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I’ve got to agree with “bv”. The steel mill, sawmill, and oil refineries need to be in the towns processing the raw materials into products that can be consumed by other industries or people. I’ll even go one further. There doesn’t need to be “generic” industries in towns at all. They should all be specific industries designed to further process lumber, steel, and oil into something usable and ultimately consumable by the commercial stores and people who shop at them.
For that matter, I would favor commercial buildings that were not generic. Hardware stores, department stores, etc. would be a step in the right direction.
Demand would determine whether a freight car was loaded or not. Say there’s a steel mill in town A and a factory that processes steel into consumable products in town B. It shouldn’t matter if it takes over 20 minutes to complete the trip. The demand is there. Now there’s a reason for freight trains to be seen barrelling through the center of town – not scurrying around in every nook and cranny out in the countryside.