1800: Oliver Evans, an American, creates the earliest successful non-condensing high pressure stationary steam-engine.
1804: Oliver Evans builds his first steam-powered boat, weight: 4,000 lbs.
1804: Matthew Murray of Leeds, England invents a steam locomotive which runs on timber rails. This is probably the FIRST RAILROAD ENGINE. Seen by Richard Trevithick before he builds his loco.
1804: Richard Trevithick of Cornwall builds 40 psi steam locomotive for the Welsh Penydarran Railroad.
1807: The very first passenger train ran from Swansea to Mumbles on March 25th.
1808: Trevithick builds a circular railway in London's Torrington Square. Steam carriage Catch Me Who Can weighes 10 tons and makes 15 mph.
1812: The first commercially successful steam locomotives, using the Blenkinsop rack and pinion drive, commenced operation on the Middleton Railway. This was the world's first regular revenue-earning use of steam traction, as distinct from experimental operation.
1812: American Colonel John Stevens publishes a pamphlet containing:
"Documents tending to prove the superior advantages of Railways and Steam Carriages over Canal Navigation."
He also states,
"I can see nothing to hinder a steam carriage moving on its ways with a velocity of 100 miles an hour."
1813: Englishman William Hedley builds and patents 50 psi railroad loco which could haul 10 coal wagons at 5 mph, equal to 10 horses.
1814: Englishman George Stephenson builds Blucher, his first railway engine. Pulls 30 tons at 4 mph, but is not efficient.
1815: Stephenson's second engine: 6 wheels and a multitubular boiler.
1821: Englishman Julius Griffiths patents a passenger road locomotive.
1824: Construction begins on the 1st locomotive workshop in New Castle, England.
1824: Englishman David Gordon patents a steam-driven machine with legs which imitates the action of a horse's legs and feet. Not successful.
1825: Stephenson's 8-ton LOCOMOTION No. 1 built for the Stockton & Darlington Railroad. Capable of pulling 90 tons of coal at 15 mph. Stephenson plans all details of the line, and even designs the bridges, machinery, engines, turntables, switches, and crossings, and is responsible for every part of the work of their construction. (The passenger coaches of this time were all drawn by horses.)
1825: Colonel John Stevens builds a steam waggon which he placed on a circular railway before his house now Hudson Terrace at Hoboken, New Jersey.
1826: The first line of rails in the New England States is said to have been laid down at Quincy, Mass., 3 miles in length and pulled by horses.
1827: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is chartered to run from Baltimore to the Ohio River in Virginia. It was the first westward bound railroad in America. Wind power (sail on carriage) was tried, followed by horse power, with the horse walking on a treadmill which drove the carriage wheels!
1827: The Switch Back Gravity Railroad in Pennsylvania began operation in May of 1827 before work began on the B&O. It was the second railroad in the U.S., the first railroad in Pennsylvania and the first common carrier railroad in the U.S.
1828: Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. builds a railroad from their mines to the termination of the canal at Honesdale. Also pulled by horses.
1829: The first steam locomotive used in America, the English-built Stourbridge Lion, is put to work on the Delaware & Hudson. It is too heavy for the track (twice as heavy as had been promised by the builders), and is laid up next to the tracks as a stationary boiler.
1829: Peter Cooper of New York in 6 weeks time builds the Tom Thumb, a vertical boiler 1.4 HP locomotive, for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It hauled 36 passengers at 18 mph in August 1830. It had a revolving fan for draught, used gun barrels for boiler tubes, and weighed less than one ton.
1829: James Wright of Columbia, PA. invents the cone "tread" of the wheel, which prevents wear of flanges and reduces resistance.
1829: Stephenson's Rocket wins a competition for locomotive power at the Rainhill Trials on the Manchester & Liverpool Railway. Capable of 30 mph with 30 passengers.
1830: The Best Friend is built at the West Point Foundery at New York for the Charlston & Hamburg Railroad. It was the first completely American-built steam engine to go into scheduled passenger service. It did excellent work until 1831 when the boiler exploded due to a reckless fireman, unexpectedly ending its, and his career.
