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Railway Timeline

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Steam
1800

1803: British engineer Richard Trevithick creates the first steam engine capable of marching while towing a load.

Locomotive Trevithick, 1803

1804: Richard Trevithick wins a bet when his machine "Tram Waggon" tows a convoy weighing over 25 tonnes, traveling at a speed of four kilometers per hour.

1805

1808: Richard Trevithick presents in London his machine called "Catch me who can"; his intention is to make a business out of his machine in a sort of steam circus installed by him, but the project fails in this regard.

1810

1813: British engineer John Blenkinsop creates a gear and rack railway in the attempt to solve the problems related to adherence on the rails.

Locomotive Blenkinsop, 1811

1814: British manufacturer William Hedley finishes a locomotive that solves the problems of adherence by setting an appropriate relation between the weight of the locomotive and that of the load that it tows; weighing eight tonnes, it could tow a load of 50 tonnes at a speed of eight kilometers per hour. // British engineer George Stephenson builds his first steam locomotive, which weighing six tonnes is capable of towing a convoy of 30 wagons at a speed of 6.5 kilometers per hour.

Locomotive Hedley, 1814
1815
1820
1825

1825: The French Marc Seguin and the British George Stephenson create the first tubular boilers. // The first railway line made on purpose for passenger transport is inaugurated in England, with a locomotive (called "Locomotion") built by engineer George Stephenson, connecting Darlington and Stockton. // In United States, engineer Gridley Bryant carried out a project for a railway connecting the Neponset River with Quincy City but, unlike in England, traction was effectuated by horses, the rails were still made of wood with a metallic cover and granite was transported instead of passengers.

The first passenger train, 1825

1828: It starts service the first railway line built in France and continental Europe, transporting coal from the mines in Saint-Étienne to Andrézieux in the Loire River by means of animal traction.

1829: In January it arrives to United States the first steam locomotive of America, built by George Stephenson and called precisely "America".

Locomotive America, 1828
1830

1830: The locomotive "Rocket" built by George and Robert Stephenson wins a contest against other manufacturers in occasion of the opening of the railway line Liverpool-Manchester, which starts postal service that same year. // French engineer Marc Seguin finishes the railway line between Saint Étienne and Lyon. // First public railway in United States, the Baltimore-Ohio line, carried out by the locomotive "Tom Pouce". The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad starts operating as the first scheduled line for transporting passengers and freight. // The locomotive "Tom Thumb" races against a horse along the line Baltimore-Relay in Maryland... and loses. // The locomotive "Best Friend of Charleston" tows the first passenger convoy in United States.

Locomotive Rocket, 1830 Locomotive Tom Thumb, 1830

1832: First steam-powered railway lines in France.

Locomotive of the Baltimore & Ohio Day, 1832
1835

1835: Germany inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Nuremberg and Furth; this line operated with a locomotive built by Stephenson, called "Eagle", and a machinist imported from England as well. // Belgium inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Brussels and Mechelen.

1836: The first sleeping cars are introduced in Pennsylvania. // Russia inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Paulovsk and Konzimin. // Canada inaugurates its first railway line, connecting La Prairie and Saint Johns.

1837: Austria inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Florisdorf and Wagram. // Inauguration of the railway line connecting Paris and Saint Germain. // In Philadelphia, the company established by Matthias W. Baldwille produced 80 locomotives in a sole year.

1838: The first "rolling postal office" enters service in the railway line connecting London and Liverpool.

1839: Italy inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Naples and Portici; for this occasion three locomotives were imported from England, one of them baptized as "Bayard" after the French company which built the railroad. // Netherlands inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Haarlem and Amsterdam.

Locomotive Bayard, 1839
1840

1840: Italy inaugurates its second railway line, connecting Milan and Monza. // Improvement of the performance of steam engines thanks to the Clapeyron system.

1841: Thomas Cook organizes the first railway excursion.

1842: It enters service, in the line between Saint-Étienne and Lyon, the locomotive "Papin" devised by engineer Tourasse.

1843: France completes the railway line between Paris and Rouen. // Thomas Russell Crampton builds the first locomotive fitted with rear driving wheels of large diameter.

Locomotive Norris, 1843

1844: William Turner paints "Rain, steam and speed", the first painting of railway theme.

