Steam Locomotives and Early Railroads in England and America updated Sat Feb 7 2009 1:11 am EST

Their day is long past, memories fade but steam locomotives and early railroads remain forever fascinating. In most countries, a few steam locomotives survived and many have been rescued, rehabilitated by historical societies and newly formed tourist railroads. Rail fans can still enjoy excursions through beautiful landscapes on a train pulled by a steam locomotive.<br /><br /><a title="Early Locomotive History"></a><a href="" title="Early Locomotive History">Early locomotive history</a> begins with the Romans, who were first to utilize pairs of rails to take the heavy load of wheeled freight vehicles. Early English coal mines often transported coal on a rail system, the loaded railway cars were drawn by horses. Around 1630, Beaumont developed wooden rails which had a superior surface that could be closely fitted to the rims of channeled iron wheels. This rail system was widely used to descend and ascend hills, and cross irregular terrain. Motive power was horses. A superior track was developed when iron plates were used to cover the top surface of the rails, thereby reducing wear and extending the lifetime of the rails. In 1776 a horse drawn railway was constructed using prismatic, strained iron bars on wooden beams.<br /><br />A stronger design for railway tracks followed with parallel steel rails supported by ties, the heavy wood resting upon a bed of crushed stone. This development awaited a new source of power to draw heavily loaded cars. As everyone knows, the invention of the steam engine on wheels was the breakthrough that led to railroads as we know them. The first railroad using steam locomotive power was built by an Englishman, Richard Trevithick. In February 1804, he used a steam locomotive to pull coal cars at Penydarran, in South Wales. Cylinders were positioned vertically, steam pressure of 40 lbs/sq inch was achieved and the locomotive worked well. This locomotive ran only three times, pulling a train of five wagons, 10 tons of iron and 70 passengers. The bottom line problem was weight. The locomotive was too heavy for the cast iron rails. Trevithick built additional experimental, steam locomotives one of which was to have considerable influence because it was seen by George Stephenson.<br /><br />The next successful railway steam locomotive was that of Blenkinsop in 1812. It also had vertical cylinders with pinions that rotated a large dented wheel that was fitted to the rail edges, the supporting wheels were not driving wheels. The first commercially successful steam locomotive was Matthew Murray’s rack locomotive,&nbsp; <a href="" title="Salamanca">Salamanca,</a> which was built for the narrow gauge Middleton Railway in 1812. <br /><br />In the following year (1813), <a href="" title="Puffing Billy">Puffing Billy</a> was built by Christopher Blackett and William Hedley for the Wylam Colliery Railway. it was the first successful locomotive to run by adhesion and it was also the first commercial steam locomotive. Puffing Billy hauled coal chaldron wagons from the mine at Wylam to the docks at Lemington-on-Tyne in Northumberland. It was one of a number of similar engines built by Hedley, the resident engineer at Wylam Colliery. These engines remained in service for many years and the last was retired in 1862. Puffing Billy incorporated a number of novel features patented by Hedley, which were important to the development of locomotives. Piston rods extended upwards to pivoting beams, connected in turn by rods to a crankshaft beneath the frames, from which gears drove and also coupled the wheels thereby allowing maximum traction. This was the first time that coupling had been employed on a locomotive. <br /><br />Puffing Billy had a number of serious technical limitations, however. Relying on smooth wheels running on a smooth track, its eight-ton weight was too heavy for the rails and it crushed them. This problem was alleviated by redesigning the engine with eight wheels so that the weight was spread more evenly. &quot;The engine was eventually rebuilt as a four-wheeler when improved track was introduced around 1830. It was not particularly fast, being capable of no more than 3 to 5 mph (5 to 8 km/h). Puffing Billy has been on display since 1862 in the Science Museum in London, the oldest locomotive in existence.&quot; <br /><br /><a href="’s_Rocket" title="Stephenson’s Rocket">George Stephenson’s Rocket</a> is often mistakenly identified as the world’s first railroad steam locomotive. It’s true fame rests upon several design innovations that were subsequently incorporated into all steam locomotives. &quot;Rocket used a multi-tubular boiler, which made for much more efficient and effective heat transfer between the exhaust gases and the water. Previous boilers consisted of a single pipe surrounded by water. Rocket also used a blastpipe for the first time which could utilize the blast of exhaust steam to induce a partial vacuum to pull air through the fire . .. It was designed and built to compete in the Rainhill Trials, a competition to select the best locomotive for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The competition was held October 6-13, 1829. All competitors broke down except Rocket who was declared the winner. &quot;Rocket fulfilled the key requirement of the contest, that a full simulated 50 mile (90-km) round trip under load be completed with satisfactory fuel consumption. It averaged 12 miles per hour while hauling 13 tons ……&quot; Major design changes were done in 1830, and this heavily modified Rocket with horizontal cylinders is on display in the Science Museum of London.