific begins acquiring a massive fleet of 36 feet 7-panel Howe truss single-sheathed box cars, the first use of single-sheathed box cars. They would eventually be called "Fowler" cars as Mr. Fowler invented a minor device for tightening the boards.

First known use of corrugated ends - the Van Dorn that looked like a bullseye with ridges in a series of concentric circles.

Al Westerfield said the Pennsylvania RR begins to build H21 quad hoppers for coke service. In 1913, they changed the 50 ton trucks to 70 tons, allowing the cars to carry coal. Over 35,000 were built, representing one of the largest class of freight cars even into the late steam-era.
1910 According to Guy Wilber, the ARA adopted the use of the "X" to indicate private ownership on May 18. A combination of letters assigned to each company was to consist of: "not less than two, nor more than four letters, in each case ending with the letter X, indicating private ownership."
1911 Ductile tungsten for electric lamps. Tungsten is normally a very brittle metal and difficult to form into a wire for the filament, but GE scientists were finally able to overcome this. This dramatically improved the electric light, making one that lasted much longer than the original carbon filament bulb, and much brighter.
Following this invention, arc lights on locomotives were changed to electric lights as were the acetylene lamps on autos. (The carbon filament couldn't stand up to bouncing around in a moving object very well.) The first searchlight signal comes shortly after this invention, as does the first traffic light.
Nightlife in the downtown booms after dark.

Safety Standards Appliance Act requires hand-holds (ladders or grabs) on both the side and end of a freight car.

Supreme Court breaks up Standard Oil into a number of regional companies which legally were forbidden to use the Standard name outside their area. (And thus these tank cars probably would not be seen outside their regions, unless passing through from the oil fields).
1912 New York Central builds a one-of-a-kind 36 foot all steel box car. The car introduces the Murphy-type end with narrow horizontal corrugations, which in this case stick into the end of the car. This would prove to the most popular steel end until superseded by the Dreadnaught in the late '20's.

The Pennsylvania builds their X23 ("zig-zag") single-sheathed box car, the first use of 40 feet for a general purpose box car. (Longer 40 and even 50 foot box cars had been built for lightweight bulky items like carriages and furniture.) The USRA sort of sets this length in stone with their box car designs in 1918, although 36 foot box cars continued to be built through the '20's.
1913 First chlorination of municipal water supply.
According to American Chemical Industry, the Electro Bleaching Gas Co. was founded in Niagara Falls, NY around 1910, liquefying chlorine with electricity and using it directly as a bleach.
At that time, this popular honeymoon destination had an appalling typhoid fever epidemic, and the growing tourist traffic caused the spread to other parts of the country.
In 1913, the company tried a revolutionary experiment, using their liquid chlorine to sterilize the public water supply of Niagara Falls. Despite the crude equipment used at first, typhoid fever rates dropped dramatically, and other cities soon followed with chlorinating their water supply.
Prior to this, the only drinking water that was safe was from springs, and rather than drinking fresh water, people got their water from tea and coffee (boiling it in the process) or from alcoholic beverages, where the alcohol in a sense sterilized the water. Even the carbonation and sugar used for sodas would help kill off some of the bacteria.
1915 Bettendorf box car design.
The Bettendorf Co. introduces a 40 foot 9 panel Howe truss single-sheathed box car design, which I believe was the predecessor to the USRA single-sheathed box car.
1916 First zoning laws.
Setbacks required on tall buildings (at least in New York City), creating the most distinguishing feature of Art Deco styling.

Black and white striping required on crossing gates. Prior to this, gates were a solid color, probably white. Horse-drawn vehicles moved slowly and a horse would have enough sense to stop at a physical barrier, striped or not. The greater speed of autos (which apparently by this point had become common enough) needed something visible from a greater distance.
1919 Peak of railroading. From this point, the effect of highway vehicles begins to cut into every aspect of railroading.

United States Railroad Administration (USRA) committees design state-of-the-art loco and freight car designs. Most freight designs go into production. Some designs lay dormant until after the war, but still wind up influencing subsequent freight cars.

Prohibition begins.
1923 ARA begins to set standards for car design, including setting the standard inside height at 8 ft. 7 ins. The PRR's steel X29 design, slight modified, is set as the standard steel box car, but never gains the required 2/3's vote. The single-sheathed car, with 7 panels in a Pratt truss is set as the standard "outside-braced" car, and quickly found favor with many roads, although most opted to reverse the diagonals into a more traditional Howe truss (a throwback to wood truss design).

First known neon sign in America. The painting of signs on the surface of every inch of a commercial building becomes passe (even though these pre-1923 signs linger even into today), as money is diverted instead to massive neon marquees hung off the front of the building.

