Timeline of railway history

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Reisszug, as it appears today


  • c. 700 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 that, 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]

  • Mid 16th century (1550) – Hand propelled mining tubs known as "hands" were used in the provinces surrounding/forming modern day Germany by the mid-16th century having been improved use since the mid-15th century. This technology was brought to England by German miners working in the Minerals Royal at various sites in the English Lake District near Keswick (now in Cumbria).[8]
  • c.1594 – The first overground railway line in England may have been a wooden-railed, horse-drawn tramroad which was built at Prescot, near Liverpool, around 1600 and possibly as early as 1594. Owned by Philip Layton, the line carried coal from a pit near Prescot Hall to a terminus about half a mile away.[9]
  • c.1600 – A funicular railway was made at Broseley in Shropshire some time before 1605 to carry coal for James Clifford from his mines down to the river Severn to be loaded onto barges and carried to riverside towns.[10]
  • 1604 – Huntingdon Beaumont, partner of landowner Sir Percival Willoughby, built the Wollaton Wagonway, running from mines at Strelley to Wollaton in Nottinghamshire. It was approximately two miles in length. Beaumont built three further wagonways shortly afterwards near Blyth, Northumberland, to service the coal and salt trades.
  • 1722 – The Tranent – Cockenzie Waggonway was built by the York Buildings Company of London, to transport coal from the Tranent pits to the salt pans at Cockenzie and the Harbour at Port Seton, in Haddingtonshire, now East Lothian. This wooden waggonway was replaced in 1815 with an iron fish bellied edgeway to Cockenzie Harbour by the new owners, the Cadell family. This was Scotland's first railway of any kind, with one section of it remaining in constant use until 1962. Some in situ stone sleeper blocks survive at the Robert Stevenson designed Cockenzie Harbour, and the entirety of the route is a way marked footpath.
  • 1725 – The Tanfield Wagonway was constructed to lead coal from pits around Tanfield to the Tyne at Redheugh (Gateshead). It was the first railway built on a large scale – 5 miles of double wooden track with massive civil engineering works including deep cuttings, huge embankments and the world's first large masonry railway bridge, the Causey Arch. Each 2.5 ton capacity waggon (with flanged wooden wheels) was hauled by a horse, up to 60 waggons per hour at peak times. Two miles of the wagonway route are still in use by the Tanfield Railway, making this the oldest operational railway in the world.
  • 1758 – The Middleton Railway, the first railway granted powers by an Act of Parliament, carried coal cheaply from the Middleton pits to Leeds. The line was privately financed and operated, initially as a wagonway using horse-drawn wagons. Around 1799, the wooden tracks were replaced with iron edge rails at 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, which used John Blenkinsop's patented design for rack propulsion.
  • 1760s – Iron production in Britain began to rise dramatically, followed by a similar rise on the European continent. This was the result of the use of coke for smelting and refining pig iron and cast iron and the application of the steam engine and cast iron blowing cylinder to providing pressurized air for blast furnaces.[11]
  • 1768 – The Wagon Way was constructed by the Erskines of Mar in Alloa, to carry coal from the Clackmannanshire coalfields of central Scotland to the Port of Alloa. Initially using wooden rails, these were later clad in Swedish iron (1785), and carried horse-drawn wagons. Some of the Wagon Way route still exists, although the tracks are long gone.[12]
  • 1783 – Henry Cort patented the grooved rolling mill for rolling hot iron to expel molten slag. Rolling was 15 times faster than hammering.[13]
  • 1783 – Henry Cort patented the puddling process for making wrought iron. This was the first large scale process for making a structural grade of iron and was also much less expensive than previous methods. Puddled iron production came into widespread production after 1800.[13]
  • 1784 – William Murdoch demonstrated a steam carriage powered by a high-pressure engine. He would later show it to his neighbour Richard Trevithick who would go on to build locomotives.
  • 1789 – The Charnwood Forest Canal, sometimes known as the "Forest Line of the Leicester Navigation" uses railways to supplement the canal between Nanpantan and Loughborough, Leicestershire. William Jessop had constructed a horse-drawn railway for coal wagons. He successfully used an iron edge-rail, in contrast to his partner Benjamin Outram , who preferred the traditional iron L-shaped flange-rail plateway.[citation needed]
  • 1793 – The Butterley Gangroad or the "Crich Rail-way" was built by Benjamin Outram , to connect the Warner Limestone Quarry to the Cromford Canal a mile away at Bullbridge.[14] This railway included the oldest known railway tunnel located at Fritchley.[15]
  • 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 canal at Lake Lock near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, a distance of approximately 3 miles.[16] The load of three wagons was hauled by one horse. The track used edge rails with a gauge of 3 ft 4 3/4 in (1,035 mm). The use of the line gradually declined and was closed in 1836.

