History of Train Travel

Nowadays, we tend to take transportation for granted. Want to grab groceries? Hop in the car. Hoping to explore a new state? Find a flight online that aligns with your schedule. Interested in sightseeing without the burden of being the driver? Locate a train station or railway option close by and book a round-trip ticket to some of the most well-known or off-the-grid spots, both near and far. But it hasn’t always been this straightforward!

What originated as either foot traffic and then onwards to animal-based wagons and travel then transformed into railroad and train travel in the early 18th century. This option for transportation didn’t hit the states until the early 1800s, however. What began as steam power being developed continued to steam locomotives in the early 1800s when Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian built the first version for the narrow gauge Penydarren tramway in Wales. They received a patent for the world’s first steam locomotive in 1802.

George Stephenson is known to be credited with engineering and developing Britain’s Stockton & Darlington Railway, the first steam locomotive engine to be invented. Trevithick’s invention, however, is credited as the first tramway locomotive. Then, in 1821, Julius Griffiths became the first person to patent a passenger road locomotive. In September 1825, using Stephenson’s locomotives, the company launched the initial railroad that could transport both goods and passengers. In the mid-1800s the United States tested their first version known as Tom Thumb, of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, built by Peter Cooper.

With efficient travel on the forefront, Americans and engineers around the world were recognizing the impact that steam-based travel could make an incredible impact in various ways. While these early signs of trains may seem successful, they were far from that. It took quite some time before anyone would rely on trains for any sort of travel. Safety was certainly something that would need to be ironed out (pun intended!) before passengers would make train travel a reliable option. Everything from the design of the trains to the ways that tracks were laid would need to be evaluated, tested, and re-evaluated before safety and trains could be used in the same sentence.

From iron to steel to stone gravel, various testing and replacement structures and equipment were utilized for quite some time before anyone would deem them reliable or sturdy. Braking systems were also a work in progress as they transitioned from horrific, manual link-and-pin system to air brakes, developed by George Westinghouse in the late 1800s.

As you may imagine, technology has transformed since these initial developments and has significantly impacted the development of trains. Everything from how they drive and move to what the interiors were like developed over the course of the 1800s. Specialized cars, like diners, sleepers and club cars were created with new needs in mind.

As the 20th century rolled around, rail travel had become a much more convenient, comfortable and safer option of travel. As you may be aware, trains nowadays come in various sizes for a wide range of goals and services. From trams to subways to distance trains to more business-based cargo transportation. It’s hard to fathom that you can so conveniently book a railway journey, fall asleep on the train and be in a completely different time zone by the time you wake up. What took quite some time to perfect, test and pass inspections is simply a way of life across the world. Many of the items you see around your house or workplace at this very moment were transferred to your local area by train, so thank goodness for the transformation and enhancements that have come along the way.

Where do you think trains and railroads will go next? It’s almost unfathomable to think that they may be outdated or a thing of the past, but they could very well see drastic updates with technology developments perhaps in the not-so-far future. We’re certainly committed to staying up with and ahead of trends and can only look forward to where trains and railroads are headed next!