1925 “The Exposition Internationale des Arts decoratifs et Industriels Modernes” opens in Paris, creating the term "Art Deco" for the "modern" style used on skyscrapers, distinguished by vertical lines and setbacks.

Oct. 20th - First diesel goes into service - Central RR of New Jersey. (Information from Early American Railroading Mar./Apr. '85, courtesy Jim Hill)

First known use of the Dreadnaught End, which would become THE corrugated steel end well into the diesel era.
1920’s Duco paints. This cuts the time it takes to paint an auto from a couple of weeks to just hours. (Ford's "Any color you want as long it is black" was because black absorbed heat a little faster and thus dried faster, but still before Duco paints, painting an auto was more an ordeal for the workers than a process.)
I would think this new paint technology would spill over to freight cars, accelerating the move to all steel construction.

Welding, considered at one time experimental, becomes accepted.

Late ‘20’s Rise of private owner milk cars with internal tanks for bulk shipment of milk.
1926 First offset hoppers.
1928 First 65 foot mill gons, built for the Carnegie Steel Co.
1929 Start of Great Depression.

Although new technology continues to advance, very little is built until after WWII, so it seems that all the changes come at once.
1930 B&O puts first air-conditioned diner in service.
About this time movie theaters are finding that despite the Depression, air-conditioning brings in customers during the summer months.
Mechanical ice-making goes back to the 1880's, but the first units were gigantic, using dangerous, smelly ammonia as the refrigerant. Around 1903, Mr. Carrier discovers the need to condition the air by dehumidify it as well as cool it.
The B&O's diner uses ammonia, but by the next year or so, it seems that freon had been invented, an odorless, safe refrigerant. I think that freon is responsible for the acceptance of home refrigerators instead of ice boxes. The food industry is beginning to develop frozen foods, and the railroads begin to make refrigerator cars that are better insulated, ultimately switching to steel instead of wood for the body and to mechanical refrigeration instead of labor-intensive ice.
As air conditioning becomes common after WWII, architects begin designing solid glass high rises, which previously would have been a sweatbox in the summer. Windows no longer need to open, either.
1931 National Malleable & Steel Castings Co. introduces the National Type B-1 truck, indentifiable by a pair of "portholes" on the sideframe. Richard Hendrickson said this became the most popular alternative to the standard AAR type at the time.
1932 Prohibition repealed.

Beer reefers appear again, in vastly greater numbers. (Back before Prohibition, most beer was produced and consumed locally, so there were long distance shipments and much reason to advertise these brands on the sides of reefers.)

ARA revises their standard steel box car design from the X29-type to the "Athearn box car" type.

ARA raises the inside height of the standard box car 9 more inches, from 8 ft. 7 ins. to 9 ft. 4 ins.

ARA begins to accept metal running boards on freight cars on a case-by-case basis.

About this time, Standard Railway Equipment adds a raised rectangular panel to help stiffen their steel roof. This becomes almost the industry standard until the Diagonal Panel roof is introduced (by Standard Railway) about 1949. The popularity of this rectangular panel design pretty much spells the doom for radial roofs.
1933 Burlington Zephyr grabs the nation’s attention, leads to streamlined steam locos, automobiles, and even architecture.

Speaking of architecture, John D. Rockefeller donates millions to rebuild Williamsburg as a tourist attraction, which gives a new impetus to things colonial, leading to the “Cape Cod” and other simple styles of the post-War developments.

AB air brake is developed this year, distinguished from the previous K brake by having three separate parts. All cars from now on must be built with AB brakes, with '53 eventually set as the deadline to rebuild all older cars with AB's.
1934 ARA becomes AAR, with new rules that allow more things to get decided.
1935 First parking meters, Oklahoma City.
1937 AAR raises the inside height of the standard box car by 8 more inches, from 9 ft. 4 ins. to an even 10 feet.

Also the ICC rules billboard reefers illegal (as of July '37). Within a year or two, all billboard reefers gone. It continued to be okay to letter a car “Swift” or “Armour” but not describe and promote the products (just like the fine line between the commercials on most TV channels and the way PBS handles sponsor credits). The following year, the first slogans about train service (“Route of the . . “ or “Ship . . “) first start appearing on railroad-owned equipment. (The actual ban applied to leased reefers, but it seemed to have wider-spread effect, a sort of wet blanket on any promotional-type letter.)
1938 Invention of the fluorescent lamp eliminates the need for sunlight, leads to all-but windowless architecture, including shopping malls.

1939 EMD produces the SW1 diesel switcher
From Jan. of this year until Nov. '53, a total of 661 units were produced.

EMD also introduces the NW1 ("S" stood for "Six hundred horsepower" and "N" for "Nine hundred", the "W" meant "welded" frame).

