Definition of the Railroad: The Railroad is
defined as a line of track consisting of parallel series of iron or steel rails that
accommodate the wheels of trains of passenger cars, freight cars and other rolling stock drawn by a locomotive engine.
Fact 1: History of the Railroad: The ancient predecessors of the railroad
were 'rutways' that consisted of a series of grooved tracks. A rutway was a
rutted road constructed with artificial wheel-ruts or grooves that had been
deliberately cut into rock that were used for hauling heavy loads over specified
Fact 2: History of the Railroad: The oldest funicular or cable railway
was constructed in 1515 using wooden rails and a hemp rope to provide freight
access to the mountain top Hohensalzburg Castle at Salzburg in Austria .
Fact 3: History of the Railroad: During the 1500's German miners devised
a clever minecart, called a 'hund' to move ore within the mines. The Hunds
were small wooden tubs that ran on two wide wooden boards or rails. Similar
tracks were used by British miners for transporting coal from the coalface to
the mine entrance.
Fact 4: History of the Railroad: A significant step towards the
development of the railroad was made in 1603 when the overground Wollaton
Wagonway was constructed in England. The overland, wooden railed, route was two
miles long and designed to carry horse drawn wagons of coal on the wooden rails.
Fact 5: History of the Railroad: The First Industrial Revolution centered
on iron and steam engine inventions which saw the
decline of the horse, the introduction of trains and wooden rails were replaced
with iron rails. Wooden railed tramways were first reinforced in 1760 with iron
bars which made the passage of wagons much easier and as a result cast iron
rails were eventually introduced.
Fact 6: History of the Railroad: In 1801 Richard Trevithick (1771 – 1833)
built a steam road locomotive he called the 'Puffing Devil' and in 1802 he built
another steam-powered road vehicle that he named the London Steam Carriage which
he demonstrated in the streets of London.
Fact 7: History of the Railroad: In 1803 Richard Trevithick harnessed
the power of high-pressure steam and built the world's first railway steam
Fact 8: History of the Railroad: The world’s first railway to carry
fare-paying passengers was Oystermouth Railway, later known as the Swansea &
Mumbles Railway opened on March 25, 1807 in Swansea, Wales. Its carriages were
originally horse drawn, and later replaced with steam engines and then electric
Fact 9: History of the Railroad: In 1814 George Stephenson constructed a
steam locomotive he called the Blutcher that ran on a track laid with cast iron
rails that reduced friction and increased the efficiency of the locomotive.
'Puffing Billy', the world's oldest surviving steam locomotive was built in
1813–1814 by engineer William Hedley, engine-wright Jonathan Forster and
blacksmith Timothy Hackworth. 'Puffing Billy' was built for for Christopher
Blackett, the owner of Wylam Colliery, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Fact 10: History of the Railroad: The first railroads (literally rail-roads
or rail-ways) would revolutionize
transportation making travel easier and more comfortable over long distances.
Fact 11: History of the Railroad: A railroad track consists of two
parallel rails set a fixed distance apart, called the gauge. The rails are
connected to each other by wooden or concrete railroad ties (also called
sleepers). The railroad ties (sleepers) are set into loose gravel, stones or
ballast that help transfer the load to the underlying foundation.
Fact 12: History of the Railroad: The world's first public railway to use
steam locomotives was the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) which opened on
September 27, 1825 connecting collieries near Shildon with Stockton-on-Tees and
Darlington in England. The carriages were first drawn by horses until steam
locomotives were introduced in 1833 - all were built by George Stevenson.
Fact 13: History of the Railroad: In 1829 George Stephenson, together
with his son Robert Stephenson, built "The Rocket" steam locomotive which
successfully won a competition called the 'Rainhill Trials' proved the
practicability of using steam locomotives on iron tracked railways - the
railroad was here to stay.
Fact 14: History of the Railroad: The success of the Stockton to
Darlington railway and George Stephenson's 'Rocket' stimulated the laying of
iron railroad lines and the construction of locomotives across the world. It
also earned George Stephenson the title of the "Father of the Railways".
Fact 15: History of the Railroad: In 1825 Colonel John Stevens designed
and built a steam locomotive capable of hauling several passenger cars in
Hoboken, New Jersey. John Stevens is considered to be the father of American
Fact 16: History of the Railroad: In 1828 the first operational
locomotive on an American railroad was the Stourbridge Lion. The Stourbridge
Lion was imported from England by Horatio Allen of New York for the
Delaware and Hudson Railway.
Fact 17: History of the Railroad: In 1830 the American railroad era
exploded when the steam locomotive built by Peter Cooper, called the Tom Thumb,
first steamed along Baltimore and Ohio railroad track.
Fact 18: History of the Railroad: In 1831 the first steam locomotive to
pull a train of cars over an American railroad was the Best Friend of Charleston
which was built for the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company by the West
Point Foundry of New York.
