Trains and Technology: The American Railroad in the Nineteenth Century - Vol. 1

By Anthony J. Bianculli | Go to book overview

Introduction

The concept of wagons drawn over rails, usually wooden stringers, was applied in European collieries for several hundred years prior to the invention of the steam locomotive. In the United States, the early part of the nineteenth century saw the installation of several “rail roads.” One of these was the “Granite Railway,” a horse-drawn railroad built to haul granite used for the construction of the Bunker Hill monument from a quarry in West Quincy to a wharf on the Neponset River from which it could be lightered to Boston. But even this road, which was opened in October 1826, was predated by so-called “railtracks.” Coincidentally, one of these, on the estate of the artist John S. Copley at Beacon Hill in Boston, was built in 1800 to carry earth removed from the site of his dwelling to the shoreline marshes below. Another, on the same hill, was operated by Silas Whitney in 1807. A short railtrack was built in Pennsylvania in 1809 to carry quarry stone, and another was installed to carry ice from the Delaware River. Others, geographically diverse, were also built. These localized “rail roads” or tramways, employing animal-or humandrawn cars, were crude affairs that cannot be considered as true railroads in the modern sense because they lacked an essential defining element, namely, a mobile, mechanical means of locomotion. The steam engine provided the missing element, although not for some time after its invention. (Electric locomotives, which appeared later, can be considered a mechanical means of locomotion in the sense that an electric motor is a machine.) The world's first public railroad, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in England, combined the three necessary elements—rails, wagons, and a steam locomotive—for the first time in 1825.1 As an indication of the prejudice that existed, in the same year the English Quarterly Review pontificated thus:

We scout the idea of a railroad as impracticable! What
can be more palpably absurd and ridiculous than
the prospects held out of locomotives travelling
twice as fast as stagecoaches! We should as soon ex-
pect the people … to suffer themselves to be fired
off on … “a” rocket, as to put themselves at the
mercy of such a machine, going at such a rate.2

Before the railroad beginnings could be developed into a versatile transport system connecting centers of population or industry, the ability to haul goods or passengers over relatively long distances reliably, faster, and more economically than the prevailing road or water transport network had to be proven. In the United States, early in the nineteenth century, railroads were often mentioned as possible links between cities or regions, but in any competition for investment dollars they were measured against formidable rivals—canals, packet and stage lines, and turnpike companies. These competitors were popular, proven, relatively safe, understandable systems with powerful supporters. In fact, economic support for canals continued even after the railroad became a proven and reliable means of transportation. In New York State, where the Erie Canal was a large factor in the transport of goods between Albany and Buffalo, a protective tariff was established in the form of a tax on freight shipped by railroad over any portion of the distance served by the canal, even in the five months of winter when the canal was closed. This tax, which was levied as late as 1850, could amount to as much as 25 percent of the cost of moving the goods. In general, water transportation on canals, rivers, and along the coast, remained the most important transport medium until midcentury. Until that time, most railroads were local ventures, connecting centers of commerce to each other or to a port from which people and goods would continue their journey by ship.3

The railroad locomotive, on the other hand, was newly invented, poorly understood (for it represented a high degree of technical sophistica

-15-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Trains and Technology: The American Railroad in the Nineteenth Century - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface: Comments from the Cab 9
  • Acknowledgements 13
  • Introduction 15
  • Locomotives 25
  • General Description of the American Steam Locomotive 27
  • 1: Introduction to Motive Power 33
  • 2: Motive Power Infancy, 1830–1850 38
  • 3: Motive Power Adolescence, 1850–1875 104
  • 4: Motive Power Maturity, 1875–1900 135
  • 5: Locomotive Appliances and Appurtenances 205
  • Notes 217
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 237
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 250

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.