EMD also produces the FT and F3.

Standard Railway Equipment introduces their "W-corner" post to their popular Dreadnaught End. Externally, this gives a rounded corner.
1940 Alco introduces the S-2 switcher, rated at 1,000 horsepower.
Between 1940 and 1950, some 1,502 S-2 units were made, making it Alco's most popular engine.

Alco also introduces the 1,000 horsepower RS-1. (The RS-1 is basically a lengthened S-2, with a toilet added in the short hood, so the engine could be used as a road switcher, hence the "RS".)

General Electric introduces the 44-tonner. The idea was that an engine 45 tons or more required a fireman, so this just got under the wire.
1941 Bombing attack on Pearl Harbor.
Beginning of the war which demonstrated how vulnerable America was to aerial attacks. The atomic bomb only emphasized this. After the War, the federal government quietly but purposely pushed suburban sprawl as a way to disperse the population, particularly with the G.I. bill. This in turn led to the rise of the auto society and decline of railroads and downtowns.

Archbar trucks banned from interchange.

Allied Cushion Trucks introduced for high-speed service. There were outlawed in '59.
1942 AAR raises the inside height of the standard box car from 10 feet to 10 ft. 6 ins. (I believe that in '42, they had already made this new height an alternative to the standard height.)

AAR designs "War-Emergency" freight car designs, using as much wood as possible to converse on sheet steel.
1943 American Steel Foundries introduces the A-3 Ride Control truck, which would become the most common type by far for at least the next decade.

1944 AAR requires "other than wood" (meaning steel) for running boards on freight cars.

Standard Railway Equipment introduces their Improved Dreadnaught End, with the corner "darts" or tucks extended across to form a minor rib between each pair of major ribs.
1946 Alco introduces the 1,500 horsepower FA-1. They produce almost 400 FA-1's between Jan. '46 and June '50, used on some two dozen roads.

Alco also introduces the PA-1 and RS-2 in this year.
1947 Pullman-Standard builds their first PS-1 box car demonstrator.
Pullman produces PS-1's for the Lehigh Valley in June of this year. The PS-1 design used welded construction, and Pullman's in-house design for ends, roof, and sometimes doors, probably to avoid paying licensing fees to Standard Railway Equipment for their proprietary Dreadnaught End and even the roof. In a sense, this was the freight car equivalent of the Model-T Ford, which cut costs by minimizing variations.

Nov. 15, Rensselaer Model Railroad Society formed.
1948 EMD introduces the BL2, their answer to the Alco RS road switcher series. The BL2 was produced from April '48 through May '49, with 58 freight units built.

EMD produces the F7 from Nov. of this year until Dec. '53.
1949 EMD introduces the E8 in August of this year. The E8 was produced until Dec. '53, when it was replaced by the E9. (The only noticeable difference was that the E8-A had a painted metal headlight rim, while the E9-A had an exposed rubber gasket. B-unit have no headlight.) There were 421 E8-A's, 39 E8-B's, 100 E9-A's, and 44 E9-B's.

EMD replaces the BL2 with the GP7. Rated at 1,500 h.p., there were 2,610 GP7's sold.

I think it was this year that Standard Railway Equipment added a diagonal crease to the raised rectangular panel of their popular steel roof design for house cars, which added extra stiffness. This was called, not surprisingly, the Diagonal Panel Roof. (A couple of decades or so later, they added a second crease in the opposite to form what is called the "X-Panel" roof. If they kept going with this concept, each panel would have a starburst.)
1950 Alco produces some 1,500 RS-3's between 1950 and '56, rated at 1,600 horsepower.

Alco introduces the FA-2.
1952 Diesels outnumbered steam for the first time on American’s railroads.
In '51, there were 21,747 steam engines in service and 20,492 diesels. The next year, there were 16,078 steamers vs. 20,492 diesels. A decade later, 1962, there were but a mere 54 steam locos left in service.
1953 Fairbanks-Morse introduces the Trainmaster, a 6 axle engine with 2,400 horsepower.

General American introduces their "Airslide" covered hopper, although I don't know any produced this year that were lettered other than GATX.

AB brakes required on all freight cars.
1954 EMD replaces the GP7 with the GP9.

Pullman begins production of their PS-2 covered hopper, distinguished from the standard ACF design by its "missing" center rib (not needed as the internal bulkhead supported the sides at this point.)
1955 Acceptance of roller bearing trucks.

Fifty-foot box car replaces 40 foot as the standard, 70 and 100 ton cars become the norm.
1956 Interstate highway system.