Fact 19: History of the Railroad: In 1832 the first horsecar was built by an
American omnibus builder called John G. Stephenson. The horsecar that run on the iron
tracks that had been laid in the streets of New York City. The popularity of the
horse car declined they were first converted to use steam engines and eventually
to electricity, replacing the horse when streetcars, trolleybuses and trams
began to run on the iron tracks.
Fact 20: History of the Railroad: The New York and Erie Rail Road was
chartered in 1832 by Governor of New York, Enos T. Throop to connect the Hudson
River north of New York City to Lake Erie.
Fact 21: History of the Railroad: In 1832 Sir Charles Fox, an English
civil engineer, invented and patented the railroad switch enabling locomotives
to be guided from one track to another.
Fact 22: History of the Railroad: In 1832 John Jervis, designed the
locomotive called the 'Experiment' which had a swiveling four-wheeled guide
truck that could follow the track enabling locomotives to travel on railways
with tighter curves across mountainous terrain.
Fact 23: History of the Railroad: In 1833 The English company of Robert
Stephenson constructed the locomotive called the "John Bull" for the Camden and
Amboy Railroad in New Jersey. The John Bull was one of the first American
locomotives to be fitted with a 'cow catcher' that pushed obstructions from the
Fact 24: History of the Railroad: Samuel Morse invented the the
Telegraph and the Morse
Code in 1838 which coincided with the boom in the construction of railroads
across America. As land was cleared for the railroad it was easy to set up poles
to carry the telegraph wires and provided a fast system of communication across
long distances. Congress authorized $10,000 to string Samuel Morse’s first
telegraph line along the right of way of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from
Baltimore to Washington D.C.
Fact 25: History of the Railroad: The construction of the Railroad across
America saw the rise of the Railroad magnates such as Edward H. Harriman,
Erastus Corning, Charles Crocker, James J. Hill, Cyrus K. Holliday, Mark
Hopkins, Leland Stanford, George Pullman, Collis P. Huntington, Arthur Stilwell
and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Fact 26: History of the Railroad: The Pennsylvania line was founded in
1846 and in 1854 the Rock Island Line became the first railroad to connect
Chicago with the Mississippi River. The Illinois Central Railroad was built in
1851, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad was founded in 1859, Central
Pacific company was founded in 1861 and the Union Pacific Railroad was chartered
Fact 27: History of the Railroad: In 1857 George Pullman (1831 – 1897)
designed dining cars and manufactured the opulent Pullman sleeping car, a
luxurious railroad coach designed for overnight travel across the railroad.
Fact 28: History of the Railroad: Between 1849 and 1860 30,000 miles of
railroad were built in the United States of America.
Fact 29: History of the Railroad: The American Civil War (1861 - 1865)
heralded the use of the railroad as a vital means of transporting troops and
supplies to the soldiers and the wounded in hospital trains.
Fact 30: History of the Railroad: In 1863 world's first underground
railway (now referred to as the Tube), the Metropolitan Railway started working
in London. The first Tube line was built and financed by a private company, the
Metropolitan Railway and is now part of the Northern Line. The success of this
underground track gave birth to the modern subways.
Fact 31: History of the Railroad: In 1868 American engineer George
Westinghouse invented the railway air brake. His invention saved many lives and
train wrecks by replacing manually applied brakes with a railroad braking system
using compressed air.
Fact 32: History of the Railroad: On May 10, 1869 the Union Pacific and
the Central Pacific railroad companies joined their individual tracks with the
golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah to make the first Transcontinental
Railroad in the United States. The
Transcontinental Railroad was 3500
miles long and joined the east of the United States on the Atlantic coast with
the west of the United States to the Pacific coast.
Fact 33: History of the Railroad:
Train robberies hit the slower trains of the
American Old West and famous train robbers included Jesse James, Bill Miner and
Butch Cassidy accompanied by his "The Wild Bunch" robbed the Railroad.
Fact 34: History of the Railroad: Carl von Linde (1842 - 1934) invented
the refrigerator in 1876 and the first
refrigerator cars went into operation on the Southern Pacific Railroad to carry
perishable fruit and vegetables across the United States.
Fact 35: History of the Railroad: In 1900 the railroad engineer Casey
Jones (1864–1900) became a hero when the "Cannonball Express" collided with
another train. Casey Jones grabbed the brake with one hand and pulled the
warning whistle with the other and saved the lives of all the passengers on the
train. Only Casey Jones died and was immortalized in American history in a
tribute song called "The Ballad of Casey Jones".
Fact 36: History of the Railroad: The construction of the early railroads
in the United States was a feat of engineering enabling people to travel west on
the Railroad and was a source of great national pride to Americans.