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A National Railroad Center

Building on the foundation laid by its position on the Great Lakes, railroad construction in Chicago consolidated and expanded the city’s position as a continental crossroads. Railroads coming from the east skirted along the southern edges of the Great Lakes, connecting lake ports as they came. Finding Chicago to be a natural to received goods and passengers from lake shipping and Eastern railways, from here they fanned to the west, northwest, and southwest, reaching out across the Great Plains to the transmontane West. Chicago’s railroads in turn provided access to the agricultural lands, pastures, and natural resources of the Midwest and West, bringing their products to Chicago for processing and shipment to the great population centers of the east. By the same routes, Chicago served as a destination and passageway for the largest share of migrants who made their way from Europe and the eastern United States to the new towns and farmlands of the northern and central plains. By 1900, more railroad lines converged on Chicago than on any other city in the United States, making it the most important railroad hub in the country.

 

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