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Railway Timeline

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Steam
1800

1803: British engineer Richard Trevithick creates the first steam engine capable of moving 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, 1812

1814: British manufacturer William Hedley finishes a locomotive which solves the problems of adherence by setting an appropriate relation between the weight of the locomotive and that of the load which it tows; weighing eight tonnes, she is capable of towing 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 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 with Stockton. // The French Marc Seguin and the British George Stephenson create the first tubular boilers.

The first passenger train, 1825

1826: In United States, engineer Gridley Bryant carries out a project for a railway connecting the Neponset River with Quincy City but, unlike in England, the traction is effectuated by horses, the rails are still made of wood with a metallic cover and granite is transported instead of passengers.

1828: The first railway line built in France and continental Europe starts service, 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: 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 Baltimore-Relay line in Maryland... and loses. // The locomotive "Best Friend of Charleston" tows the first passenger convoy in United States. // 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.

Locomotive Tom Thumb, 1830 Locomotive Rocket, 1830

1832: First railway lines in France operating with steam locomotives.

Locomotive of the Baltimore & Ohio Day, 1832
1835

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

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

1837: The company established by Matthias W. Baldwille in Philadelphia produces 80 locomotives in just one year. // Inauguration of the railway line connecting Paris with Saint Germain. // Austria inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Florisdorf with Wagram.

1838: The first "postal office on wheels" enters service in the railway line connecting London with Liverpool.

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

Locomotive Bayard, 1839
1840

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

1841: Thomas Cook organizes the first railway excursion.

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

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

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

Locomotive Crampton, 1847

1848: Spain inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Barcelona with 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: Peru inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Callao with Lima. // Spain inaugurates its second railway line, connecting Madrid with Aranjuez. // First connection between a train and a ferry boat, in the Firth of Forth, between Scotland and England. // Russia inaugurates the railway line connecting Saint Petersbourg with Moscow.

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

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

1854: Brazil inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Mauá with 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. // Egypt inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Alexandria with Kafr el-Zayyat. // Australia inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Melbourne with Sandridge.

1855

1855: Inauguration of the New York Central Great Western, a suspension bridge with a span of 256 meters and a height of 76 meters, which connects United States with Canada upon Niagara Falls.

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

1857: Argentina inaugurates its first railway line, connecting El Parque with La Floresta.

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

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

Locomotive of the viceroy of Egypt, 1859
1860

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

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

1863: During the American Civil War, 25000 yankee soldiers are transported by 30 convoys, covering a distance of 930 kilometers in twelve days. // The first dining car enters service in the railway line connecting Philadelphia with Baltimore. // London inaugurates the first subterranean railway line in the world, operating with steam engines whose smoke would become a health problem.

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 operational rack railway, devised by North American engineer Sylvester Marsh, is inaugurated in the slopes of Mount Washington.

Locomotive of the London subterranean 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 as well as Irish and Chinese immigrants, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railway lines are linked by a golden spike in Promontory Point, Utah. // Argentina inaugurates the railway line connecting Córdoba with Tucumán. // First railway lines in Uruguay. // 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 would be built with a symmetrical design to facilitate the driving in both directions. // Romania inaugurates its first railway line, connecting Bucharest with Giurgiu.

Locomotive attacked by American natives
1870

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

1871: North American inventor George Westinghouse perfects the automatic air-compressed brake. // New York inaugurates the first elevated railway line in the world, which operates with steam trains. // Nagelmackers signs his first international contract for the transportation of passengers in the Indian Mail. // Excavation of the first Trans-Alpine tunnel in the Mont-Cenis Pass.

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

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

1875

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

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

1882: Inauguration of the Gotthard railway line in Switzerland, which involved the perforation of spiral tunnels beneath the Saint-Gotthard masif.

1883: The viaduct of Tarbes (73.65 meters), built by Gustave Eiffel, is opened to traffic. // Inauguration of the Rome-Express, which connects Calais and Paris with Rome. // Inauguration of the Orient Express, the first international railway line of great importance.

