The Railroad has been in existence since at the least the time of the creation of the first successful Generation-3 synths by Institute scientists around the 2220s. Following the public's discovery of the synths during the Broken Mask incident in Diamond City in 2229, the question if they deserve the same rights as natural humans became a major subject of debate, with frequent bickering between opposing sides. Many people believed that the Institute's synths were mere machines; just another model of advanced robot. Paranoia began to develop as local residents' loved ones vanished overnight and were replaced with artificial clones that eventually malfunctioned and went berserk, as with the case with Mr. Carter. Others, however felt that synths deserved to be free, having being treated as slaves by their creators at the Institute. This is a point that makes some convinced that the synths are worthy of saving. It was from these ideals that the earliest possible incarnation of the Railroad would emerge.
Wyatt's efforts to rebuild
It is in evidence that the Railroad has been beaten down and reborn many times over the years, however its clandestine nature has ensured the group's survival in the long run. The earliest known incarnation of the Railroad, led by Agamemnon, was shut down in November 2266, by an Institute raid on their headquarters. Wyatt took the responsibility of rebuilding the organization from the ground up, after many of the members left following the HQ massacre. A runner named John D. was the sole survivor. In order to keep the Railroad alive, Wyatt chose to keep the site for the new headquarters hidden upon its discovery. Learning from the mistakes of his predecessor, he had figured out that once the Institute had attacked a safehouse, it would've been easy for them to track down the HQ, as so many people knew about it.
It was from the remnants of this incarnation of the Railroad that the faction as it is known today came to be. By February of 2267, the revived Railroad, under the leadership of Wyatt, managed to get its first synth out of the Commonwealth. Under the motives of maintaining what he called "operational security," John D. did not reveal the names of the new tourists he had found to help. Wyatt introduced multiple reforms to the Railroad's infrastructure. One of them was a clear hierarchy of gradually ascending power; a pyramid structure with independent tourists and sympathizers on the bottom, safehouse operators and runners third, field agents second, and finally HQ members on top. Furthermore, a dead drop system was established to create a more robust and secure method of communication between agents, safehouses and HQ.
Under the leadership of Pinky Thompson
In a period when the Railroad was once again experiencing dark times, Pinky Thompson succeeded Wyatt's role as leader in December 2273, the latter having lost his life after the old headquarters was uncovered and sacked by Institute coursers. With the aid of Deacon, most of the survivors were able to make it out alive. After setting up shop at a new location, Pinky passed a new decree to tighten security at HQ, only giving heavies clearance to leave and ensuring that the organization moves to relay all packages out of the region as quick as possible. He also recommended that all fugitive synths remain in custody of the Railroad until they are beyond the borders of the Commonwealth, following the assault on a homestead near Parsons State Insane Asylum by coursers, which resulted in the loss of a synth codenamed Lambda 8 and her spouse.
When he received intel that a courser and a few other Institute operatives were on a mission taking them beyond the Commonwealth, Pinky assigned one of his agents, Victoria Watts, to shadow them on their trek south. She later settled down in the Capital Wasteland and rented an apartment in Rivet City to lie low while protecting the identity of a runaway, Harkness, aka A3-21. Having risen up the ranks of the local security force to become their commander, Harkness was at greater risk of being tracked down and reclaimed by the Synth Retention Bureau. The arrival of the bureau's head, Dr. Zimmer, and his synth escort Armitage, made the possibility of this threat more likely. It was then imperative that agent Watts was to remain in the area to serve as a bodyguard for Harkness.
In September 2276, Pinky's leadership started to come under pressure after the loss of another safehouse, Trinity. He later resigned from office and was succeeded by Desdemona, who won against Dr. Carrington in the election. The doctor became Dez's right-hand man.
The Switchboard and P.A.M.
Immediately after Desdemona took office, the Railroad began to take a big step forward. The new leadership put focus on the fundamentals; operational security, lookouts, compartmentalization, and counterintelligence, analyzing and making improvements where Pinky went wrong. 2279 saw the arrival of Thomas Weatherby to HQ. Adopting the moniker "Tinker Tom," Weatherby, a highly intelligent individual, designed new weapons and other useful technologies for the Railroad as part of a complete rearmament program. Desdemona and her aides also made improvements to the dead drop network and introduced the railsign system to allow agents to covertly mark cache, safehouse, and dead drop locations, as well as the presence of allies and potential dangers. Simply put, it was like Christmas for the organization. No coursers were on the radar during the year.