1845

1846: The railroad gauge adopted by George Stephenson( 1435 millimeters) is officially accepted in Great Britain.

Locomotive Norris, 1846

1847: Switzerland inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Zurich and Basilea. // Denmark inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Copenhagen and Roskilde. // France completes the railway line between Rouen and Le Havre. // It enters service the locomotive "Sézanne" with external cylinders, devised by Hallete.

Locomotive Crampton, 1847

1848: Spain inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Barcelona and Mataró; this line is operated with materials imported from England.

Locomotive Crampton, 1849
1850

1850: Polonceau builds the first locomotives for the railway line between Paris and Orleans.

1851: Spain inaugurates its second railway line, connecting Madrid and Aranjuez. // Peru inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Callao and Lima. // Russia inaugurates the railway line connecting Saint Petersbourg and Moscow. // First connection between a train and a ferry boat, in the Firth of Forth, between Scotland and England.

1852: Chile inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Caldera and Copiapó.

1853: India inaugurates its first railway line for passenger service, connecting Bombay and Thane.

1854: Australia inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Melbourne and Sandridge. // Egypt inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Alexandria and Kafr el-Zayyat. // Brazil inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Mauá and Fragoso. // The workshops Ansaldo di Sampierdarena build the first locomotives of Italian manufacture. // Austria inaugurates the first mountain railway in the world, connecting Villach, Lubiana, Graz and Vienna.

1855

1856: Sweden inaugurates its first steam-operated railway line, connecting Nora, Ervalla and Orebro. // The railway is used for military purposes for the first time: transport of troops in occasion of the Crimean War. // Portugal inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Lisbon and Cintra.

1857: Argentina inaugurates its first railway lines, connecting El Parque and La Floresta.

1858: George M. Pullman starts to build in United States the luxury cars which are named after him.

1859: In the very year of his decease, Robert Stephenson delivers a luxury train to the viceroy of Egypt. // French engineer Henri Giffard devises the injector, which eliminates the utilization of pumps. // The first sleeping car built by Pullman travels from Bloomington to Chicago.

Locomotive of the viceroy of Egypt, 1859
1860

1860: In this year the abundant investments in the American railways had taken 28000 acres of land east of the Mississippi. // Australia inaugurates the railway line between Sidney and Parramatta. // South Africa inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Durban and Harbour Point.

1862: The railway reaches its maturity in United States with the constitution of the lines Union Pacific and Central Pacific. // Swiss engineer Niklaus Riggenbach patents the system known as rack railway, obtaining authorization for a line in the Gotthard Pass.

1863: During the American Civil War, 25000 yankee soldiers are transported by 30 convoys, in a time span of 12 days and covering a distance of 930 kilometers. // London inaugurates the first subway in the world, operating with steam engines, whose smoke was a health problem. // The first dining car entered service in the railway line connecting Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Locomotive from the American Civil War Locomotive of the London suburban railway, 1863

1864: French engineer Alfred Belpaire introduces the firebox of square section.

1865

1866: The first operative rack railway, devised by American engineer Sylvester Marsh, is inaugurated in the slopes of Mount Washington.

Locomotive of the London suburban railway, 1866

1868: Scottish engineer Scott Russell establishes a service of railway ferry boats in Lake Constance, Switzerland.

1869: After seven years of merciless work carried by military veterans and Irish and Chinese immigrants, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railway lines are united by a golden spike in Promontory Point, Utah. // Argentina inaugurates the railway line connecting Córdoba and Tucumán. // First railway lines in Uruguay. // Romania inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Bucharest and Giurgiu. // Scottish engineer Robert F. Fairlie builds the first articulated locomotive named after him, in which the driving wheels are installed in pivoting bogies; sometimes, these articulated locomotives were built with a symmetrical design to facilitate the march in both directions.

Locomotive attacked by American natives
1870

1870: Niklaus Riggenbach builds the first operative rack railway in Europe, in the slopes of Mount Rigi, in Switzerland.

1871: Excavation of the first Trans-Alpine tunnel in the Mont-Cenis Pass. // American inventor George Westinghouse perfects the automatic air-compressed brake. // Nagelmackers signs his first international contract for the transport of passengers in the Indian Mail.

1872: Japan inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Tokyo and Yokohama.

1873: Mexico inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Mexico City and Veracruz. // First railway line in Bolivia, with motive power provided by mules.

