Timeline of railway history

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This is a timeline of rail transport history.

600 bc[edit]

  • c. 600 BC[1][2][3][4][5]:8–19 (11) - A basic form of the railway, the rutway,[5]:8–19 (8 & 15) - existed in ancient Greek and Roman times, the most important being the ship trackway Diolkos across the Isthmus of Corinth. Measuring between 6 and 8.5 km,[5]:8–19 (10)[6][7] remaining in regular and frequent service for at least 650 years,[1][2][3][4][5] and being open to all on payment, it constituted even a public railway, a concept which according to Lewis did not recur until around 1800.[5]:15 The Diolkos was reportedly used until at least the middle of the 1st century AD, after which no more written references appear.[5]:8–19 (11)

16th-18th century[edit]

  • 1550 - Hand propelled tubs known as "hunds" undoubtedly existed in the provinces surrounding/forming modern day Germany by the mid-16th century having been in proven use since the mid-15th century and possibly earlier. This technology was brought to the Kingdom of England by German miners working in the Mines Royal at various sites in the English Lake District near Keswick (Now in Cumbria).[8]
  • 1603/04 - Between October 1603 and the end of September 1604, Huntingdon Beaumont, partner of the landowner; Sir Percival Willoughby, built the first recorded above ground early railway/wagonway. It was approximately two miles in length, running from mines at Strelley to Wollaton in Nottinghamshire, England. It is known as the Wollaton Wagonway. Beaumont built three further wagonways shortly after, near Blyth in Northumberland related to the coal and salt trade. Shortly after the Wollaton Wagonway was built other wagonways are recorded at Broseley near Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. Further wagonways emerged in the English North East.
  • 1758 - The Middleton Railway, the first railway to be granted powers by Act of Parliament, carried coal cheaply from the Middleton pits to Leeds. The line was privately financed and operated, initially as a waggonway using horse-drawn waggons. Around 1799 the wooden tracks began to be replaced with superior iron edge rails to a gauge of 4 ft 1 in (1,245 mm). In 1812 the Middleton Railway became the first commercial railway to successfully use steam locomotives : the Salamanca of John Blenkinsop.
  • 1789 - The Charnwood Forest Canal, sometimes known as the "Forest Line of the Leicester Navigation" has a railways to supplement the canal between Nanpantan and Loughborough, Leicestershire. William Jessop had realised a horse-drawn railway for coal wagons. He used successfully an iron edge-rail, in contrast to his partner Benjamin Outram, who, for other such lines, preferred the traditional iron "L" shaped flange-rail plateway.
  • 1798 - the Lake Lock Rail Road, arguably the world's first public railway, opened in 1798 to carry coal from the Outwood area to the Aire and Calder navigation at Lake Lock near Wakefield, West Yorkshire,on a distance of approximately 3 miles.[9] The load of three waggons was hauled by one horse. The track used edge rails to a gauge of 3 ft 4 3⁄4 in (1,035 mm.). The line gradually declined and was closed in 1836.

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

  • 1913 - First diesel powered railcar enters service in Sweden.
  • 1915 - First major stretch of electrified railway in Sweden; Kiruna-Riksgränsen (Malmbanan).
  • 1917 - GE produced an experimental Diesel-electric locomotive using Lemp's control design—the first in the United States.
  • 1924 - First diesel-electric locomotive built in Soviet Union (USSR).
  • 1925 - Ingersoll-Rand with traction motors supplied by GE built a prototype Diesel switching locomotive (shunter), the AGEIR boxcabs.
  • 1926 - First diesel locomotive service introduced in Canada.
  • 1930 - GE begins producing diesel-electric switching engines.
  • 1934 - First diesel-powered streamlined passenger train in America (the Burlington Zephyr) introduced at the Chicago World's Fair.
  • 1935 - First children's railway is opened in Tbilisi, USSR.
  • 1937-41 - Magnetic levitation (maglev) train patents awarded in Germany to Hermann Kemper, with design propelled by linear motors.[15]
  • 1938 - In England, the world speed record for steam traction is set by the Mallard which reaches a speed of 203 km/h (126 mph).
  • 1939 - In Persia the Trans-Iranian Railway was opened, built entirely by local capital.
  • 1939 - Diesel-electric railroad locomotion entered the mainstream in the U.S. when the Burlington Railroad and Union Pacific start using diesel-electric "streamliners" to haul passengers.
  • 1942-45 - Over 117 steam locomotives worth over $2,624,182 ($1945) given to the Soviet Union under U.S. Lend Lease.[16]
  • 1946 - U.S. railroads begin rapidly replacing their rolling stock with diesel-electric units. Process not completed until the mid 1960s.
  • 1948, January 1 - British Railways formed by nationalising the assets of the 'Big Four' railway companies (GWR, LMS, LNER and SR).
  • 1948, March 1 - Foreign-owned railway companies nationalised in Argentina during the first term of office of President Peron.
  • 1953 - Japan sets narrow gauge world speed record of 145 km/h (90 mph) with Odakyū 3000 series SE Romancecar.
  • 1959, April - Construction of the first segment of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka commenced.
  • 1960s-2000s (decade) - Many countries adopt high-speed rail in an attempt to make rail transport competitive with both road transport and air transport.
  • 1963, March 27 - Publication of The Reshaping of Britain's Railways (the Beeching Report). Generally known as the "Beeching axe", it led to the mass closure of 25% of route miles and 50% of stations during the decade following.
  • 1964 - Bullet Train service introduced in Japan, between Tokyo and Osaka. Trains average speeds of 160 km/h (100 mph) due to congested shared urban tracks, with top speeds of 210 km/h.
  • 1968 - British Rail ran its last final steam-driven mainline train, named the Fifteen Guinea Special, after of a programmed withdrawal of steam during 1962-68. It marked the end of 143 years of its public railway use. Thailand's tram line was stop serviced.
  • 1970, June 21 - Penn Central, the dominant railroad in the northeastern United States, became bankrupt (the largest US corporate bankruptcy up to that time). Created only two years earlier in 1968 from a merger of several other railroads, it marked the end of long-haul private-sector US passenger train services, and forced the creation of the government-owned Amtrak on May 1, 1971.
  • 1975, August 10 - British Rail's experimental tilting train, the Advanced Passenger Train (APT) achieved a new British speed record, the APT-E reaching 245 km/h (152.3 mph).[17] The prototype APT-P pushed the speed record further to 261 km/h (162.2 mph) in December 1979,[18] but when put into service on 7 December 1981, it failed and was withdrawn days later,[19] resuming only from 1980 to 1986 on the West Coast Main Line.
  • 1979 - High speed TGV trains introduced in France, TGV trains travelling at an average speed of 213 km/h (132 mph). and with a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).
  • 1987 - World speed record for a diesel locomotive set by British Rail's High Speed Train (HST), which reached a speed of 238 km/h (148 mph).
  • 1989 - Cairo Underground Metro Line 1 is the first line of underground in Africa and Middle East Line length 44 kilometres (27 mi) with 34 stations Daily ridership 1 million passenger Operating speed 100 km/h (62 mph).
  • 1990 - World speed record for an electric train is set in France by a TGV, reaching a speed of 515 km/h (320 mph).
  • 1994-1997 - Privatisation of British Rail. Ownership of track and infrastructure passed to Railtrack on 1 April 1994 (replaced by Network Rail in 2002), with passenger operations franchised afterwards to 25 individual private-sector operators and freight services sold outright.

