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Saturday, 24 June 2017



The Surrey Iron Railway, arguably the world's first public railway, opened in south London, England on July 26, 1803. It was a toll railway on which carriers used horse traction travelling between Wandsworth and Croydon via Mitcham. The chief goods transported were building materials, coal, corn, lime, manure and seeds.

Watercolour showing the Surrey Iron Railway passing Chipstead Valley Road

The Swansea and Mumbles Railway, then known as the Oystermouth Railway, became the first passenger carrying railway in the world on March 25, 1807. Originally built under an Act of Parliament of 1804 to move limestone from the quarries of Mumbles to Swansea and to the markets beyond, it carried the world's first fare-paying railway passengers three years later.. It moved from horse power to steam locomotion in 1877.

Horse-powered train on the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, Wales

The first self-propelling steam locomotive was built by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick in 1804. Ten years later the engineer George Stephenson persuaded the manager of the Killingworth colliery where he worked to allow him to build a steam-powered machine. By 1820, some 400 miles of steam powered railway existed,

The world’s first public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, opened in 1825. using George Stephenson's No. 1 engine, called Locomotion, It was the first to use steam locomotives and connected various collieries in the North of England.

The horse-drawn Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated in 1827, becoming the first railroad in America offering commercial transportation of both people and freight.

On September 15, 1830, the president of the UK board of trade William Huskisson attended the grand opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Visitors boarded the Northumbrian, which had stopped to take on water. Against instructions, the passengers disembarked to hobnob. Seeing the Duke of Wellington, Huskisson walked across the adjacent track to speak to him just as another locomotive came barrelling down the line.

Huskisson stumbled and fell beneath the wheels of the oncoming train. He became the world's first railroad passenger fatality.

One of the first Scottish railways was opened between Edinburgh and Dalkeith in 1831. It contained Britain's first railway tunnel stretching 350 yards under the southern edge of Holyrood Park. The carriages were originally horse-drawn as it was thought steam engines to be dangerous. Though originally built to transport coal the public rapidly took to this convenient novelty and soon 400,000 passengers were being carried per year. It became known as the Innocent Railway because of its safety record, as no one was ever killed.

The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway opened on May 3, 1830. It was the first steam hauled passenger railway to issue season tickets and include a tunnel.

The first recorded railroad accident in U.S. history occurred on the Granite Railway near Quincy, Massachusetts on July 25, 1832.  A wagon containing Thomas B. Achuas, of Cuba, derailed as he and three other tourists were taking a tour. The occupants of the carriage were thrown over a cliff, approximately 35 ft (11 m). Mr. Achuas was killed and the three other passengers were badly injured.

The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company was the first American railway to use steam locomotives regularly beginning with the Best Friend of Charleston, the first American-built locomotive intended for revenue service, which traveled the 6-mile (9.7 km) line west from Charleston, South Carolina in 1830. The railroad ran scheduled steam service over its 136-mile (219 km) line from Charleston, South Carolina, to Hamburg, South Carolina, beginning in 1833

Belgium was the second country in Europe, after Great Britain, to open a railway and produce locomotives. The first line, between the cities of Brussels and Mechelen opened on May 5, 1835.

Painting of the opening of the Brussels-Mechelen railway on 5 May 1835

Grand Junction Railway, the world's first long-distance railway, opened on July 4, 1837 between Birmingham and Liverpool. The London and Birmingham Railway opened the following year providing a link between Liverpool, Manchester and London.

The first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world opened on July 31, 1865 at Grandchester, Queensland, Australia.

In America the first railway dining car (named Delmonico in honor of the New York restaurant) was introduced in 1868.

The first American transcontinental railway was completed west of the Rockies at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869 when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads met. The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the gold "Last Spike" with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit. It was a moment of vast symbolic significance. With this transcontinental link completed, the American nation was in a real sense now a single unit from coast to coast.

At the ceremony for the driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory Summit, Utah

About 12,000 laborers on each side (mainly Irish in the east and Chinese in the west) had worked steadily towards a meeting point. There were financial bonuses for whichever railway company moved faster.

The Central Pacific and Union Pacific raced to get as much track laid as possible. On one memorable occasion, not far from Promontory, Chinese and Irish laborers for the Central Pacific Railroad working on the First Transcontinental Railroad laid 10 miles (16 km) of track in one day, a feat which has never been matched.

The introduction of the railway system throughout Britain and America meant that food could be carried hundreds of miles and arrive at their destination still fresh. In America the network of railroads, this meant that meat and produce from the West and Midwest could be shipped to densely populated Eastern cities.

Volk's Electric Railway along the Brighton, England seafront was completed in 1879. It is the oldest operating electric railway in the world. Although it was preceded by Werner von Siemens's 1879 demonstration line in Berlin and by the Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway of 1881, neither line is still operational.

The Berlin-Baghdad railway was completed by the Germans in 1940, 52 years after work had started on the project. The Germans wanted to establish a port in the Persian Gulf from Baghdad.

The Empire of Japan completed the Burma Railway on October 17, 1943 to support its forces in the Burma Campaign of World War II .  More than 180,000—possibly many more—Southeast Asian civilian laborers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war worked on the railway. 12,621 Allied POWs died during the construction.

Malayan Tamils during the construction of Death railway 

The Talyllyn Railway is a narrow-gauge preserved railway in Wales running for 7.25 miles (11.67 km) from Tywyn[a] on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol near the village of Abergynolwyn. The line was opened in 1865 to carry slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to Tywyn, There was severe under-investment and in the early 1950s the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society effectively took control of the railway. The Talyllyn Railway re-opened under the control of the Society for the first time on May 14, 1951, making it the first railway in the world to be operated by volunteers.

Locomotive No. 4 Edward Thomas stands at Tywyn Wharf station. By © Optimist on the run, 2005 

The New York, Ontario and Western Railway made its final run in 1957, becoming the first major U.S. railroad to be abandoned in its entirety.

The 1T57 'Fifteen Guinea Special' was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail on August 11, 1968 before the introduction of a steam ban that started the following day. It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion from Liverpool to Carlisle and back.

The Fifteen Guinea Special at Barton Moss on the last leg  By RuthAS

Amtrak went into service in the US on May 1, 1971, combining and streamlining the operations of 18 intercity passenger railroads. All Amtrak's preferred stock is owned by the U.S. federal government.


Shanghai Transrapid set a new world speed record (501 kilometres per hour (311 mph)) for commercial railway systems in 2003, which remains the fastest for unmodified commercial rail vehicles.

The Qinghai–Tibet Railway, the world's highest railway and the only railway line to the Tibet Autonomous Region, was inaugurated on July 1, 2006.

A train pulled by an NJ2 locomotive travels on the Qingzang railway in 2008. By Jan ReurinkCamera 

The Metro Alpin, in the Swiss town of Saas Fee, is the highest funicular railway in the world.

China officially opened the world's longest high-speed rail route in 2012, linking the capital Beijing with the southern commercial hub of Guangzhou. The 2,298 kilometer (1,428 miles) route has 35 stops.


The Trans-Siberian railway crosses exactly 3901 bridges.

In the 1890s service on the Empire State Express rail service between New York City and Buffalo was about 1 hour faster than Amtrak's service in 2013.

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