Alco introduces the RS-11, which basically replaces the RS-3.
1959 EMD replaces the GP9 with the GP18. The GP18 was produced until 1963. It was rated at 1,800 horsepower, hence the name. The GP20 was also introduced this year (with 2,000 horsepower) and 260 units were produced up until 1962.

AAR outlaws Allied Full Cushion Trucks, although a lot of roads had already switched them out.
1961 ACF creates the first "Airflow" covered hopper.

Sept. 25, second major strike in two days hits Rutland, last train runs. Rutland abandoned, Nov. 4, 1963, after State of VT purchases major portions to be leased to operators.
1962 Mariner 2, first successful fly-by of Venus, found a heavy atmosphere and hot surface.
In 1967, the USSR's Venera 4 makes first successful atmosphere entry, sending out data to within 16 miles of the surface. Venus was found to be way too hot, not steamy jungle of 1930’s science fiction, in fact, the surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead. Scientists are baffled until they realize the atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. This leads to the concept of the greenhouse effect.
Back here on earth, it had been felt that we were in the warm Cycle between the last ice age and the next one, so if anything, it was felt that temperatures would go down.
But then the idea dawned that ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution, humans had been increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and this led to the concept of global warming.
Not everyone is convinced that the rise in temperature over the last century and even the last decade is due to this, and not just a natural fluctuation, but we are clearly getting warmer. Since the US produces about half the world's carbon dioxide (if I remember my numbers correctly), it may be that the rest of the world may demand we cut back drastically on use of the personal automobile. This may lead to a new rise in mass transportation, particularly rail transport, or we may get by with developments in fuel cell technology which only produces water as an exhaust. Who knows.

RMRRS moved to basement of the University building, into a former bakery.
1964 EMD introduces the GP30.
1966 Beginning of the end for rooftop running boards. ICC requires new freight cars to be built without running boards, except for those cars with roof hatches, such as covered hoppers. All running boards on existing cars had to be removed by June '84.
1967 Kartrak ACI labeling system (Automatic Car Identification) approved, but not made mandatory.
1968 RMRRS moves to second floor of People's Avenue Complex.
1970 Incentive Per Diem gives an added per diem charge for roads that add a lot more box cars, as an incentive. For tiny roads with few or no box cars, this suddenly makes it financially attractive for investors to buy them new box cars, and the names of rinky-dink lines appear on brand new box cars. (Many of these lines had no interchange cars for decades.)

ACI Labels (like the grocery store price scanning labels) mandatory for all freight cars.
1971 Amtrak created May 1, Penn Central goes bankrupt sometime in here. This represents to many the bottoming out of railroading.
1972 EMD introduces the GP38-2, and 2,100 units made by the end of production in 1987.

RMRRS moves over the summer to the basement of Davison Hall.
1975 Lube plate stencils required. This added a second black rectangle to modern freight cars.
1977 Last RPO pulled from service. For many passenger runs, as rideship declined, it was the mail contract that kept them running.
1979 ACI labeling system abandoned.
1980? Staggers Act deregulates railroads. This is the beginning of a totally new way for the railroads to charge rates, and a turn-around of the entire industry starts.
1982 The railroads and the United Transportation Union reach an agreement in Oct. of this year to allow the elimination of a required caboose on many runs. Instead a "fred" is installed on the last car to monitor brake pressure and radio it back to the cab.

Westerfield starts manufacturing cast resin freight car kits. Westerfield smashes the Athearn $2 box car price ceiling with $15 kits. The revolution in high quality steam-era freight car modeling slowly begins to gather steam.

In a 1982 issue of Model Railroader, they review the new cyanoacrylate glues (Jet and Super Jet from Carl Goldberg Models), commonly called super glue. This has revolutionized the hobby's gluing methods.
1984 Freight cars can no longer have running boards on the roof, except for those cars that need access for operators to reach roof-top hatches.
1991 Jan. 1 - According to Ed Kaminski, so-called "friction" (plain or non-roller) bearing trucks banned from interchange service for cars carrying hazardous materials.
1992 World Wide Web.
Al Gore talks about the "information superhighway” during the presidential campaign. At least for me this was the first I was aware of the web.
1994 Kaminski said that as of Jan. 1, all trucks with "friction" bearings were banned from interchange, although the FRA could grant some exemptions for hardship circumstances.
1995 Kaminski said all roller bearing trucks converted from plain-bearing trucks banned from interchange. (Chris Barkan said the reason was that the hot bearing detectors couldn't "see" them if they overheated.)
1999 Bachmann, Athearn, etc. usher in a new generation of high quality r-t-r plastic steam.

Westerfield introduces one-piece cast resin kits.
Some of the above information courtesy Jim Hill's Union Pacific Timeline.