1800 to 1849[edit]

1850 to 1899[edit]

20th century[edit]

A lineup of JR East Shinkansen trains in October 2012
A lineup of JR West Shinkansen trains in October 2008
  • 1901 – Kenya-Uganda Railway completed and opened.
  • 1908 – Hejaz Railway opened.
  • 1912 – The world's first diesel locomotive (a diesel-mechanical locomotive) was operated in the summer of 1912 on the Winterthur–Romanshorn railway in Switzerland.
  • 1912 – Articulated trams, invented and first used by the Boston Elevated Railway.
  • 1913 – First diesel powered railcar enters service in Sweden. In Austria-Hungary, the first electrified metric railway was opened between Arad and the neighboring vineyards, facilitating transportation of goods and people and reducing travel time from half a day to just one hour (total distance around 60 km).
  • 1915 – First major stretch of electrified railway in Sweden; Kiruna-Riksgränsen (Malmbanan).
  • 1917 – General Electric produced an experimental Diesel-electric locomotive using Lemp's control design—the first in the United States.
  • 1920 – U.S. employment is 2,076,000.[25]
  • 1924 – First diesel-electric locomotive built in Soviet Union, Russian locomotive class E el-2.
  • 1925 – The first electric train ran between Bombay (Victoria Terminus) and Kurla, a distance of 16 km. The first electric train of India.
  • 1925 – Ingersoll Rand with traction motors supplied by General Electric built a prototype diesel switcher (shunter) locomotive, the AGEIR boxcabs. Mumbai to Pune route electrified in India, WCG 1 electric locomotives were introduced on the route.
  • 1926 – First diesel locomotive service introduced in Canada.
  • 1930 – GE began producing diesel-electric switching engines. WCP1 (EA/1), electric locomotives were introduced on the Mumbai – Pune Route.
  • 1934 – the first train (Flying Scotsman) to officially hit 100 mph.
  • 1934 – First diesel-powered streamlined passenger train in America (the Burlington Zephyr) introduced at the Chicago World's Fair.
  • 1935 – First children's railway opens in Tbilisi, USSR.
  • 1937–41 – Magnetic levitation (maglev) train patents awarded in Germany to Hermann Kemper, with design propelled by linear motors.[26]
  • 1938 – In England, the world speed record for steam traction was set by the Mallard, which reached a speed of 203 km/h (126 mph).
  • 1939 – In Persia the Trans-Iranian Railway 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.
  • 1940 – U.S. employment is 1,046,000.[25]
  • 1942–45 – The U.S. gives over 117 steam locomotives worth over $2,624,182 ($1945) to the Soviet Union under U.S. Lend Lease.[27]
  • 1946 – U.S. railroads begin rapidly replacing their rolling stock with diesel-electric units—not completing the process until the mid 1960s.
  • 1948, 1 January – British Railways formed by nationalising the assets of the 'Big Four' railway companies (GWR, LMS, LNER and SR).
  • 1948, 1 March – Foreign-owned railway companies nationalised in Argentina during the first term of office of President Peron.
  • 1951 – World's first preserved railway, the Talyllyn Railway, operates its first train under the preservation movement on 14 May 1951.
  • 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.
  • 1960 – US employment is 793,000.[25]
  • 1960 – the last British steam engine is made (Evening Star).
  • 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, 27 March – Publication of The Reshaping of Britain's Railways (the Beeching Report). Generally known as the Beeching cuts, it led to the mass closure of 25% of route miles and 50% of stations during the decade following.
  • 1964 – Shinkansen 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.
  • 1967 – Automatic train operation introduced.
  • 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, 21 June – 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 1 May 1971.
  • 1975, 10 August – 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).[28] The prototype APT-P pushed the speed record further to 261 km/h (162.2 mph) in December 1979,[29] but when put into service on 7 December 1981, it failed and was withdrawn days later,[30] 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).
  • 1981 – Port Island Line of Kobe first fully driverless train introduced.
  • 1984 – The Kolkata Metro is a metro railway transport system serving the city of Kolkata and the districts of South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas in the Indian state of West Bengal. The Kolkata Metro was the first Metro Railway in India, opening for commercial services from 24 October 1984. The metro system has most of its stations underground. Being the first of its kind in India and in the entire South Asia, the metro system is proudly called "India's First, Kolkata's Pride."
  • 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).
  • 1990 – ADtranz low floor tram world's first completely low-floor tram introduced.
  • 1994–1997 – Privatisation of British Rail. The British government passes ownership of track and infrastructure to Railtrack on 1 April 1994 (replaced by Network Rail in 2002), with passenger operations later franchised to 25 individual private-sector operators, and freight services sold outright.

