When the railroad went through a township it put it on the map, literally, and it meant money and jobs. Lines of transports can offer trade, passengers and employment for locals. In the past, the railway was a lifeline to rural communities. Farmers could shift their produce by train and cattle ranchers could get their animals to market. The railroad was the first land based cost effective transportation system; it was reasonably fast and very reliable. The railways offered means of migration for Americans to economically move from one region to another, one town to another.

Freight trains in America are still a big part of the transport equation, competing with trucks for the haulage dollar. The railroad as a lifeline to rural communities is still a true statement, even today, in the twenty first century. There is talk about very fast trains for high speed travel but these are yet to win community approval through proper environmental channels. The transnational railroads remain the main routes across the country carrying goods and raw materials to their markets.

What are their lives like in Middle America, in these rural communities linked up by the networks of railroads? There are perceptions of some children in rural communities as having learning difficulties due to environmental factors. What are these environmental issues and are they connected to the rail lines criss crossing the country? Any talk of high speed trains has been constantly blocked by reports of high noise/vibration pollution damaging residents who live near or on these tracks. In European nations like Sweden their high speed trains are denied access to the lines during the hours of the night when nearby residents are sleeping.

People or progress? It has been an ongoing debate for decades now, as local communities and environmental groups stand up for their rights against the multinational corporations who want to invest in infrastructure and profit from it. Is the modern railroad going to be a lifeline or a scar in the lives and lands of rural America? Reports of rolling bombs carrying crude oil derailing and devastating towns in North America are reaching the world, as oil filled rail tankers crash and the ensuing explosions kill dozens of local residents. There are two sides to the rail debate and what was once a wholly positive story now has some dark aspects to it. There are no easy solutions to the dilemma these country folk now face; economics or safety, or can a combination of both be found?