The American railroad network reached its peak track mileage in 1916 with over 254,000 miles of operational railway that served rural areas and cities alike. Although track construction had significantly tailed off since the turn of the century, passenger demand and transport requirements for agriculture still made the smaller branch railways profitable. A further series of government regulations introduced in the early 1900s were aimed at tackling the monopolistic state of the US rail industry, which was owned by just a few individuals. The US government stepped in to halt some stock acquisitions which were deemed to be uncompetitive and enforced regulations demanding that railroad rates be ‘reasonable and just’, as well as publicized – ending the practice of individual railroad companies secretly offering loyal shipping customers special low rates, which discriminated in certain shippers’ favour. In the lead up to World War I, the rolling stock and transport capacity of the railroads proved to be wholly inadequate and the entire network would be subject to a government takeover once America entered the war in 1917.
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