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The Agricultural Revolution Index

Introduction to the Agricultural Revolution

The Industrial Revolution Index

Introduction to the First Industrial Revolution

The Development of Roads and Railways Index

Roads and Railways : Introduction
The Development of Roads
The Development of the Railway
The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
Richard Trevithick

The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
John Blenkinsop

The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
George Stephenson

Building the Railways : Introduction
Railway Mania
The Social and Economic Effects of the Railway

History Chapters Main Index

 

Chronology of the Development of the Railways 1789 - 1890

1760's

Abraham Darby laid an iron plateway

1760's

Nicholas Cugnot invented the first steam propelled vehicle

1760

1786's

William Murdock invented a model road engine similar to Cugnot's

1789's

William Jessop introduced flanged waggon wheels

1780

1801's

Trevithick's first passenger steam vehicle went into operation

1805's

Wandsworth-Croydon public railway opened

1806's

Oystermouth railway - first passenger railway in Wales was built

1808's

Trevithick's 'Catch -me-who-can' locomotive was built

1800

1812's

Blenkinsop's railway locomotive hauled coal from Middleton to Leeds

1813's

Hedley's 'Puffing Billy' was built for use on non-toothed track

1810

1820's

Wrought iron rails used to make railways

1825's

Stockton to Darlington railway line opened

1827's

First railway tunnel built under Liverpool

1829's

Stephenson's 'Rocket' wins Rainhill trials (Britain)
Marc Sequin built first French steam locomotive

1820

1930's

Liverpool to Manchester line opened (Britain)

1832's

First steam locomotive powered railway opened in France

1835's

Joseph Locke designed bulkhead rail

1837's

Telegraph used to connect signal boxes

1830

1840's

First railway excursion

1846's

Standard gauge introduced in Britain

1840

1851's

First refrigerated coaches

1859's

Pullman cars

1850

1863's

First underground railway

1865's

USA adopted standard gauge

1869's

First rack railway (Mount Washington, USA)

1860

1879's

Von Seimen's electric train operated in Berlin

1870

1881's

First electric passenger train used in Germany

1889's

Block signalling and continuous braking in Britain

1880

1890's

First electric underground train

1890

1912's

First diesel electric trains (Sweden)

1910

 

 

 

 

 

TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLTIONARY CHANGE

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The Industrial Revolution

Building the Railways : Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Brunel was the son of the famous French engineer, Marc Brunel. During his career, Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed and built a number of railways of which his most famous construction was the Great Western Railway. Brunel also built bridges, tunnels and steamships.

 

Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Photo by  Robert Howlett

Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Photo by Robert Howlett

 

Not all of Brunel's ideas were successful. He was obsessed for a while with the idea of a railway without locomotives. This railway would run by using air pressure. his idea was to use an air-tight cast iron tube laid along the middle of the track with a piston to be placed inside the tube and connected to the leading coach. Air would be pumped out of the tube, ahead of the piston. This would draw the piston forward, thus pulling the coaches. Brunel was not convinced that steam locomotives could be built to provide enough power to climb some of the steeper gradients on some of the lines he was designing. He thought that the piston pump design would be the answer to this problem.

The piston pump design was used by a French engineer, Monsieur C.F. Mallet. Mallet was so impressed by the design that he recommended its use throughout France. However, the design failed for a variety of reasons. One of these was that rats and mice ate the greased leather flaps which were used to keep the system air-tight! The main reason for its failure was that the technology needed was too advanced for the time. Even so, the piston pump system did manage to draw trains at speeds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour, which was twice as fast as the average steam locomotive.

 

Railway Mania

By 1844 improvements in trade and industry led to increased demand for railways to carry goods and passengers quickly, efficiently and, above all, cheaply. Between 1845 and 1848, over 650 Acts of Parliament were passed for either new railways or extensions to existing railways. By the 1850's over 9550 kilometres of railways had been built in Britain. The advance of the railway played a large part in transforming the country from a largely agricultural nation to the first industrialised country in the world.

 

Railway Notes

The distance between the wheels on the parallel tracks of a railway is called the gauge. Much of the early railway development was in Tyneside in Britain. This is why the gauge was set at 1,24m, which happened to be the gauge of the existing Tyneside coal wagons. Brunel, however, used a gauge of 2,17m for the Great Western Railway (GWR). In 1841 the narrow gauge railway was adopted by law and the GWR was forced to change from the broad to the narrow gauge. British engineers built many overseas railways and they mostly used the narrow gauge. The US officially adopted the narrow gauge in 1885.

 

The Social and Economic Effects of the Railway

Another aid to the economy was a 1844 Act of Parliament that set down minimum standards for travellers and a fixed fare of one penny per mile for third class passengers. This became known as the 'parliamentary ticket'. The Act also stated that all carriages were to have seats and that they must be covered.

At least one train per day was to run at a minimum speed of 19 kilometres per hour. The poorer people benefited from this Act since many of them could now afford to travel by train for the first time. As the century progressed and individual wealth grew, it meant that all but the very poor were able to take holidays by the sea. This led to the growth of travel and what we now call tourism.

There were many other social and economic effects which evolved as a direct result of railway development. The basic cost of raw materials, such as iron and coal, came down as transport costs dropped. As a result of this industrial growth increased at a faster rate. Food production and distribution became easier. This meant that more people could enjoy fresh meat, fish, milk and vegetables. The population became better fed and healthier.

As the railways expanded over the whole country it became necessary to create a standard country-wide time so that accurate timetables could be produced. Before this clocks had varied from district to district. Clocks in London and Bristol, for example, might have shown completely different times at any given moment. Then all clocks were set to a standard 'railway time'.

The expansion of the railway also made more work available and new jobs were created. However, this was partly offset by the loss of jobs due to the decline in stagecoach travel. The stagecoach companies had reached their peak in 1840. Competition with the railway put them into terminal decline, despite their efforts to compete by cutting prices. There was even a steam driven stagecoach! The greater speed and comfort of the railway, however, meant the decline of road travel for the next century.

 

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