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Old 07-08-2014, 11:36 PM
 
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I'm sure nearly everyone here is familiar with the slightly quaint expression "wrong side of the tracks", used to denote the bad side of a town. But what I'd like to know is whether there was a consistent geographic rule that determined which side was bad. One might simply say it was determined simply by where the local aristocracy decided to build their houses; by default then, the other side was bad. There might also be practical factors based on the the desire to be close enough to the railroad station for the sake of convenience without being so close that train noises become a constant annoyance--but this could apply equally well on either side of the tracks.

I've noticed also that, in many small towns, the RR station tends to be on the edge of the town, rather than in the middle as you might expect. You can see this principle at work in cities that used to be small, when the railroads first arrived, but have grown a great deal since then. For instance, in L.A. and Vancouver, BC the main stations (and, in L.A. what used to be the main freight district) are decidedly on the very edge of downtown, miles away from most other attractions and commerce. When Palms, CA was an independent civic entity its RR station was on the NE edge of town--so was the "bad" side anything beyond that? Of course, in this case the RR was there before the town was founded. One can make much the same argument about Culver City, regarding both the old PE station and the present Metro station, which is in approximately the same location. And now I see the same thing in Escondido, CA. The main rail line to Oceanside skirts the town to the east, so its old RR station, again, was on the edge of town, just as the Escondido Transit Center is today.

So was the wrong side of the tracks simply the "far" side?
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Old 07-08-2014, 11:42 PM
 
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The wrong side of the tracks is usually going to be (1) the older part of town that is somewhat abandoned (2) the lower part of town which is more prone to be flooded (3) the side of the tracks opposite of where the road parallel to the train tracks was built.
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Old 07-08-2014, 11:51 PM
 
Location: Southern Oregon
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I don't know the answer. But communities are often build up around socio economic ties and connections. I think many times it had to do with the class level people were at when towns and communities began. Railroad lines naturally align themselves to more manual means of labor. Loading, unloading, crops, warehousing, manufacturing. Communities would build up around that source of labor and therefore the economy would reflect that working class that gravitated around the industrial job region. The OWNERS of the companies didn't create homes around the job source. They went further away to a nicer area, separating themselves from that area.

My town is an older town, with house ranging from about 140 years old to new. The newest are far from the tracks. The oldest are are around the tracks. There is an old part of town that is not near the tracks and is more gentrified. I live on the "wrong" side." None of the reasons in my first paragraph apply any longer. It's just the poorer, more drug ridden, crime ridden, poverty ridden side of town and everybody knows it. It IS the wrong side of the tracks for sure.
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Old 07-09-2014, 05:50 AM
 
Location: Youngstown, Oh.
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In places that have/had heavy industry, there could be some relation to prevailing winds, and where the pollution would go.

But, my house is located in what was originally a ritzy neighborhood, and there has been a thick layer of soot behind all the walls I've had to open up.
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Old 07-09-2014, 06:45 AM
 
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Where I grew up we had an active commuter line. 60 years ago it had a lot more freight traffic but you still see an occasional freight trip. It passes through a dozen or so small towns along the way.

The "wrong side of the tracks" is always the side with the freight sidings, warehouses, and other RR and light industry related stuff. The "right side of the tracks" is always the side that the downtown is on
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Old 07-09-2014, 07:14 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JR_C View Post
In places that have/had heavy industry, there could be some relation to prevailing winds, and where the pollution would go.

When steam locomotives went through town, belching out clouds of smoke and cinders, the downwind side of the tracks was NOT the place to be.

A friend of mine lives a couple of blocks from the original B&O tracks in Elkridge, Md. You can easily see which side of town is the "wrong side of the tracks" and it's definitely the downwind side.
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Old 07-09-2014, 08:44 AM
 
Location: Northville, MI
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Well, our train line was electrified since 1910 so there is no right and wrong side .
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Old 07-09-2014, 08:45 AM
 
Location: Northville, MI
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P47P47 View Post
B&O tracks in Elkridge, Md.
Great place to railfan .
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Old 07-09-2014, 09:29 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Those Who Squirm View Post
I've noticed also that, in many small towns, the RR station tends to be on the edge of the town, rather than in the middle as you might expect.
Hmm. In my town, the train station is in the center of town. Might vary on what the easiest route to build the tracks through is, and the size of the town when the railroad was built.
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Old 07-09-2014, 10:21 AM
 
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In a way, there may be an environmental connection, if you think about it. Many times, the wrong side of the tracks also are dumping grounds for things like sewage plants, industrial areas and other industries/facilities that can be toxic or could become so. So, there could be or is that aspect to consider as well.
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