1875

1876: China inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Shangai and Wusung. // Creation of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (Sleeping Car Company) or CIWL.

Locomotive John Bull, 1877

1878: By adapting an old steam ship, a regular ferry boat line for trains is established on a route of 15 miles between New York and Cape Charles, in Maryland.

1880

1881: A ferry boat capable of carrying four trains starts service on a route of 145 kilometers between San Francisco and Sacramento, in California. // First restaurant wagon in the Blue Coast line. // The Brighton Belle, completely fitted with Pullman cars, enters service as the first luxury train in Europe. // First Pullman car fitted with electric lighting in England.

1882: French architect Gustave Eiffel builds in France the Garabit Viaduct which reaches a height of 122 meters. // Perforation of spiral tunnels in Saint Gothard, Switzerland.

1883: Inauguration of the Orient Express, first important international railway line. // The viaduct of Tarbes (73.65 meters), built by Eiffel as well, is opened to traffic. // Inauguration of the Rome-Express, connecting Calais and Paris with Rome.

French locomotive, 1883

1884: European countries establish an international railroad gauge whose value is a tolerance term between 1435 and 1445 millimeters; however Russia, Spain and Ireland do not adhere to this standard. // Swiss engineer Anatole Mallet builds, for the Biarritz railway, his first articulated locomotive; Mallet used a compound design in which the fore part was supported by an articulated bogie whose wheels were actuated by low-pressure cylinders, while the main driving wheels were actuated by high-pressure cylinders.

1885

1885: Canada inaugurates its transcontinental railway line connecting Quebec and Vancouver.

1886: Alfred George de Glehn builds the first four-cylinder "Compound" locomotive for the Nord Railway.

1887: Inauguration of the Sud-Express railway line connecting Paris, Madrid and Lisbon.

British locomotive, 1887

1889: Inauguration of the Moctezuma Special railway line, a luxury train connecting New Orleans and Mexico City.

1890

1891: Russia starts the works for the Trans-Siberian railway line. // The Nord Railway puts into service the innovative locomotives designed by Du Bousquet and Glehn.

Rack locomotive, 1891

1893: Inauguration of the 20th Century Limited railway line connecting New York and Chicago, during the Universal Exposition of Chicago.

1894: A maritime line operated by powerful ferry boats, displacing about 1000 tonnes, makes possible for the first time to pass trains across Lake Michigan; the route of 56 miles was covered in five or six hours. // A labor strike in the Pullman workshops causes several deaths.

1895

1896: One of the first movies exhibited by the Lumière brothers shows a PLM locomotive while entering a station.

1897: Ethiopia starts the construction of a railway line connecting Addis Abeba and Djibouti, but only a minor part of the route would be completed.

Locomotive for snowy terrains, 1897

1898: The Republic of the Congo inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Matadi and Leopoldville.

1900

1904: Russia inaugurates the Trans-Siberian railway line, the longest one in the world, which connects Moscow with Vladivostok. // Italian manufacturer Ansaldo builds for the Adriatic railway new locomotives fitted with Zara bogies, whose axles can move sideways relative to the frame to facilitate cornering.

1905

1905: The locomotive M 7002 of the Pennsylvania Railroad, while towing the Broadway Limited, reaches a speed of 205 kilometers per hour (not homologated).

1906: Inauguration of the Simplon Tunnel, the longest one in the world, which connects Italy with Switzerland.

1907: British engineer Herbert W. Garratt patents his system for articulated locomotives; these are divided in three parts, with the fore part supporting a water tank, the central part supporting the steam engine and the rear part supporting the tender.

1910

1910: Inauguration of the Argentine Transandino Railway, a mountain railway partly using the Abt rack system, which connects Los Andes in Chile with Mendoza in Argentina.

Locomotive Fairlie, 1910

1914: General mobilization in the European railways to transport massive amounts of troops in occasion of the First World War.

1915

1916: The Baldwin Company builds a gigantic Mallet locomotive (2-8-8-8-4, six cylinders and 75500 kilograms of traction power) for the Virginia Railroad. // Italian engineer Arturo Caprotti patents his system of flap valves for steam engines; albeit more expensive and complex than piston valves, it substantially improved performance.

