History of Trains 1804 – Present

History of trains

From 1804, trains have revolutionised the transportation industry, from being an efficient passenger vehicle, to carrying all different types of cargo. The history of trains is quite extensive and spans over 200 years.

The first train which was powered by horses walking on treadmills could lug 25 tonnes of iron material as well as other goods, and 70 people of the distance of 16km (10 miles).

The engine system of horses walking on treadmills did not last long, as steam trains were introduced. This was groundbreaking as the trains could travel longer distances, and were much more efficient. The steam train would continue to become more and more popular, and used in every operating train for roughly 150 years.

From the span of 200 years since the first operating locomotive the speeds have increased form 15 km/ph to over 500 km/ph, which is extraordinary.

San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum at the Depot

History of trains in Australia

Trains were not introduced in Australia until the mid 1800s, before this, people travelled around on horse-drawn transport, and by boat. The first railway system between Melbourne and Port Melbourne was constructed in 1854. This was a momentous advancement for transportation in Australia, and this would start the eventual plans to connect Australia together by railway. In 1901 there was more than 20,000km of track laid to transport trains around the eastern states of Australia. 

First Steam Engine (Matthew Murray, Richard Trevithick)

The first steam based locomotive was made by Englishman Matthew Murray, in Leeds. This train carted cargo only. In 1807, the first passengers started travelling via trains between Swansea to The Mumbles. No one realised the potential from a business perspective. As a mode of transport after the trains initially were available to the public, in 1812 the initial commercial passenger railway opened in England on the “Middleton Railway”. Richard Trevithick was a British inventor and mining engineer, he made the first high pressure steam engine and the first railway steam locomotive. The invention was revolutionary for the railroad and steam locomotive technology.

Competition increases for best steam train

From 1825 a competition started between train manufacturers about who could pull the most weight, and travel the longest distance using steam engines. This ‘battle’ went on for years starting from William Hedley, who could haul 10 coal wagons at 5mph, to George Stephens who built the infamous ‘Locomotion no 1’, which was capable of carting 90 tons of coal hitting speeds of 15mph.

As time went on more and more tracks were built by men who had horses to car loads of materials to build the railway lines to transport steam locomotives. Between Baltimore and Ohio railroad became the first of many westward railroads in the United States.

DK Findout

USA steam locomotive

In the United states the steam locomotives were first introduced in 1829, but was dysfunction due to the size and weight of the railcar. Then in 1830, the steam engine was successfully built which could enable rail travel along the rail lines. Steam engines enabled the freight train to transport cargo across rails a different way than what had previously accomplished.

Passenger transportation made big milestones in the mid 19th century. The infamous Stephenson’s rocket. A train built by George Stephenson that could travel just below 50 kmph at its maximum speed.

Innovation and improvements on track designs

The mid- late 19th century included many implementations of new track designs and infrastructure for tracks to be placed on. The first railway bridge was in Mississippi casting over the river enabled railroad companies to maneuver goods over to land that was before not possible by train. Underground railway construction started in 1862 in Central London, birthing the idea of subways, which are still utilised a lot today in cities all over the world, the underground rail carts began operation in 1863. The tram line was initially started in 1881, in Berlin. Followed by the first electric tram system opening in Richmond, Virginia, United States by Frank J. Sprague.

Not only was London the revolutionary city for having a subway system, it also was the first place to utilise the electric motor which started the era of modern rapid transit systems in 1890.


Diesel Fuel Engine

1913 consisted of the first diesel fuel engine powering trains in Sweden, which would eventually spread to the rest of the world and take over electric systems.

Bullet Trains

The Japanese have a very extensive train system, as they house bullet trains. The first bullet train was introduced in Japan in 1953, which travelled between Tokyo and Osaka with an average speed of 160kmph. From there, bullet train tracks were made around the world especially in Europe. Spain, France and England all hold very quick trains, some travelling up to 515 kmph!

ACP Rail

Shanghai Metro

In 2010 Shanghai Metro took over the position as the biggest urban transit system with a system length of almost 466 miles of track and 100s of stations. This systems transports over 10 million people each day!

Trains have become a staple for efficient and effective travel, and will continue to be for a decent length of time. The innovation seen throughout the years is insane, and will engineers will continue to break barriers, and continue improving railway systems all over the world.

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