21st century[edit]

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" Archived 7 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine, 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. ^ Michael Lewis and Jonathan Taunton, Early wooden railways (A.M. Kelley, 1970).
  9. ^ Jones, Mark (2012). Lancashire Railways – The History of Steam. Newbury: Countryside Books. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-84674-298-9.
  10. ^ Peter King, The First Shropshire Railways in G. Boyes (ed.), Early Railways 4: Papers from the 4th International Early Railways Conference 2008 (Six Martlets, Sudbury, 2010), pp. 70–84.
  11. ^ Tylecote, R. F. (1992). A History of Metallurgy, Second Edition. London: Maney Publishing, for the Institute of Materials. ISBN 978-0901462886.
  12. ^ "Spw020247 SCOTLAND (1928). Alloa, general view, showing Town Hall, Marshill and Church Street. An oblique aerial photograph taken facing north. | Britain from Above".
  13. ^ a b c Landes, David. S. (1969). The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. Cambridge, New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-09418-6.
  14. ^ "EARLY YEARS". www.butterleygangroad.co.uk. Archived from the original on 20 January 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  15. ^ Engl, Historic (17 March 2015). "Heritage Highlights: Where is one of the world's oldest surviving railway tunnels?". Heritage Calling. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Lake Lock Rail Road". Stanley History Online. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  17. ^ James Watt: Monopolist
  18. ^ "Surrey Iron Railway 200th – 26th July 2003". Early Railways. Stephenson Locomotive Society. Archived from the original on 23 May 2007. Retrieved 19 September 2007.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ B. R. Mitchell, European Historical Statistics 1750–1970 (1975) pp 581–82
  21. ^ City of Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro, "Fundação de Cultura e Turismo Petrópolis – FCTP". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  22. ^ Reference in Serbian
  23. ^ Wolmar, Christian (2005) [2004]. The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever. Atlantic Books. p. 4. ISBN 1-84354-023-1.
  24. ^ "Important Years in City History". City of Belgrade. Retrieved 28 October 2009.
  25. ^ a b c Historical statistics (1976) series Q-398
  26. ^ These German patents would be GR643316(1937), GR44302(1938), GR707032(1941).
  27. ^ Soviet Lend Lease, p. 22 [1] accessed 2 February 2009
  28. ^ "The APT". Gerry Bates website. 2 August 2010. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  29. ^ "British Rail Advanced Passenger Train". Train Of The Week website. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  30. ^ "APT – The lean machine". BBC News. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  31. ^ First Electric Railway in Northeast China Open to Traffic[dead link]
  32. ^ "22000 Class 170". Archived from the original on 5 March 2011.
  33. ^ "China Presents the World's First Hydrogen-Fueled Tram". 21 March 2015.
  34. ^ "China Develops World's First Hydrogen-Powered Tram". IFLScience.
  35. ^ 历经磨难 全球首个地面供电的100%低地板现代有轨电车项目终成正果
  36. ^ "Germany launches world's first autonomous tram in Potsdam". 23 September 2018.
  37. ^ "World's fastest driverless bullet train launches in China". The Guardian. 9 January 2020. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  38. ^ Maggie Hiufu Wong. "World's first 350km-per-hour driverless bullet train goes into service in China". CNN. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  39. ^ "Germany unveils first self-driving train". techxplore.com. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  40. ^ "Germany: Hamburg gets first fully automated tram | DW | 11.10.2021". Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com). Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  1. ^ A "tube" railway is an underground railway constructed in a cylindrical tunnel by the use of a tunnelling shield, usually deep below ground level.

External links[edit]