1917: With a sole stretch of 548.60 meters, the bridge upon San Lorenzo River is opened to railway traffic. // Inauguration of the first stretch of the Trans-Australian railway line, connecting Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.

1918: The armistice of the First World War between the Allies and Germany is signed inside a dining car reallocated outside its regular route, in the forest of Compiégne.

1919: The Simplon Orient Express luxury train effectuates its first sortie; this new line which passes through the Simplon Tunnel was created as an alternative to the original Orient Express. // The French railway workers achieve an eight-hour workday. // Foundation of the Deutsche Reichsbahn.

1920

1922: Inauguration of the Calais Mediterranean Express luxury train, generally known as "Le Train Bleu".

1924: John Ford finishes his ambitious film "The Iron Horse", an epic vision about the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, which had united the West and the East of the United States in 1869.

1925

1925: The first panoramic car fitted with wireless telegraphy enters service in the Pioneer Limited railway with destination Milwaukee.

1926: French engineer André Chapelon perfects the system of Kylala and creates the Kylchap exhaust system, which improves the performance of a steam engine. // Inauguration of the "Fleche d'Or" railway line, connecting Paris and London, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits.

1927: Premiere of the film "The General" by Buster Keaton, who bought 50 kilometers of tracks, six locomotives and twenty cars for its realization.

1928: Inauguration of the Rheingold railway, connecting Amsterdam and Basilea. // Inauguration of the Edelweiss railway, connecting Amsterdam and Lucerne.

1928: Introduction of the LX sleeping cars, the most luxurious in the world, decorated by René Prou. // Egypt inaugurates the Sunshine Express luxury train, connecting Alexandria, Cairo and Asswan.

1930

1930: Canada inaugurates the Dominion railway, which linked the Atlantic with the Pacific (4650 kilometers) in 87 hours.

1931: The first air-conditioned Pullman car enters service in the Washington-New York line. // The Soviet Union inaugurates the Turkestan–Siberia railway (Turksib), connecting Alma-Ata and Novosibirsk.

1935

1935: A Borsig streamlined locomotive achieves a speed record for steam locomotives in the route between Berlin and Hamburg.

1936: Inauguration of the Night Ferry, a direct sleeping-car service between Paris and London.

1937: In England a streamlined steam locomotive is inaugurated in honor of the coronation of King George VI; this train could cover in six hours the route between London and Edinburg.

1938: The locomotive "Mallard" built by Nigel Gresley achieves a speed record for steam locomotives (not yet broken) when reaching 203 kilometers per hour. // Construction of the "Blue Streamliner" which, fitted with two cylinders and three driving axles for large-diameter wheels, was capable of speeds around 180 kilometers per hour and called "the best Soviet locomotive ever". // Nationalization of the French railway and creation of the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF).

Soviet locomotive, 1938

1939: The color film "Union Pacific" by Cecil B. de Mille narrates the epic enterprise of the American transcontinental railway. // Inauguration in South Africa of the Blue Train, a luxury train service between Pretoria and Cape Town. // General mobilization in the European railways to transport massive amounts of troops and vehicles in occasion of the Second World War.

1940

1941: The American Locomotive Company builds the first units of the powerful 4-8-8-4 locomotive "Big Boy", fitted with four cylinders and having a service weight of 410 tonnes.

1942: The Pennsylvania Railroad puts into service the powerful 4-4-4-4 Duplex-Drive locomotives of the T1 class, fitted with four cylinders and wheels of large diameter; however, this decision is controversial for these machines are complex and costly to maintain.

T1-class locomotive, 1942
1945
1950

1954: The 4-8-2+2-8-4 Garratt articulated locomotives of the GMA/GMAM class enter service in the South African Railways, becoming the most numerous Garratt class in the world with 120 exemplars produced.

Beyer-Garratt locomotive, 1956
1955
1960
1965
Electric
1800
1805
1810
1815
1820
1825
1830
1835
1840
1845
1850
1855
1860
1865
1870
1875

1879: German engineer Werner von Siemens effectuates the first demonstration of electric locomotion during the Industrial Exposition of Berlin.

Siemens electric train, 1879
1880

1880: American inventor Frank Julian Sprague builds in 1880 an electric railway for a mining gallery, with the purpose of avoiding the health problems caused by steam machines in underground facilities. // In France a laundry company starts to make use of electric trains to gather the sheets from the fields in which they were whitened (for a steam locomotive would release soot).

