Today you see trains carrying cargo and people all over the world. They are also used as efficient ways for people to commute to and from work instead of using the roadways. Looking at the efficiency of trains today, it is sometimes hard to imagine how different they were back in the 1800’s. While many different inventors attempted to create a train in the last 1700’s they weren’t successful.
In 1825 the first locomotive was successful in its attempt to safely transport people from two points in England. The popularity of this mode of transportation quickly made its way to the United States in 1830. It wasn’t long before the industrial revolution was born since trains could be used to transport materials faster and easier than ever before. By 1833 there were 380 miles of railroad tracks in the United States. Today there are more than 300,000 miles of track around the United States.
The United States government made good use of the trains during the Civil War to move troops to new locations and to get them supplies. This was the main reason behind adding more miles of railroad tracks from 1861 to 1865. By the end of the war there were more than 30,000 miles of track available.
By this time railroads were considered to be the main means of transportation. Plans were in place to continue building faster locomotives and to clear areas for more tracks to be put into place. These early trains were powered by coal and steam. This process of expansion in the railway industry continued into 1916 with more than 250,000 miles of track laid out in the United States.
One of the most historical locations along these miles of railroad tracks is in Utah, and identified by a spike made from pure gold. This was to celebrate the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. This particular location was the connecting point between the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads. This remains a historical site today with thousands of people visiting the very location of that golden spike.
Even with all the miles of railroad tracks by 1916, many of them are in poor condition. It is not uncommon for many trails to derail due to these conditions. Private owners of the railroads have invested so much money in expansion they can’t afford the repairs.
The repairs that do get done are the result of the United States government needing to repair them in order to move men and supplies during World War I. Even so, the growth of the railroad is significantly slowed forever around 1940. The Great Depression has made it difficult for the railroads to survive. There is also competition now with automobiles being manufactured.
Yet the railroad industry sees renewed life in the late 1950’s when the retired steam powered locomotives and replace them with diesel engines. In 1970 the United States government steps in again to take control of Amtrak. They still oversee it today but most of the miles of track that they operate on belong to other railway companies.
With modern technology, trains are able to operate more efficient today than ever. They are used to transport large amounts of merchandise, food supplies, equipment, hazardous materials, and even people. Trains offer a great way to get items delivered efficiently without having to place more of a burden on the trucking industry. Many travelers enjoy the convenience of taking a train instead of driving themselves or riding in an airplane.
There have been plenty of advances in the area of trains and the railway industry in the last 100 years. It will be interesting to know how things change over the next 100 years. Luckily there are wonderful train museums that take the time to preserve all of the history of trains from the beginning. This way future generations will be able to look back on it as well.