21st century[edit]

  • 2000 - Amtrak introduces the Acela Express on the Northeast Corridor in the United States.
  • 2001 August - Northeast China first electrified railway opens for business between Shenyang and Harbin[20]
  • 2007 - High speed trains travelling at 350 km/h (217 mph) are introduced in Spain between Madrid and Barcelona.
  • 2007 - Heavily modified trainset of France's TGV had beaten its original world record when it travelled from Metz- Reims at a speed of 574.8 kilometres per hour (357.2 mph).
  • 2008 - Irelands first Intercity DMU enters service excluding the 29000 class running on the Sligo line.
  • 2010 - Shanghai Metro overtakes London Underground as the world's largest urban transit system (now serving: 420 km (260 mi) with 278 stations (235 not including stations served more than once)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Verdelis, Nikolaos: "Le diolkos de L'Isthme", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, Vol. 81 (1957), pp. 526-529 (526)
  2. ^ a b Cook, R. M.: "Archaic Greek Trade: Three Conjectures 1. The Diolkos", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 99 (1979), pp. 152-155 (152)
  3. ^ a b Drijvers, J.W.: "Strabo VIII 2,1 (C335): Porthmeia and the Diolkos", Mnemosyne, Vol. 45 (1992), pp. 75-76 (75)
  4. ^ a b Raepsaet, G. & Tolley, M.: "Le Diolkos de l’Isthme à Corinthe: son tracé, son fonctionnement", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, Vol. 117 (1993), pp. 233–261 (256)
  5. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, M. J. T., "Railways in the Greek and Roman world", in Guy, A. / Rees, J. (eds), Early Railways. A Selection of Papers from the First International Early Railways Conference (2001)
  6. ^ Raepsaet, G. & Tolley, M.: "Le Diolkos de l’Isthme à Corinthe: son tracé, son fonctionnement", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, Vol. 117 (1993), pp. 233–261 (246)
  7. ^ Werner, Walter: "The largest ship trackway in ancient times: the Diolkos of the Isthmus of Corinth, Greece, and early attempts to build a canal", The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Vol. 26, No. 2 (1997), pp. 98–119 (109)
  8. ^ An excellent and definitive, but currently out of print book by Michael Lewis Early Wooden Railways should be consulted about pre-17th century railways, etc.
  9. ^ "Lake Lock Rail Road". Stanley History Online. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  10. ^ "Surrey Iron Railway 200th - 26th July 2003". Early Railways. Stephenson Locomotive Society. Archived from the original on 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  11. ^ Dilts, James D. (1996). The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. pp. xv–xvi. ISBN 978-0-8047-2629-0. 
  12. ^ City of Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro, http://fctp.petropolis.rj.gov.br/fctp/modules/xt_conteudo/index.php?id=194
  13. ^ Reference in Serbian [1]
  14. ^ "Important Years in City History". City of Belgrade. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  15. ^ These German patents would be GR643316(1937), GR44302(1938), GR707032(1941).
  16. ^ Soviet Lend Lease, p. 22 [2] accessed 2 February 2009
  17. ^ "The APT". Gerry Bates website. 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  18. ^ "British Rail Advanced Passenger Train". Train Of The Week website. 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  19. ^ "APT - The lean machine". BBC News website. 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  20. ^ First Electric Railway in Northeast China Open to Traffic

External links[edit]