Saturday, January 3, 2015

History of Railroad Technology

This is a brief overview of some of the major inventors, advances, and events related to the history of Railroad Technology. The more complete version is posted on the Railroad & Rail Worker web site.  Go ahead and get started.
  • The history of rail transport apparently dates back to early Greek history, around 600 B.C. - See Wikipedia
  • Wagonways were relatively common in Europe from about 1500 through 1800. Typically used in mining operations, they consisted of horses that hauled wagons on wooden tracks.
  • The first iron plate covered wooden rails were used on wagonways in Europe around the late 1700's.
  • James Watt, a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer, developed a reciprocating steam engine capable of powering a wheel and then began investigating the use of high pressure steam acting directly upon a piston. This raised the possibility of a small engine that might be used to power a vehicle. Watt actually patented a design for a steam locomotive in 1784. His employee William Murdoch produced a working model of a self-propelled steam carriage later that year.
  • The first full scale working railway steam locomotive was built in the United Kingdom (U.K.) in 1804 by Richard Trevithick, an English engineer.
  • The first commercially successful steam locomotive was Matthew Murray's rack locomotive 'Salamanca' built in England for the narrow gauge Middleton Railway in 1812.
  • In 1812, Oliver Evans, an American engineer and inventor, published his vision of what steam railways could become, with cities and towns linked by a network of long distance railways plied by speedy locomotives, greatly reducing the time required for personal travel and for transport of goods.
  • In 1814, George Stephenson, an English civil engineer, built one of the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotives. Stephenson played a pivotal role in the development and widespread adoption of the steam locomotive. His designs considerably improved on the work of the earlier pioneers.
  • The first railroad charter in North America was granted to Col. John Stevens in 1815. Grants to others soon followed, and work began on the first operational railroads in the U.S.
  • The American railroad mania began with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1828 and continued through much of the 19th century.
  • Designed and built by Peter Cooper in 1830, the 'Tom Thumb' was the first American-built steam locomotive to be operated on a common-carrier railroad.
  • From the beginning, there was a distinction between the light fast passenger loco and the slower more powerful goods engine. For more detail on the various advances in locomotive design, go to Wikipedia.

To find out more about the History of Railroad Technology from 1830 through the present time, go to the History of Railroad & Rail Workers web site. Check it out!

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