Transportation Support - Building Infrastructure

In 1910, America and Willimantic were still heavily reliant on the mature transportation technology of the railroad. 250,000 miles of track had been laid across the U.S., and Willimantic's central position in textiles depended on its central position on rail lines connecting New York City and Boston. Much more than iron rails were needed to sustain Willimantic's thread industry - U.S. railroad companies employed 1.7 million workers nationally, and innumerable structures were needed to keep railroads in operation. The Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in Willimantic provides a hands-on look at just some of the hardware required for rail.

Other modes of transport were less demanding, walking and bicycling requiring the least infrastructure. Even these low-footprint modes of transit increased demand for sidewalks and better-paved roads, which would only grow over time. Horse transportation, however, had its own significant requirements. Not only horse feed and tack (saddle, reins, horseshoes...), but the people needed to drive, handle, feed, and take care of these beasts of burden. We don't know how many horses resided or worked in Williimantic, though major cities like New York City likely had well over 100,000 horses at the turn of the century.

We do have information on at least some of the buildings which were used to support various modes of transportation in Willimantic, because the Sanborn fire insurance maps identified them. The map below gives us a sense of how much infrastructure was required to support horse, rail, bicycle, and automobile transit.


Map of buildings supporting transportation in Willimantic c. 1910. Map created by Jamel Ostwald

Transportation in Willimantic
Transport Infrastructure