Railroads in U.S. History
Railroads have played an integral role in helping shape American history. By the mid-1800's, thousands of miles of railroads made it easier and faster to transport people and products, helping to fuel growth in previously remote areas. When the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads joined on May 10, 1869 in Promontory, Utah, the 2,000-mile journey from Missouri to California went from over four months to six days. This day is still considered one of the greatest events in transportation history. In addition to transportation, railroads provided jobs for the growing U.S. economy. By World War I, railroad employment was at its peak as 1.8 million people worked for railroads, more than in any other industry. Today, while many people travel by car or airplane, railroads continue to be an important part of moving much of the nation's freight traffic around the country. In recognition of the significance of railroads in our nation's history, GovBenefits.gov is highlighting a benefit program available for those employed in the railroad industry.

Private industrial pension plans in North America had been pioneered in the railroad industry in the 1870's. However, these plans had serious defects, magnified by the Great Depression of the 1930's that also demonstrated the need for retirement plans for all Americans on a national basis. While the social security system was in the planning stage, railroad workers sought a separate retirement system that would continue and broaden the existing private programs under a uniform national plan. Legislation was subsequently enacted in the mid-1930's to establish a railroad retirement system separate from the social security program enacted in 1935. And, although the Social Security Act established state unemployment programs in 1935, multi-state railroads caused special problems for the state-specific system. The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act was subsequently enacted in 1938 to establish a system of benefits for unemployed railroaders administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). The RRB is an independent agency in the executive branch of the Federal Government. For additional information on the RRB, visit www.rrb.gov

  • Social Insurance for Railroad Workers
    Social Insurance for Railroad Workers provides comprehensive retirement-survivor and unemployment-sickness benefit programs for the nation's railroad workers and their families, under the Railroad Retirement and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Acts. In connection with the retirement program, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has administrative responsibilities under the Social Security Act for certain benefit payments and railroad workers' Medicare coverage. For more information visit www.govbenefits.gov/govbenefits/benefits/report.jhtml?bid=676