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; he uses a "compound" design in which the fore part is supported by an articulated bogie whose wheels are actuated by low-pressure cylinders, whereas the main driving wheels are actuated by high-pressure cylinders.

1885

1885: Canada inaugurates its transcontinental railway line connecting Quebec with Vancouver. // Inauguration of the Garabit railway viaduct built by French architect Gustave Eiffel; this structure entirely made of iron reaches a height of 122 meters above the Truyère River.

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 with Mexico City. // Inauguration of the iron bridge of 1500 meters in length which connects Poughkeepsie with Highland upon the Hudson River, in New York.

1890

1891: The first locomotive of the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway reaches the summit of the Pikes Peak mountain in Colorado, after climbing slopes with an average gradient of 16 degrees. // The Nord Railway puts into service the innovative locomotives designed by Du Bousquet and Glehn. // Russia starts the works for the Trans-Siberian railway line.

Rack locomotive, 1891

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

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

1895

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

1897: The North American company Phoenix builds a steam-powered locomotive adapted for snowy and icy conditions. // Ethiopia starts the construction of a railway line connecting Addis Abeba with 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 with Leopoldville.

1900

1904: 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. // Russia inaugurates the Trans-Siberian railway line, the longest one in the world, which connects Moscow with Vladivostok.

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; the chassis is divided into three parts, with the fore part supporting a water tank, the central part supporting the steam engine and the rear part supporting the tender.

1909: Inauguration of the Fades railway viaduct, a steel bridge supported by huge piers made of quarried granite, which reaches a height of 132 meters above the valley of the Sioule River.

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 for transporting 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 flap valve system for steam engines; it is more expensive and complex than piston valve systems but it substantially improves performance.

1917: With a single stretch of 548.60 meters, the bridge crossing the San Lorenzo River is opened to railway traffic. // Inauguration of the first stretch of the Trans-Australian railway line, connecting Port Augusta with 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 French railway workers achieve an eight-hour workday. // The Simplon Orient Express luxury train effectuates its first sortie; this new line which goes through the Simplon Tunnel was created as an alternative to the original Orient Express. // 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: Inauguration of the "Fleche d'Or" railway line, which connects Paris with London, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. // French engineer André Chapelon perfects Kylala's system and creates the Kylchap exhaust system, which improves the performance of a steam engine.

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, which connects Amsterdam with Basilea. // Inauguration of the Edelweiss railway, which connects Amsterdam with Lucerne.

1929: Introduction of the LX sleeping cars, the most luxurious ones 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, a passenger train which covers a route of 4650 kilometers connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific 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 with Novosibirsk.

1935

1935: A Borsig streamlined steam locomotive beats the speed record for steam locomotives, when reaching 191.7 kilometers per hour 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 can cover the route between London and Edinburg in six hours.

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

Soviet locomotive, 1938

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

1940

1940: The Paris-Orléans Company introduces a 4-8-0 locomotive designed by André Chapelon; despite her modest dimensions (a length of 20 meters and a weight of 110 tonnes) this locomotive develops a power equivalent to more than two thirds of that produced by the North American counterpart "Big Boy", achieving an efficiency which would be never matched by another steam locomotive.

1941: The American Locomotive Company builds the first units of the powerful 4-8-8-4 locomotive "Big Boy", which has four cylinders and 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 driving wheels of large diameter in four axles; this is a controversial decision, for these machines are complex and expensive 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; with 120 exemplars produced, they would become the most numerous class of Garratt locomotives in the world.

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: North American inventor Frank Julian Sprague builds an electrified railway line for a mining gallery, for the purpose of preventing the health problems caused by steam engines in underground facilities. // In France a laundry company starts to use electric trains to gather the sheets from the fields in which they are whitened (because steam engines release soot).

1881: Berlin inaugurates the first tramcar railway line, which operates with tramcars built by Werner von Siemens; the rails supply electric energy to the motors through the wheels.

