slang expression

I am looking for an explanation of the expression’wrong side of the tracks’. Why did the train tracks divide a town into a good( rich) side and a bad( poor) side? How did this come about?

Many many small towns in America are divided more or less equally by railroad tracks. It is quite natural for people of one economic station or another to gravitate to the side which has the higher proportion of people in their social standing.

I saw an interesting computer simulation once that had a bunch of dots that could move around an area of the screen subject to certain restrictions. They were also given “desires” in the form of “cultural identity”, “social status”, “personality”, etc. When a natural division, such as railroad tracks devided the area, the dots naturally migrated into “ethnic” neighborhoods on opposite sides of the tracks. I wish I remember where I saw that so I could refer you to it.

I some parts of milwaukee (particularly south side) esp parts that are already pretty high in crime, tend to become even worse “on the other side of the tracks” yup I mean that literally, I can think of a few places where after you’ve gone under the bridge with the tracks on it, it becomes substantially more dangerous. But like I said this is usually in the parts of town that are pretty bad to begin with

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Same thing in the city I live in, but instead of a railway seperating the rich and poor, it’s the freeway that goes through the middle of the city. Strange.

Observed the phenomenon, but never gave it much thought. The above explanations sound plausible. The skeptic in me wonders if this is another case of us seeing what we believe to be true rather than the other way around. Any hard statistical evidence on this one?

Now that I’ve thought about this some more, I’m wondering why the poor people on the wrong side never got the phrase “She’s from the right side of the tracks” into our popular lexicon.

Just a guess, but most non-terminal railroad stations have the stationhouse, carriage area (later the parking-lot) on one side, and railway line offshoots on the other. Those short lines branching off lead to the industrial district, or to the part of town where agricultural/mining goods were loaded.
Until the advent of NYC loft-space, the poor were left living in the noisier, smellier part of town.

Well, I grew up in a pretty small suburb of St. Paul (Newport, pop 3,400), which is neatly divided by train tracks. There is definitely a “right” and “wrong” side of the tracks, though neither side has much crime. The “wrong” side simply has much much smaller homes and lower-income families. However, that side is actually sandwiched between the tracks and the Mississippi river, which could have something to do with it. There’s a lot of riverside industry over there, while the other side of the tracks has mostly neighborhoods and strip malls.