1881: Werner Von Siemens builds the first important electric tramcar, in which the rails supply energy to the motors through the wheels.

1883: New York inaugurates an electric tramcar which takes the energy from a third rail and wheel.

1885

1885: Frank Julian Sprague introduces the first electric tramcar which takes the energy from overhead lines.

1890

1890: The advent of electric locomotion allows the construction of deeper subway galleries; London inaugurates the first electric underground urban railway.

1895

1895: The State of Maryland establishes an electric railway which goes through the Baltimore Tunnel, in Chesapeake Bay; the locomotive weighs 96 tonnes and is fitted with four 360-horsepower motors and an energy intake through the third wheel.

1900

1900: Italy inaugurates the first long-distance electric railway line (106 kilometers), connecting Lecco and Sondrio, in which the electricity is supplied by means of overhead cables.

British tramcar, circa 1900

1902: Italy inaugurates an electric railway line of 60 kilometers between Milan and Varese, but this time the electricity is supplied by means of a third rail and wheel.

British locomotive, 1904
1905
1910

1910: Inauguration of the Bernina mountain railway, connecting Saint Moritz in Switzerland with Tirano in Italy, crossing the Alps at the highest altitude of an adhesion (non rack) railway in Europe.

Bernina electric mountain railway
1915
1920
1925 Electric locomotive, circa 1925
1930

1932: A train crosses for the first time the Sydney Harbor Bridge (a stretch of 503 meters above the waters).

1934: Inauguration of the Apennine Base Tunnel (18519 meters), which greatly improved the railway communications between Bologna and Florence.

1935
1940

1942: Spanish engineer Alejandro Goicoechea designs the system known as TALGO, which allows the construction of particularly lightweight, stable and articulated trains, and is one of the most decisive improvements in modern railway technology.

1945

1949: The first TALGO train is experimented in United States.

1950

1953: The "Settebello", an aerodynamic electric train capable of speeds around 150 kilometers per hour, starts service in the railway line connecting Rome and Milan, on which it travels at an average speed of 105 kilometers per hour.

Italian electric train Settebello, 1953
1955
1960

1964: Inauguration of the Tokaido high-speed railway line connecting Tokyo and Osaka; the new aerodynamic electric train Shinkansen "Hikari" is capable of speeds over 200 kilometers per hour and can cover the route with an average speed of 129 kilometers per hour.

Shinkansen high-speed electric train, 1964
1965
Diesel/Petrol
1800
1805
1810
1815
1820
1825
1830
1835
1840
1845
1850
1855
1860
1865
1870
1875
1880
1885
1890

1892: Rudolph Diesel builds the first engine which is named after him.

1895
1900
1905

1906: Presentation in the International Exposition of Milan of the railcar Fiat-Diatto, a new type of railroad vehicle in which the engine, the driving cabin and the passenger department occupy the same car.

1910

1912: The first operative Diesel locomotive enters service in Germany.

1915
1920
1925

1925: The first Diesel locomotive (of 1200 horsepower) for large express trains enters service in Germany.

1929: The French company Michelin presents an innovative railcar whose wheels are fitted with rubber tires as in a regular automobile; however, this new vehicle proves unsuccessful in the market.

1930

1930: An experimental railcar powered by an aircraft engine and propeller appears in Germany; the revolutionary vehicle is capable of speeds around 230 kilometers per hour, but the project will be eventually abandoned due to the practical limitations of its design.

1935

1935: The German Diesel locomotive "Flying Hamburger" beats the speed record for locomotives of its type when reaching 214 kilometers per hour.

German Diesel-electric railcar Flying Hamburger, 1932

1937: The Italian company Fiat introduces the railcar "Littorina", which achieves great success in Europe and North America. // The French company PLM builds two prototypes of Diesel-electric locomotives which have a weight of 230 tonnes, a length of 33 meters and a total output of 4400 horsepower.

French Diesel-electric locomotive, 1937
1940
1945
1950
1955

1955: Canadian Pacific Railway introduces a new luxury transcontinental train which however will remain operative for few years only.

Canadian Pacific diesel-electric locomotive

1957: The SNCF Class CC 65000 Diesel locomotive of 112 tonnes and 1300 horsepower enters service in western France.

French diesel-electric locomotive
1960
1965