What did steam locomotives do in the 1800s?
In the US, everything.
Westward expansion, economic opportunity that went along, materials and machinery shipped west, the travel of the people who would man the machinery, logs, hogs, beef, fruit, vegetables to eastern markets from the west, grain from the heartland in both directions, the vital coal seams exploited to full advantage for power, that which still generates most of the electricity most of our stuff runs on, and the people who earned a living producing these commodities and the communities that were spawned as a result (a town has to have a reason to be there), transcontinental shipments of goods from markets across the Atlantic and Pacific... All thanks to the steam locomotives and the men who ran them.
And for both, their legacy remains. Everything you have used today was on a train at one time or another, in one form or another. And from that time 173 years ago until today, all that has changed is the motive power. But for the lion's share of that time, 120 years or so, steam was the undisputed king.
The men who happily man them are still the same.
It's not just the money or benefits.
It's a calling that most will not be able to realize. I am one of the fortunate few.