1883: New York inaugurates a tramcar railway line which supplies electric energy through a third rail and wheel. // Vienna inaugurates the first tramcar railway line which supplies electric energy through overhead lines of bipolar type.

1885

1888: Richmond inaugurates the first tramcar railway line which supplies electric energy through overhead lines and a trolley pole system patented by Frank Julian Sprague.

1890

1890: London inaugurates the first electrified subterranean railway line. The advent of electric locomotion allows the construction of subterranean railway lines at higher depths.

1895

1895: The State of Maryland establishes an electrified railway line which runs through the Baltimore Tunnel, in Chesapeake Bay; the locomotive weighes 96 tonnes and is propelled by four 360-horsepower motors which take electric energy through a third wheel.

1900

1900: Italy inaugurates the first electrified railway line of long distance (106 kilometers), connecting Lecco with Sondrio, in which electric energy is supplied through overhead cables.

1901: The Croydon Corporation introduces the first fully operational electric tramcar services in the Greater London area, using electric energy supplied through overhead cables.

1902: Italy inaugurates an electrified railway line of 60 kilometers connecting Milan with Varese, but this time electric energy is supplied through a third rail and wheel.

1903: The London County Council Tramways opens its first electrified tramcar railway line, connecting Westminster Bridge with Tooting, and sells 3.3 million tickets in its third year of business, five times the traffic carried by its horse tramcars.

British tramcar, circa 1900

1904: The North Eastern Railway of London puts into service a Class ES1 electric locomotive of "steeplecab" design, which can take electric energy through either overhead lines or an electrified third rail.

British locomotive, 1904
1905
1910

1910: Inauguration of the Bernina electrified mountain railway line, which connects Saint Moritz in Switzerland with Tirano in Italy, reaching a higher altitude than that of any other adhesion (non rack) railway line in Europe.

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

1932: Inauguration of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, a stretch of 503 meters above the waters which includes an electrified railway line.

1934: Inauguration of the Apennine Base Tunnel (18519 meters) and its associated electrified railway line, which greatly improve 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, being one of the most decisive improvements in modern railway technology.

1945

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

1950

1953: The "Settebello", a streamlined electric train capable of reaching a speed of 150 kilometers per hour, starts service in the railway line which connects Rome with Milan, covering the stretch of 632 kilometers in six hours.

Italian electric train Settebello, 1953
1955 French electric locomotive, circa 1955
1960

1964: Inauguration of the Tokaido Shinkansen high-speed railway line which connects Tokyo with Osaka; the highly aerodynamic 0 Series electric train, capable of reaching a speed of 210 kilometers per hour, covers the stretch of 515 kilometers in four hours.

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

1893: German engineer Rudolph Diesel builds the first engine which is named after him.

1895

1898: Diesel engines are presented with great success in the Engine Exposition of Munich, which leads to the creation of the General Society for Diesel Engines.

1900
1905

1906: Presentation in the International Exposition of Milan of the Fiat-Diatto railcar, 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 operational Diesel locomotive enters service in Germany.

1915
1920
1925

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

1929: The French company Michelin presents an innovative railcar whose wheels are fitted with rubber tires, like those of an automobile; however, this vehicle would be unsuccessful in the market.

1930

1930: An experimental railcar propelled by an aircraft engine and propeller is introduced in Germany; this revolutionary vehicle is capable of reaching a speed of 230 kilometers per hour, but the project would be eventually abandoned due to the inherent shortcomings of the design.

1935

1935: The Diesel-electric train "Flying Hamburger" beats the speed record for Diesel-electric trains, when reaching 214 kilometers per hour in the route between Berlin and Hamburg.

German Diesel-electric railcar Flying Hamburger, 1932

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

French Diesel-electric locomotive, 1937
1940
1945
1950
1955

1955: Canadian Pacific Railway introduces, for its luxury transcontinental service, a streamlined Diesel-electric train made of stainless steel and fitted with glass domes in the lounges.

Canadian Pacific diesel-electric locomotive

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

French diesel-electric locomotive
1960
1965