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The Development of the Railway continued

Generally, these railways, (or tramways as many were called), had wagons pulled by horses. In some cases they were constructed in such a way that the tramway ran down from the mine (or quarry) to the canal (or port). This meant that gravity was responsible for the movement of the loaded wagons.

Although tramways showed that heavy loads could be transported with far less effort than before, most people still looked at them as just a way to move produce to the nearest canal. Very few people realised their potential. This was because there was, as yet, no suitable method for moving long, heavy trains. As long as the horse was the only method of motive power, the railway system could not advance. This is not to say that no one had thought of the idea of a passenger carrying railway. In fact the first railway to carry fare-paying passengers was built in Wales in 1806. The Oystermouth Railway was horse-drawn and ran between Oystermouth and Swansea.

The concept of steam locomotives came about because a number of far-sighted engineers saw that there was a great future for the railway if the power of steam could be harnessed to pull it. Steam engines, such as the Boulton and Watt engine, were already being used to pull loads up the shafts of coal mines. Engineers saw that these engines could be adapted to tow a train along a track.

Some of the earliest railways were built to operate with a series of engines spaced out along the track at regular intervals. The train was attached to a winding rope which was hauled in towards the engine house. Once there, the train was attached to the next winding rope and the haulage continued. This method was expensive both in engine power and in fuel consumption, and it was very slow. There was an obvious need for a portable form of steam engine which could actually draw the train along. Such a steam engine needed to be small enough and light enough to be supported by the often brittle, cast iron track.

The following is an extract from Louis de Gallois' report on the British railway. He is writing about the railways of the Northumberland and Durham coalfields in 1818.

"There is a network of 75 leagues of railway in a region which is 7 leagues long and 4 leagues wide. In addition, 150 leagues of underground lines have been laid. All the lines which are above ground run from the pit heads of the coal mines to the River Tyne and the River Wear. These two rivers can be navigated by large ships for several miles inland. 

A coal wagon can carry a load of about 25 metric quintals. The smallest downhill gradient is enough to set the wagons moving on their own. Five or six of these wagons coupled together can move downhill without the aid of horses or any other form of power. A child operates a brake to slow the wagons down if necessary. Should the slope be too steep that the wagons descend too quickly, an inclined plane is used. By means of a big pulley and a rope, the descent of a loaded wagon can be controlled, and at the same time an equal number of empty wagons can be hauled up the incline. The speed of the descent can be controlled by a brake on the pulley."

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