The new railroad networks shifted the direction of western trade.In 1840 most northwestern grain was shipped south down the Mississippi River to the bustling port of New Orleans. But low water made steamboat travel hazardous in summer, and ice shut down traffic in winter. Products such as lard, tallow, and cheese quickly spoiled if stored in New Orleans’ hot and humid warehouses. Increasingly, traffic from the Midwest flowed west to east, over the new rail lines. Chicago became the region’s hub, linking the farms of the upper Midwest to New York and other eastern cities by more than 2,000 miles of track in 1855. Thus while the value of goods shipped by river to New Orleans continued to increase, the South’s overall share of western trade dropped dramatically.