<br /><br /><a href="" title="Delaware and Hudson Canal Co.">The Delaware &amp; Hudson Canal Company,</a> chartered in 1823, was one of the first railroads in the United States although its original purpose was to build and operate canals between New York City and the coal fields near Carbondale, PA.&nbsp; In 1825, company engineers began to plan for a railroad. John B. Jervis became the chief engineer of D&amp;H and ordered four locomotives from England. The Stourbridge Lion built at Foster, Rastrick and Company became the first steam locomotive to operate in America but at 7.5 tons was much too heavy for the track upon which it ran.&nbsp; The Agenoria is a duplicate of the Stourbridge Lion and is on display at the National Railway Museum in York, England.The boiler and associated parts of the&nbsp; Stourbridge Lion are now on display at the Baltimore &amp; Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD. Oswego, New York played a prominent role in the later years of the <a href="" title="Delaware and Hudson Coal Co.">Delaware and Hudson Coal Company</a> railroad, some of whose track was utilized by Conrail until recently. See also the <a href="" title="Delaware and Hudson RR">Delaware and Hudson Railway.</a> <br /><br /><a href="" title="Tom Thumb">Peter Cooper’s Tom Thumb</a> built in 1830 was the first American built steam locomotive used on a passenger railroad. Although it lost a race to a horse drawn car, the newly incorporated Baltimore and Ohio Railroad agreed to put the Tom Thumb into service as its overall superior performance was recognized.&nbsp; Tom Thumb was a 4 wheel steam locomotive with a vertical boiler and vertical cylinders. The design was improvised as boiler tubes were made from rifle barrels and a blower mounted in the stack was driven by a belt to the powered axle. Cooper’s interest in the railroad was by way of substantial real estate investment in what is now the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore; success for the railroad was expected to increase the value of these real estate holdings. Tom Thumb was scrapped long ago, but an inaccurate replica built in 1926 may still be seen at the Baltimore and Ohio RR Museum.<br /><br /><a href="" title="Early RR Massachusetts">Early railroad development in Massachusetts</a> is typical of many east coast states during the first decades of American railroad creation and expansion. Several charters for new railroad companies were issued by 1830 but only three were activated. Early studies focused upon an investment – financial return business model that utilized horse drawn carriages but experiments in England effectively did away with this approach by 1830. The first three Massachusetts railroads were begun in 1832 and completed by 1835. By the end of 1840, these railroads operated 285 miles of track, with an additional 80 miles in three neighboring states. The business model considered these early railroads to be turnpikes that anyone could use with their own engines and cars if willing to pay the required fees. Early passenger cars resembled stage coaches and engines were often wood burners in timber rich New England. Although cost overruns were common, revenue flow and profit far exceeded expectations and these early railroads gave a very good return to their investors. These early successes created the confidence that led to rapid expansion of railroads in all New England states. In the succeeding decade 1840-50, the number of railroad companies rapidly increased and several branch lines served the expanding city of Boston and its suburbs.&nbsp; At the end of 1850, there were 1037 miles of track in Massachusetts, with this state’s railroads operating an additional&nbsp; 421 miles in adjoining states. Branch lines for commuter travel within cities and suburbs became a serious priority but they were overbuilt and many small lines failed in the 1860s.<br /><br />Railroads were first viewed as enterprises to be made available for the public good, but good profit and ROI rapidly changed that attitude. Return On Investment occasionally reached 10% which was considered a spectacular financial success at the time. Rails were first believed to never need replacement. However, stock offerings were often oversubscribed and stock obligations were sold at increasing levels of discount throughout the 1840s. In May 1849, the Norfolk County Railroad in Massachusetts assigned all of its property to creditors on the day it began service and it became the first New England railroad to fail financially. New track construction decreased by 75% in Massachusetts in the 1850s. At the close of 1860, there was 1227 miles of track in Massachusetts, with the state’s railroads operating and additional 527 miles in adjoining states – a modest increase over the 1850 figures. <br /><br /><br />

Source: Squidoo: Steam Locomotives and Early Railroads in England and America

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