Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 144,265 pages of information and 230,174 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Railways: An Outline

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1769 Nicholas Joseph Cugnot, a Frenchman, built the first recorded steam-driven 'land carriage'.

In 1770 Richard Lovell Edgeworth patented a steam engine that travelled upon an 'endless railway system' - a tracked vehicle

1784 William Symington conceived the idea of steam being applied to propelling carriages and in 1786 made a working model of a steam carriage

1784 William Murdoch builds a foot high model of a steam locomotive at the Soho Foundry but his employer James Watt was not impressed and the project was forgotten

1784 James Watt took out a patent for a steam carriage

c1790 Several inventors worked on the idea of a steam driven carriage and these included Thomas Allen of London

1800 William Thomas of Denton read a paper before the Literary and Philosophical Society promoting steam transport

1801 James Anderson of Edinburgh, a friend of James Watt promotes the idea of steam driven transport

1802 Richard Trevithick patents an engine for 'driving carriages'

1803 The first Act of Parliament for a railway is passed for the Surrey Iron Railway to run horse-drawn carriages for goods only from Wandsworth and Croydon

1804 On the 12th February Richard Trevithick demonstrates that his steam locomotive could haul 10 tons of iron, 5 wagons and 70 men along the Merthyr Tramroad from Penydarren to Abercynon, a distance of almost ten miles in 4 hours and 5 minutes at an average speed of nearly 5 mph.

1805 Christopher Blackett ordered a steam locomotive from Richard Trevithick for Wylam colliery but it proved to be too heavy for the wooden rails at the colliery.

1807 On the 25th March the Swansea and Mumbles Railway became the first railway to carry fare-paying passengers. It used a horse-drawn four-wheeled dandy carriage.

1808 ' Catch Me Who Can' was the second steam locomotive created by Richard Trevithick. It was demonstrated to the public at a "steam circus" organized by Trevithick on a circular track in Torrington Square in London. The locomotive reached a top speed of 12 mph but proved too heavy for the brittle cast-iron rails and Trevithick closed his exhibition after a broken rail caused a derailment.

1808 Blackett set up a working group including William Hedley, Timothy Hackworth and Jonathan Foster which led to the relaying of the wooden Wylam tramway (which had been in use since 1748) with cast iron plates; later they worked on the adhesion of smooth wheels.

1812 In August, John Blenkinsop the manager of Middleton Colliery near Leeds took delivery from Matthew Murray of Fenton, Murray and Wood, a steam locomotive with a pinion which would mesh with the rack on the rails. Murray's design was based on Richard Trevithick's engine Catch me who can, adapted to use Blenkinsop's rack and pinion system, and was called the Salamanca. It carried coal for the four miles from the colliery to Leeds.

1813 William Brunton of the Butterley Co builds a steam driven horse than moves on four legs

1813 Puffing Billy the first commercial steam locomotive without cog and rack drive, employed to haul coal chaldron wagons the five miles from the mine at Wylam to the docks at Lemington-on-Tyne was built by engineer William Hedley, engine wright Jonathan Forster and blacksmith Timothy Hackworth for Christopher Blackett.

1813 Two further locomotives followed Puffing Billy at Wylam, although being of similar design each succeeding locomotive was an improvement on the last. They were named Wylam Dilly and Lady Mary. They were designed for and used on the Wylam Waggonway to transport coal

1814 The engine Blucher built by George Stephenson ran on the railway at Killingworth Colliery pulling wagons weighing 30 tons at four mph. This was the first engine with steam blast.

1815 Another engine produced by George Stephenson

1821 Julius Griffiths of Brompton constructed a steam coach for passengers and goods

1822 A steam coach produced by David Gordon

1824 A steam carriage was produced by Burstall and Hill

1824 William Henry James brings out designs for a steam carriage

1825 The Stockton and Darlington Railway which opened on the 27th September, was the first permanent steam locomotive public railway. The line was 26 miles long, and was built between Darlington and Stockton-on-Tees and from Darlington to several collieries near Shildon in north-eastern England.