In 2280, Glory, unit designation G7-81, a recently liberated synth, opted out of the memory wipe and joined the Railroad under the leadership of Desdemona. She was promoted to heavy the same year.
The Railroad's current success streak ended in 2281, when the coursers discovered and razed another homestead to the ground. Yet, there were little casualties, and later that year, the faction's second heavy, Tommy Whispers, discovered the Switchboard. After moving HQ to there, Desdemona's agents uncovered the Predictive Analytic Machine, an advanced pre-War computer AI that would become a vital asset to the Railroad for years to come.
In 2283, an Institute insider named Liam Binet, under the alias "PATRIOT," established contact with the outside world. Tinker Tom intercepted his messages and figured out his passphrase, which was "Mass Fusion." From then on, Patriot became the Railroad's main contact in the Institute, although he himself is totally unaware of this connection for security reasons.
The good streak persisted into 2286, with Institute sightings completely ceasing for three months and just four synths rescued. However, this was once again the calm before the storm, as the Institute was gearing up to activate its reactor, while the Brotherhood decided it was time to intervene and stop its preying on the Commonwealth.
The Railroad is constructed like a pyramid, with the base composed of "tourists" (informants and sympathizers), above which stand runners and safehouse owners, then an even smaller group of field agents, and finally, the most secretive and heavily protected, the HQ members that have access to all the information and coordinates Railroad operations. All individuals answer to Desdemona. Field agents are given aliases in place of their real names in order to protect their identities and operate on a "need-to-know" basis to protect the Railroad.
While the Railroad's main concern is helping synths, they are also known to work with groups such as the Abolitionists to assist runaway slaves. The Railroad's methods for aiding in escape can be extreme, going so far as to find doctors such as Horace Pinkerton and Amari to perform full facial reconstruction and mind wipes on escapees. Their current command center is located in the Old North Church in downtown Boston, after their previous base was compromised following a raid by the Institute. Their network of safe houses and clandestine contacts are reminiscent of their namesake, the 19th century Underground Railroad, which also helped slaves escape and reach free areas.
As far as the Institute is concerned, androids are mere machines with no free will of their own that exist only to serve their creators. However, the Railroad stands by the doctrine that, even as machines, self-aware androids look, behave, think and feel as humans do, entitling them to the freedom intrinsically enjoyed by human beings as well as emancipation from their owners. However, while the Railroad wishes to help Gen 3 synths, members are divided on Gen 1 and 2 synths, with some not wishing to aid the earlier models because they argue they are more robotic than sentient.
The Railroad also occasionally assists human slaves when able, although they cite that there are many other abolitionist groups specifically focused on slaves, but no other group can aid with the unique challenges of concealing androids.
To this end, the Railroad employs the skills of computer science experts to alter the memories of the android to provide them with a clean slate, as well as the skills of a plastic surgeon to conceal the android's true identity. A Railroad branch in the Capital Wasteland recently aided an android (designation A3-21), but the operation was so risky that the branch had to temporarily shut down to keep its members safe until Commonwealth investigators abandoned the manhunt.
Though the Railroad is a spy organization that prefers stealth and sabotage, it does maintain a small but well-equipped fighting force. Railroad agents that specialize as frontline soldiers are known as "heavies." They are responsible for the defense of Railroad safehouses and escaped synths should they be attacked by enemy forces. They commonly make use of Gauss rifles or railway rifles and wear armored coats.
Agents infiltrate organizations and towns and collect intel, and use surveillance devices placed at high vantage points. This gives the Railroad a powerful information network. Agents also serve a support role in establishing safe houses, stashing supplies, marking locations with railsigns and sabotaging enemy fortifications. They also have a network of non-members that assist them by providing safe harbor, money or manpower; they call these individuals "tourists."
