Re: Photo: Loading Raw Silk
The Silk Road was established hundreds of years ahead of steam powered trains, and I strongly suspect the travel time for the product was quite lengthy, compared to the latter.
Here is some commentary on current raw silk transport:
Note that there is no comment about time sensitivity FOR THE PRODUCT. Note also that it can be transported in containers or on airplanes. Again with no apparent time sensitivity. Aside from rats or water, it's pretty stable.
I believe the reason for the emphasis on high-speed transport of silk was to get it to market first, because that drew higher prices. Silk production is seasonal, so whoever delivered the first batch got the big bucks. For that matter, the last trainload might be almost worthless IF demand was low for silk. Of course, to then boost demand, prices could be lowered. Not something most capitalists yearn for.
Also, because of the high value of silk at the time these trains were running, the added cost of moving it at high speed was proportionally less.