1825 The Locomotion No. 1 was built by Robert Stephenson and Co and was the first locomotive to run on the Stockton and Darlington Railway line

1826 A steam carriage made by Goldsworthy Gurney

1826 The Chittaprat was built by Robert Wilson and Co

1827 The Timothy Hackworth built the Royal George using the boiler from the Chittaprat.

1828 The Lancashire Witch locomotive was built by Robert Stephenson and Co for the Bolton and Leigh Railway.

1828 The Pride of Newcastle locomotive was built by Robert Stephenson and Co and shipped to the US

1828 The Stourbridge Lion was the first of three locomotives built by Foster, Rastrick and Co and became the first steam locomotive to be operated in the US

1829 The Agenoria locomotive was built by Foster, Rastrick and Co

1829 The Rainhill Trials was run in October of 1829 near Rainhill, St. Helens when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was approaching completion to decide whether stationary steam engines or locomotives would be used to pull the trains. The trial was won by George Stephenson with his Rocket

1830 On the 15th September the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opens as the first public railway to carry passengers and goods and driven by a steam locomotive.

1838 On the 4th June the Great Western Railway opened its first stretch of line, from London Paddington to Taplow near Maidenhead. Eventually it linked the South West and and South Wales with London. The Company was founded at a public meeting in Bristol in 1833, and was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1835

1839 The first Bradshaw railway timetable is published. It continues publication until may 1961

1840 There were 1,646 miles of line open. See 1840 Rail Miles

1850 There were 6,084 miles of line open and 67,359 passenger journeys completed. See 1850-1910 Rail Miles and Passenger Journeys

1852 Standard Time is introduced on the GWR

1857 The first steel rails are produced by Robert Forester Mushet being an important improvement on the existing iron rails

1860 There were 9,069 miles of line open and 153,452 passenger journeys completed. See 1850-1910 Rail Miles and Passenger Journeys

1863 The Metropolitan Railway, the first part of what is now the London Underground opened on 10 January. It ran from a junction with the GWR main line at Bishops Road, Paddington to Victoria Street (later Farringdon Street) in the City of London.

1870 There were 13,563 miles of line open and 315,680 passenger journeys completed. See 1850-1910 Rail Miles and Passenger Journeys

1880 There were 15,563 miles of line open and 586,626 passenger journeys completed. See 1850-1910 Rail Miles and Passenger Journeys

1880 On the 2nd August GMT becomes the standard time replacing various local times

1890 There were 17,281 miles of line open and 796,331 passenger journeys completed. See 1850-1910 Rail Miles and Passenger Journeys

1892 Brunel's wide gauge track is converted to Standard Gauge

1900 There were 18,672 miles of line open and 1,114,627 passenger journeys completed. See 1850-1910 Rail Miles and Passenger Journeys

1910 There were 19,986 miles of line open and 1,276,003 passenger journeys completed. See 1850-1910 Rail Miles and Passenger Journeys

1915 Britain's worst railway accident occurs at Quintinshill, near Gretna when 227 people died and 246 were injured — of the 500 soldiers of the 7th Battalion of the Royal Scots on the troop train only 60 were able to answer to a roll-call the next day.

1923 Almost all the railway companies were grouped together to form the 'Big Four'. This was done under The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act and combined the country's 120 railway companies in to just four. There were more than 50 companies that were not grouped. The "Big Four" grouped companies were:

1938 A world record for a steam locomotive is set by Mallard when it reaches 126 mph near Peterborough on the 3rd July

1948 On 1st January British Railways (BR), which later traded as British Rail, was formed from the nationalisation of the 'Big Four' railway companies

1952 Britain's second worst railway accident occurs at Harrow and Wealdstone when 112 people are killed and 340 were injured

1965 British Railways was renamed British Rail

1968 On the 4th August the last scheduled steam train runs.

1973 On the 6th June an HST reaches 131 mph in trials beating the 1938 record by Mallard. Later in the year it reaches 143 mph

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