Invention of the train: steam locomotive and railway

Invention of the train: steam locomotive and railway

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One can considerRichard Trevithick as being thetrain inventor when its first steam locomotive appears in Cornwall, in the south of England, in 1804. From 1840, the railroad knew a rapid development in the countries which had coal, or which could easily import it, like Europe and the States -United. This invention will accompany the conquest of territories (in particular in the American West or in Siberia) and especially to generate in the industrialized countries an economic growth of an exceptional scale. The railroad and the trains that run through them will become familiar with the urban and rural landscape.

First steam locomotive and invention of the train

From the Middle Ages, the principle of the rail and its wheel was developed: carts moving on "wooden paths" were used for mining. It is the increase in demand for raw materials at the end of the 18th century that requires changes in infrastructure and traction. Initially, the rails are gradually replaced by iron bars then steel. The small line connecting Moncenis to Creusot was the first to be provided in France.

In order for the railways to be more efficient, a more efficient mode of traction was needed. The steam engine will solve the problem. If the French engineer Nicolas Cugnot was the first to design a steam motor vehicle in 1769, the first steam locomotive was built in Great Britain in 1804 by the British Richard Trevithick. It could pull 20 tonnes of wagons and reached a speed of 8 km / h. A few years later, the Briton Blackett showed that a vehicle could run on smooth metal tracks, proving that sufficient traction could be obtained without resorting to pinions and a rack.

Twenty years later, a passenger line was opened: 40 kilometers from Stockton to Darlington, England. The rapid transport of large quantities of materials between different economic zones will play a fundamental role in the industrial revolution in England. Railways are used by manufacturers who transport minerals, iron and steel products or textiles on tracks created within the confines of their factories.

The development of the railway in France

In 1827, the French engineer Marc Seguin developed a tubular boiler that George Stephenson used in 1829 on his Fusée steam locomotive. It was the first locomotive that was put into service to carry passengers and freight. It could pull a load of almost 13 t at about 24 km / h. This demonstration encouraged the construction of other locomotives and the development of railways.

The first line was opened in 1827 between Saint-Étienne and Andrézieux. It was used to transport coal, but was also a few years later intended for travelers. Despite a few accidents, such as the Meudon disaster which killed dozens of people in 1842, the French railroad experienced rapid development, organized into a network of lines radiating from Paris. Tunnels and sometimes spectacular structures allow you to overcome the torments of the relief.

French industry produces locomotives of very good quality, renowned for their reliability, and capable of towing passenger trains at more than 100 km / h. The success of this mode of transport led to the nationalization of private companies and the creation in 1937 of the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer, responsible for operating and maintaining the rail network.

In 1850, the global network extended over 38,000 kilometers. Half a century later, there will be 800,000 ... In Europe, prestigious links put London or Paris at the gates of the Riviera or the Bosphorus, while in North America the transcontinental link completed in 1869 contributes to the legend of the conquest of the West.

For further

- History of railways in France, by Francois Caron. Fayard, 1997.

- History of train travel, by Wolfgang Schivelbusch. The Promeneur, 1990.

Video: History of early Locomotives


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