The background is that I try to understand how complex socioeconomic systems based on a technology mix came in place and how they evolve today.

So I thought of an example, and picked railroads. If I think of railroads, there is actually no "railroad technology", it is rather a complex mix of technological components and services, but still they play together very well as a system.

There had been lots of different approaches, e.g. putting traditional cabs on rails, and all the bits were put together. But, can we track back a moment where some entity established a strategic development plan before the commercial success of technology (or rather technology mix) was clear? Any type of MVP welcome. But consider who has built the first connection between two cities, might have had and pursued that master plan - or not?

For sure there will be a lot of literature on railroads history, but I do not know whether specifically this aspect has been adressed somewhere.

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    Are you asking if someone envisaged the modern transport network that railroads have become before the technology was proved? Also the growth of railroad networks varies by nation so there's probably not a single answer.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 28, 2017 at 9:44
  • my assumption is that the variety of valid answers here is honestly 0 to 1. Will try to reword.
    – J. Doe
    Jun 28, 2017 at 10:04
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    So the next question is what's the definition of a "railroad network system"? For, example if I have a railroad that runs between two cities (e,g. Manchester and Liverpool), stopping at a number of stations in between (with goods sidings and engine sheds, etc.), would this be a "railroad network system" for your purposes?
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 28, 2017 at 11:13
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    I would say, it seems to be kind of MVP (minimum viable product) here - therefore yes. But consider that maybe smb built a 15 km railroad with two stations and never went for the upscale so it is not a master plan but rather part of the organic process.
    – J. Doe
    Jun 28, 2017 at 11:54
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    The answer is "no". Railroads grew organically in most countries. You may wish to check Germany, which may be an exception. This question would benefit greatly from preliminary research & a clarifying rewite.
    – MCW
    Jun 28, 2017 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


Canada is the country that it is today because the first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald pushed for the rail to reach from one ocean to the other. The railroad was the main focus of his agenda.

He capitalized on an uprising in the west in 1885 to demonstrate the value of rail in transporting soldiers.


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    1885 is well past the point when the "commercial success of technology was clear".
    – pokep
    Jun 28, 2017 at 16:38
  • I had heard at one point that it was felt the country was quite likely to break up if that railroad wasn't built. Most of the population centers are much further away from each other than they are from their nearest large US cities.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 28, 2017 at 19:29
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    @T.E.D. Unlike the US, in Canada if you connect the dots between all the concentrated populations centers, you would almost have a single line from coast to coast. Jun 28, 2017 at 19:34
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    Did the Right Honorable MacDonald plan the entire rail network, or merely the coast to coast line? (based on your comment, it may not be possible to distinguish between these two.)
    – MCW
    Jun 28, 2017 at 23:22

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