1831: The 3.5 ton De Witt Clinton hauls 5 stage coach bodies on railroad wheels at 25 mph on the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad between Albany and Schenectady. This engine was lightly built, and was retired less than two years after going into service.
1831: The South Carolina was the first eight-wheeled engine.
1831: Robert Stevens, son of Colonel John Stevens, went to England and shipped back (unassembled) the John Bull for the Camden & Amboy Railroad in New Jersey. It was erected by mechanic Isaac Dripps, who had never seen a steam locomotive. There was no assembly manual. He made this the first locomotive fitted with a bell, headlight and cowcatcher, and it remained in service until 1866. Dripps went on to become superintendent of motive power for the Pennsylvania Railroad at Altoona.
1832: The Brother Jonathon was the first locomotive in the world to have a four-wheel leading truck. Designed by John B. Jervis for the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad.
1832: The American No. 1 was the first 4-4-0, the first of its class. It was capable of regular speeds of 60 mph with its 9.5" by 16" cylinders. Designed by John B. Jervis, Chief Engineer for the Mohawk & Hudson.
1832: The Atlantic on the B&O hauls 50 tons from Baltimore over a distance of 40 miles at 12 to 15 mph. This engine weighed 6.5 tons, carried 50 pounds of steam and burned a ton of anthracite coal on the round trip. The round trip cost $16, doing the work of 42 horses, which had cost $33 per trip. The engine cost $4,500, and was designed by Phineas Davis, assisted by Ross Winans. English locomotives burned bituminous coal.
1833: George Stephenson applies a small steam brake cylinder to operate brake shoes on driving wheels of locomotives.
1855: The first land grant railroad in the U. S. is completed. The Illinois Central arrives in Dunleith, Illinois (now East Dubuque).
1856: The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River is completed between Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa.
1860: Nehemiah Hodge, a Connecticut railway mechanic, patents a locomotive vacuum brake. Pressure is limited to atmospheric (14.7 psi), but practical considerations limit pressure to 7 to 8 psi. Thus, available braking power is low, especially above 3,000 feet altitude.
1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Pacific Railway Act, which authorizes the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Theodore Judah had the vision to build a railroad across the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and then to continue the railroad across the United States. The Central Pacific Railroad was financed by The Big Four: Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins.
1868: Major Eli Janney, a confederate veteran of the civil war, invents the knuckle coupler. This semi-automatic device locks upon the cars closing together without the rail worker getting between the cars. This replaces the "link and pin" coupler, which was a major cause of injuries to railroad workers. A "cut" lever at the corner of the car releases the coupler knuckle making uncoupling safer.
1869: George Westinghouse, an inventive Civil War veteran, develops the straight air brake. A Pennsy 4-4-0 and a couple of passenger cars are fitted with the system and successfully demonstrated on April 13th.
1869: The Central Pacific and Union Pacific meet at Promontory Summit, Utah for the driving of the golden spike on May 10th.
1872: George Westinghouse patents the first automatic air brake. This is basically the same system as is used by today's railroads.
1876: All Southern Pacific and Central Pacific passenger cars converted to air brakes.
1883: The Northern Pacific is completed at Gold Creek, Montana.
1883: The Southern Pacific is completed.
1885: The Santa Fe is completed.
1893: The Great Northern is completed in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.
1893: Federal Railway Safety Appliances Act instituted mandatory requirements for automatic air brake systems and automatic couplers, and required standardization of the location and specifications for appliances such as handholds and grab irons necessary for employees' use. This applied only to interstate rail traffic.
1893: On May 10th locomotive #999 of the New York Central & Hudson River RR hauled four heavy Wagner cars of the Empire State Express down a 0.28% grade at record-breaking speed. Although unverified, the conductor timed the speed at 112.5 mph over 1 mile, and at 102.8 mph over 5 miles. This 4-4-0 had 86" drivers for this run, and was later fitted with more normal 78" wheels as it now has on museum display.
1893: The first mainline electrification was in Baltimore, MD. A rigid overhead conductor supplied 675 VDC via one-sided tilted pantograph to the 96 ton 4-axle, 4-motor locomotives. These were very successful, hauling 1,800 ton trains up the 0.8% grade in the 1.25 mile Howard Street tunnel, where steam was not allowed to operate.