The Great Northern railroad station was built in 1906. Stately and modern – for the times, anyway – it has been a landmark at the northern edge of downtown for a century. Nowadays, passenger rail occupies a minor slice of the American mind; we get in cars and speed off at 80 MPH, or cram into planes and hurtle up into the blue.

Rails performed the same basic function, but they were intrinsically different. You could put your hand on the rail and marvel: this steel line stretches to the coast of the continent. You could watch the trains slide away and imagine the lands beyond. They brought everything together, but they couldn’t condense distance like the plane, or give you the brisk personal journey a car provides. New York was still a few days away, at best.