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Roads and Railways


Photo of a model railway c. 1960 © Shirley Burchill

Whilst it is easier to study the development of canals, railways and roads separately, it must not be forgotten that their development is linked by "cause and effect". Canals were built to carry heavy freight more easily. At the same time, road builders reacted to the competition. The existing roads were upgraded, and the Turnpike Act ensured that new roads were built. These new and improved roads allowed stagecoaches to travel much faster and speeded up communication. Canals were never seriously used as passenger carriers because they were too slow.

To solve the problem of transporting the coal from the colliery to the canal-side for shipment, the colliery engineers constructed horse-drawn wagons which could be pulled over a specially laid track. These tracks were the first railways. It was not long before the potential of the railway was realised, and by the 19th century, railway development escalated. Rail took over from both road and canal as the most popular form of transport.

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© Shirley Burchill, Nigel Hughes, Richard Gale, Peter Price and Keith Woodall 2016