Woven into the very fabric of our modern lives, it’s extraordinary to think of a time where trains existed only as a tool of industrial transport. Key to the acceleration of the Industrial Revolution, trains transformed global society as they contributed to the growth of cities and remote towns, expanded job opportunities and unlocked the potential for global and domestic travel.
Suddenly boarders were crossed with great efficiency, goods were traded across vast distances and the world truly seemed to open its doors for global communication, travel and economics. A far cry from the intricate railway networks and transports speeds that we enjoy today, its important to look back at the history of trains to learn from our journey and appreciate the distance modern society has travelled.
Before automation, Trains were initially made from wood, stone and metal and powered by horses or in some case, wind sails. Steam engines were introduced to the railways in the early 1800s and initially travelled at just 8 km/h. The first train accident occurred in 1833 at a competition organised to find the fastest locomotive. A train called The Rocket won (with speeds over 45km/h) but during the competition a British Member of Parliament was hit crossing the tracks, and later died in hospital.
Over the next 130 years, trains entered what was known as the Golden Age of Steam. Railways spread quickly across the world and quickly the speed, size and comfort of trains were improved. Some of the most famous trains and journeys during this era included the The Flying Scotsman (non-stop travel between Edinburgh and London), The Orient Express (luxury travel across 13 countries) and the Trans-Siberian railway (which still holds the title of the longest railway line in the world, taking over a week to cross).
Today bullet trains (over 300 km/h) carry passengers at extraordinary speeds across their countries while modern trains are now powered by electricity and diesel. The faster, cleaner and more comfortable trains of today are a true asset to society, though some argue that they can’t quite match the romance of the old steam train.