"If there had been no railway to conquer distances, my child would never have left his native town and I should need no telephone to hear his voice; if travelling accross the ocean by ship had not been introduced, my Friend would not have embarked on his sea-voyage and I should not need a cable to relieve my anxiety about him." (S. Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, p.35) Freud's family moved several times when he was a small child. As a result, he had a phobia of traveling by train which never altogether left him. 

The railway was one of the primary symbolic artifacts of the nineteenth century. The steam engine was the prime symbol of power, now understood in thermodynamic terms. the nineteenth century characerized railway travel as "the annihilation of space and time."The territory was transformed by train travel. The railway cuts accross the landscape in a straight and level line. (Although this is actually truer of European railways than of American ones. In Europe, land was expensive and labor cheap. In America, the reverse was true. Thus American railways are more like rivers -- which were previously the principal means of transport-- avoiding natural obstacles out of the wish to build the line as cheaply as possible. (like the pack-donkey?) For Steven Kern, the railroad enabled the "culture of simultaneity". (see time

see technology for relation between steam engine and thermodynamics. 

See also entropy:interpretations. 
It was realized early on that the railroad and its carriages should be considered as one machine. The early locomotives were not seen as autonomous and self-contained, but rather as a steam engine mounted on an undercarriage--parts of the machine. "A railway, like a vast machine, the wheels of which are all connected with each other, and whose movement requires a certain harmony, can not be worked by a number of different agents." (D. Lardner, Railway Economy, London, 151. quoted in Schivelbusch, Railway Journey, p.27) Thus the railroad company's monopoly on both rails and carriages was technologically necessary. 

It was no accident that the train station become a priveleged site for the transformation of architecture. The railroad station became identified with the destination. For Proust, the railroad station bore the essence of a town's personnality. 

Both Freud and Karl Abraham indicated the connection between mechanical agitation and sexual arousal in the train. This joy found its repressed counterpart in the fear experienced by neurotics in the face of accelerating or uncontrolled motion as the fear of their own sexuality going out of control. For the nineteenth-century psychologist George Beard, "neurasthenia, a disease thought frequently to lead to insanity, was a product of nineteenth century American civilization." His list of causes included the printing press, the railroad, the steam engine, the telegraph, and the increased mental activity of women.