Train history 101.
Let's talk about train history and the best place to start is with who started it all. Well, the first locomotive steam engine for railways was invented by George Stephenson who was born on June 9, 1781, in the coal mining village of Wylam, England.
His father, Robert Stephenson, was a poor, hard working man that supported his family entirely from wages of twelve shillings a week.
George watched wagons loaded with coal several times a day pass through his home town. These wagons were pulled by horses because locomotives had not yet been invented. George Stephenson's first job was to watch over a few cows owned by a neighbor that were allowed to feed along the road.
George was paid two cents a day to keep the cows out of the street so the coal-wagons would not have to stop and also, to close the gates after the day's work of the wagons was over. Wow! 2 cents a day, I can go to a local park or convenience store parking lot and find 2 cents easily now days.
George Stephenson's next exciting job was at the mines as a picker. His job was to clean the coal of stone, slate, and other impurities. Eventually, George Stephenson worked at several coal mines as a fireman, plug man, brakeman, and engineer.
But, after a hard day’s work George would tinker with any engine or piece of mining equipment that fell into his hands. He became skilled at adjusting and even repairing the engines found in the mining pumps, even though at that time he could not read or write.
As a young adult, George paid for and attended night school where he learned to read, write, and do arithmetic. In 1804, George Stephenson walked on foot to Scotland to take a job working in a coal mine that used one of James Watt’ steam engines, and was the best steam engines of the day.
In 1807, George Stephenson considered immigrating to America; but he was too poor to pay for the passage. He began working nights repairing shoes, clocks, and watches, making extra money to fund his inventions he was working on.
In 1813, George Stephenson became aware that William Hedley and Timothy Hackworth were designing a locomotive for the Wylam coal mine. So at the age of twenty, George Stephenson began the construction of his first locomotive. At this time in train history every part of the engine had to be made by hand, and hammered into shape just like a horseshoe.
After ten months of hard manual labor, George Stephenson's locomotive called the "Blucher" was completed and the first test done was on the Cillingwood Railway on July 25, 1814. The track was an uphill trek of four hundred and fifty feet long.
The engine hauled eight loaded coal wagons with each wagon carrying thirty tons each; the locomotive only reached a top speed of about four miles an hour. The Blucher was the first steam engine powered locomotive in train history to run on a railroad and was the most successful working steam engine that had ever been constructed up to that point in train history, this encouraged George to do more experiments to improve on and build another sixteen engines.
George Stephenson built the world's first public railways called the Stockton and Darlington railway in 1825 and the Liverpool-Manchester railway in 1830.
Did George Stephenson actually build the first locomotive steam engine?
There is another inventor called Richard Trevithick who is considered the first person to invent the tramway locomotive, however it was a road locomotive and designed for the road only, not for a railroad. Trevithick's accomplished many things but unfortunately did not fully receive the credit he was due during his lifetime.
Go to train history 16th, 17th century timeline
Locomotive timeline early 18th century
Locomotive timeline mid 18th century
Locomotive timeline late 18th century
Locomotive timeline 19th century