The railroad, second only to religion, has been the greatest civilizing and enlightening force in the world. It has eliminated space and brought backwoods sections in touch with the polish and alertness of the cities. In conjunction with the telegraph, it has daily placed the news of the world before the farmer and mechanic in the once remote places of the country. It has built up the great West - a region which was a limitless waste when this country was born, and which would still be a vast, uninhabited tract of barren prairie but for the railroad. It has stretched out from the little hamlets along the seaboard and created an empire the like of which does not exist in the Old World.
With a population to-day of well-nigh ninety millions, the United States owes perhaps fifty millions to the railroad, without which our development would have been confined to the Atlantic coast. We should have had no way of bringing grain and cattle from the West, no way of transporting coal from the mines and iron ore to the furnaces, or of carrying the finished product to the centers of trade. Gold and silver and copper would still largely be locked up in the recesses of the mountains.
But the material development brought about by the railroad is not the sum of its achievements. It has made us a big people, a broad people, a great people. The very vastness of things brought within the compass of man by the railroad has stamped itself upon us and made us bigger in conception and execution. And this growth having taken on a momentum, the process of expansion, with our people, has kept pace with the marvelous development of the railroads and all other phases of industry. We think in a big way, see things in a big way, and are reaching up higher and higher all the while to measure up to our ever-expanding conceptions. And in this magic transformation which in a day, as it were, has developed a little nation into the most powerful in all the world, the railroad has played the great and all-important part.
To-day with its various ramifications and allied interests, the railroad business is the biggest industry in America with the one exception of agriculture. And yet there is no magazine of general interest, so far as I know, which contains special features of direct interest to the railroad workers and their families.
It is singular that this is the fact when there are perhaps as many as five hundred publications of one grade and another that are published for the farmer and his family - publications that contain a considerable percentage of reading of a technical farming nature, together with fiction, general information, biography, poetry, and such other items and articles as make good, wholesome, and interesting reading for the home and fireside. The fact that there is a demand on the part of farmers for all these agricultural journals makes me marvel that no publisher hitherto has thought to issue a publication for the railroad man, who represents the second largest industry in our Western World.
Well, at last you have one - you, the railroad workers of America, and I hope you will find in it a good many facts and articles and bits of news that should naturally interest you and all those directly or indirectly connected with railroading. But in addition to these specific features that ring of the rail I am sure you will find in it an immense amount of good general reading, some instructive, some amusing, and much that is entertaining. And after all it is the entertaining things - the good, warm-blooded human stories of deep vital interest - that take hold of us and make us a nation of magazine readers.
My experience in the publishing business justifies me in saying that, if all fiction were to be eliminated from the magazines of America, their combined circulation would speedily dwindle to not over twenty per cent of the present total. If this deduction is correct, and it is not a careless bit of analysis, it is clear that the story with love and adventure - the good old-fashioned kind that never grows old and never will lose its charm so long as human nature remains human - cuts a very big figure in the periodical publishing world and fills a very big place in our lives as a people - including all the people who can read at all.
It is this fact that leads me to issue a magazine for the railroad world which shall be something more than a mere technical thing - a magazine that shall be filled with human interest stories in fact and human interest stories in fiction. And fortunately for this publication, the railroad in its very nature is so dramatic that it furnishes thousands of themes in real life which are as thrilling and daring and brave as the fancy of the most active story-writer can invent and vitalize into probability.
Before the days of the railroad and ocean-going steamers, writers found that the ocean furnished the most dramatic possibilities. But with the disappearance of the sailing ship and with the subjugation of cannibals and savages, the ocean no longer compares with the railroad in the variety and multiplicity of dramatic and thrilling possibilities.
The weather bureau, the lighthouse, the life-saving station, the telegraph and telephone, the wireless telegram, a better knowledge of the ocean and its habits and a more complete record of its most dangerous places - all these, together with the big stanch ships of to-day, have robbed the sea of much of its dangers. It is still far from a placid thing, and it can be very ugly, very treacherous, very wicked, but to a large extent man is getting the mastery of it. Our big modern steamers can run away from a storm, fight a storm, defy a storm. All this about the sea to show that its old-time dangers and terrors are disappearing, while railroading has come into the foreground and is the most thrilling and dramatic phase of human endeavor. Every minute that a great train is thundering along at sixty or eighty or a hundred miles an hour it is not only subject to many perils, but is actually skirting the very edge of disaster. And because of this danger - this tensity of life on the rail, there is an excitement and fascination to it that cannot be found and does not exist in the more placid and more secure occupations.
Railroading on its present gigantic scale in America is a world in itself - a great nation in wealth and activity and enterprise and population. It is something apart from agriculture and the building trades and manufacturing and merchandising. It has its own language to a considerable extent - its slang and shadings that smack of the speed of the locomotive, and it might almost be said that it has its own literature. The railroad stories that have already been created and the railroad stories that have been enacted in real life are in aggregate much more than the entire literature of some old and important countries. And railroading with us is only a little more than half a century old. Indeed, it is within the last twenty-five years that the great expansion has come about.
It is for this world, this great railroad world, that we are issuing THE RAILROAD MAN'S MAGAZINE. It is largely a new creation in magazine-making. There is nothing else in America or in any other country just like it. We have had no examples to follow. Consequently we may have fallen short of the mark at which we have aimed. But perfection is usually a thing of growth. The important thing is to begin, to make a start. There can be no evolution without something to improve. In a word, THE RAILROAD MAN'S MAGAZINE is now something more than a fancy. It has crystallized into a fact, taken on an entity, and now it is up to the magazine itself to fill a place hitherto unfilled in the homes of the railroad workers of America - to bring into these homes each month many hours of entertainment, and to bring also a wider and fuller knowledge of railroad men and methods, as well as an abundance of good, wholesome, helpful, and instructive reading on matters of general interest and of timely importance. If it does this in a way acceptable to you it will measure up to the standard set for it by its publisher.