The History of the Railway

steam locomotive

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, man had only the strength of his arms and the help of draft animals available for his work. The same machines already created were moved by his arms, by his feet or by the strength of a horse or an ox. The discovery of steam, or rather its properties, and its application as a driving force made human civilization take a leap forward which it had never made in previous centuries. Steam was even revolutionary in the field of transport. Until then the man had traveled on foot, on horseback, in horse-drawn carriages; no substantial progress was made as the centuries progressed, except in improving the appearance of horse-drawn vehicles. And the speed was always the same.

The discovery of the properties of steam changed the course of history.

The first means of transport to benefit from the power of steam was the ship; in 1790 the American John Fitch performed a steamship service for the first time on the Delaware River and in the United States with his boat – “Experiment” – equipped with large stern oars powered by a steam engine.
Another American, Robert Fulton built the “Clermont”, a ship equipped with two paddle wheels on each side of the hull powered by the steam engine.
In 1822 it was 35 the steamers in service on the Mississippi.

The historic date of the journey of the first train – from Stockton to Darlington, in the north-east of England – is September 27, 1825.

But the railway was not born that day; it is the combination of two elements: rails and mechanical traction.

The rail is an ancient invention; even the remains of bronze rails were found next to the Pyramid of Gesah, perhaps used to transport the heavy boulders that make up the monument. The brilliant Romans, anticipating the times, called “Viae ferreae” – railways – the roads equipped with two rows of stones to facilitate the rolling of the wheels of the wagons on which they traveled.

Wooden rails were used regularly inside the coal mines for the sliding of the trolleys. Subsequently, the first “railways” were built: metal (iron, cast iron) was preferred to wood capable of withstanding greater loads and better resisting outdoors and their use extended from the transport of coal to that of people and goods. In 1758 a short line was built from Middleton to Leeds and in 1803 on the Wandsworth-Croydan line, anyone was allowed to run their own vehicles. All, however, drawn by horses.

old steam locomotive

To pass to the “railway” it will be necessary to wait for the invention of the locomotive, a vehicle, that is, able to move by exploiting the power of steam.
This historic goal was achieved thanks to the work, the passion and the courage of some “pioneers” rather than public bodies disinterested – initially – in the idea. The first to succeed in this feat was a Frenchman, Nicola Cugnot, but his car was not lucky.

The “father”- that is the one who made a railway train walk for the first time consisting of a locomotive, five wagons with ten tons of iron, a wagon with seventy passengers- is Richard Trevithick. His convoy traveled ten miles from Cardiff to Pennydaran in five hours. It was February 6, 1804.

That successful experiment provoked widespread interest in this new means of locomotion. The steam locomotives began to replace nearly all mines horses in the towing of railcars to transport the coal. In 1819, the project was presented for the construction of a railway line connecting the sea near Stockton. George Stephenson, a self-taught engineer with a passion for mechanics, was consulted with the mining district of Darlington and for the construction of the locomotive that would carry out the service, who immediately set to work creating the “Locomotion”. Work on the railway line began in 1821 and on 27 September 1825 the service was inaugurated and it was Stephenson himself who drove his car that pulled a train consisting of some freight wagons and a car on which the authorities took their seats. The following year, Stephenson himself obtained authorization from the English parliament to build the Manchester-Liverpool line and a tender was held for the choice of traction means to be adopted for that line.

Stephenson got it again with his “Rocket”. And it was that locomotive that pulled, on September 15, 1830, the inaugural train of 15 carriages, from Liverpool to Manchester.

At that moment the era of the Railway began!

Year of commencement of the railway service in the main countries:

Great BritainStockton-Darlington1825
United StatesCharleston-Hamburg1831
FranceSaint Etienne-Lyon1832
CanadaLaprairie-Sant John1836
RussiaS Petersburg-Tzarskoe Selo1837
SpainBarcelona-Mataro 1848
AustraliaMelbourn-Port Melbourne1854
ArgentinaBuenos Aires-San Jose ‘de Flores1857
South AfricaDurban-The Point1860
ChinaShanghai-Wu Sung1876