The Railroad lacks the industrial base and refinement of the Institute, the firepower and armor of the Brotherhood of Steel, or the popular support of the Minutemen, forcing it to rely on what it can salvage or create on its own. For much of its known history, the Railroad was forced to get by with relatively low-tech weapons and gear merely adapted for their purposes. This situation changed completely with the introduction of Tinker Tom into headquarters. Best described as a suffering genius, Tom has revolutionized the Railroad's technological edge, introducing a slew of purpose-built weapons, armor, and tools. The standardized Railroad armored coats issued to heavies finally boasted proper levels of protection, while custom weapons like the Deliverer ensured they had tools matching their skillset. For non-combat purposes, Tom has introduced the MILA, a complex surveillance device whose precise workings seem to be a mystery even to its inventory, but which ensures a steady stream of intel right into its headquarters.
The other crucial asset, at least in 2287, is P.A.M., whose predictive capabilities and processing power were crucial to its survival. Processing data provided to it by Railroad field operatives, P.A.M. provides the organization with locations of DIA caches, coursers to eliminate, and helps in planning operations so that they are as safe and effective as possible.
Finally, through its associates, the Railroad has access to expert medical, electronic, and computer services. These allow for the robust modification of body types and faces (exploited by Deacon), modifying synth memories, and everything else necessary to protect the synths.
Interactions with the player character
In Fallout 3, the Railroad plays an important role in The Replicated Man, in which the Lone Wanderer becomes involved in their conflict. During the quest, an Institute scientist named Dr. Zimmer requests aid in capturing a runaway android, and Railroad agent Victoria Watts pleads with the Wanderer to take pity on the android and fake its death.
Dr. Zimmer, Ms. Watts, and the android give very logical and convincing arguments for their point of view, and the player character must make an ethical choice based on the limited information they gain from each of them. There are multiple "good Karma" solutions.
In Fallout 4, it is possible for the Sole Survivor to learn about the Railroad through several sources and even join them after a certain point in the story. They can investigate the area around Park Street Station, speak with Doctor Amari at the beginning of The Molecular Level who indicates that the Railroad would be helpful to their cause, or overhear people in the Diamond City market, the Dugout Inn or guards in Goodneighbor discussing the elusive Railroad. All of these will result in the Sole Survivor getting the quest Road to Freedom. Upon completion of this quest and subsequently Tradecraft, they will be presented with the opportunity to join the faction. Piper also makes comments about them when The Glowing Sea quest starts.
Membership in the Railroad may negatively affect relations with other main factions. The more quests the Sole Survivor does for the Railroad, the more the Institute and the Brotherhood of Steel will disapprove of their actions. If the Sole Survivor sides with the Brotherhood of Steel or the Institute, they are eventually sent to exterminate the Railroad, as the organization's motives oppose both of the former parties' goals in the region.
Relations with the Minutemen are not affected by joining the Railroad. However, when completing the Minutemen version of The Nuclear Option, the optional mission must be completed or the Railroad (including Deacon if he is the current companion) will become hostile when the player character next speaks to Desdemona. One will still be able to accept A Clean Equation from P.A.M., Lost Soul from Doctor Carrington and even the To the Mattresses missions from Desdemona when notified by Drummer Boy. Any extra attempt to speak with her outside accepting and completing quests will cause the Railroad to become hostile. This appears to be a bug as the Lost Soul missions should not be available if no survivors remain at the Institute.
- Road to Freedom
- Underground Undercover
- Operation Ticonderoga
- The Battle of Bunker Hill
- Precipice of War
- Rockets' Red Glare
- The Nuclear Option (Railroad)
- Burning Cover
- Boston After Dark
- Memory Interrupted
- Butcher's Bill
- Butcher's Bill 2
- Mercer Safehouse
- Randolph Safehouse
- Variable Removal
- To the Mattresses
- Lost Soul
- The Replicated Man
- A Clean Equation
- High Ground
- End of the Line
- Tactical Thinking
Behind the scenes
- The Railroad is modeled after the "Underground Railroad", an organization in nineteenth-century America dedicated to helping African-American slaves escape to northern free states and Canada through a network of secret routes and safehouses.
- The Railroad contains a number of similarities to the Thieves Guild from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Both feature an agent named Maven, the name 'Mercer', brick-walled underground home bases, the use of symbolic markings on walls around the Commonwealth, etc.