Tag Archives: Julie Cidell

The ‘Foreign Dimension’ in Transport Geography

By Benjamin Sacks

‘A platitude is that which every one admits and no one remembers’, W L Grant surmised in May, 1911, ‘[t]he platitude with which I begin is that Canada is a large country…a great truth’. In the aftermath of the American Civil War, British and Canadian officials scrambled to strengthen Canada’s authority from the relatively urbanised Atlantic and Great Lakes regions to the sparsely populated West. They undertook construction of one of the longest railroads in the world, a line traveling west from the rivers and inlets of Québec, across the expansive Alberta prairie, and through the Rocky Mountains to British Columbia. Today, Canadian National Railways (CN) stands as one of Canada’s most important assets, a symbol of the Dominion and Canadian pride, and an economic lifeline stretching the length of the North American continent (p. 598). But its name, Canadian National, is perhaps misleading, for CN’s network, through corporate acquisition, now extends south, through the Midwest and down the length of the Mississippi River, through the heartland of the United States (see image).

Julie Cidell’s (University of Illinois) analysis in the most recent edition of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers both acknowledges resurgent interest in transport geography and explores a contentious recent episode in CN’s expansion into the United States. In late 2007, CN approached US Steel with an offer to purchase Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern (EJ&E), a vital connector railroad network in Chicago. Similar in scope to Boston’s (in)famous ‘Big Dig’, the EJ&E was constructed to increase transport efficiency in one of the United States’s busiest railroad centres. As is often the case in densely populated areas, local residents protested against CN’s plans to increase railroad traffic from an estimated five trains per day to nearly thirty trains per day (pp. 598-601).

Cidell’s article is an excellent definitional source, explicating how planning officials understand ‘sky’, ‘airspace’, and Cidell’s own variant: ‘trainspace’ – the legal, safety, and geographical environment surrounding the trains, railroad tracks, and properties. The author seeks to explore how trainspaces interact with other spaces, including (perhaps most notably) national space.

Although the United States and Canada are traditionally extraordinarily close allies, CN’s ambitious proposal catalysed highly defensive reactions from US residents. Although those affected by the suggested changes cited noise, smog, and other intrusions, a principal concern was that a foreign corporation wanted to manage a vital American trainspace. Although CN officials were quick to point out that US employees could benefit from the company’s proposal, legitimate concerns were repeatedly raised over how the acquisition of US railroads by a Canadian firm would benefit any actors other than Canadian interests. Ciddell’s article provides an exciting framework to model other air- and trainspace conflicts throughout the world.


W L Grant, 1911, Geographical Conditions Affecting the Development of Canada, The Geographical Journal 38 362-74.

Julie Cidell, 2012, Fear of a Foreign Railroad: Transnationalism, Trainspace, and (Im)mobility in the Chicago Suburbs, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37 593-608.

Also see: Benjamin J Sacks, 2010, Rethinking Transport Geography, Geography Directions, 25 August 2010.

Content Alert: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 37, Issue 4 (October 2012) is Available Online Now

Cover image for Vol. 37 Issue 4

Volume 37, Issue 4 Pages 477– 657, October 2012

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

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Content Alert: New Articles (13th January 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Anthropogenic controls on large wood input, removal and mobility: examples from rivers in the Czech Republic
Lukáš Krejčí and Zdeněk Máčka
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01071.x

Special Section: Exploring the Great Outdoors

‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage
Paul Barratt
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01069.

Special Section: Emerging Subjects, Registers and Spatialities of Migration Methodologies in Asia

Methodological dilemmas in migration research in Asia: research design, omissions and strategic erasures
Rebecca Elmhirst
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01070.x

Commentary

The aviation sagas: geographies of volcanic risk
Amy R Donovan and Clive Oppenheimer
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00458.x

Original Articles

Diverging pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa
Thilde Langevang and Katherine V Gough
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00457.x

Original Articles

Rethinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London
Regan Koch and Alan Latham
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00489.x

The social and economic consequences of housing in multiple occupation (HMO) in UK coastal towns: geographies of segregation
Darren P Smith
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00487.x

The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St Paul’s, Bristol
Tom Slater and Ntsiki Anderson
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00490.x

Fear of a foreign railroad: transnationalism, trainspace, and (im)mobility in the Chicago suburbs
Julie Cidell
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00491.x

Participation in evolution and sustainability
Thomas L Clark and Eric Clark
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00492.x

Boundary Crossings

Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives
David Featherstone, Anthony Ince, Danny Mackinnon, Kendra Strauss and Andrew Cumbers
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00493.x

The disciplining effects of impact evaluation practices: negotiating the pressures of impact within an ESRC–DFID project
Glyn Williams
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00494.x