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This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Early Development of the Railways
Q1: Describe the development of rail transport between 1750 and 1825.
A1: In 1750 railroads were used to transport coal to the waterways. At the beginning of the 19th century railroads were used for the first time to transport freight (1803) and passengers (1807).
Horse-drawn railroads were extremely slow and so attempts were made to develop a steam-engine that could pull wagons. The first person to do this was Richard Trevithick but his locomotive was not popular because it kept on breaking the cast iron rails.
George Stephenson also began experimenting with locomotives. By 1812 he had produced a locomotive that was good enough to transport coal from the colliery to the nearest port, six miles away. During the next few years Stephenson continually improved his locomotives and by 1825 they were hauling weights of eighty tons at speeds of 15 miles an hour.
Q2: Compare the different ways that the locomotives are being used in sources 1, 4 and 7.
A2: The locomotive in source 1 is being used to carry coal, whereas the locomotives in sources 4 and 7.
Q3: Study source 7. Explain how the London and Greenwich Company tried to make money from the railway.
A3: The London and Greenwich Company made most of its money by transporting passengers and their luggage. The company also rented out the 878 arches as warehouses, shops and homes.
Q4: Select information from the sources in this unit that suggests that people were surprised by the speed achieved by Stephenson's locomotive.
A4: Sources 2, 3 and 6 all contain information that indicates that people were surprised by the speed achieved by Stephenson's locomotive. The Quarterly Review claimed in 1825 that it was ridiculous to suggest that "locomotives will travel twice as fast as stage coaches". However, source 5 shows that by 1830, locomotives were travelling over three times the speed of stage coaches. William Hinton was so surprised by the speed of the first locomotive he saw that he fainted. Henry Booth argued (source 6) that the speed of the new locomotives were so fast that it changed people's "ideas of time and space... what was quick is now slow; what was distant is now near."
Q5: Not everyone in Britain had the same views on the Manchester and Liverpool Railway. Explain why people held different views on this subject.
A5: Some groups of people obtained economic benefits from the Manchester and Liverpool Railway. This is especially true of the shareholders who received an average annual dividend of £10 for every £100 invested. Merchants and manufacturers from Manchester and Liverpool who used the railway benefited from cheaper transport costs. Whereas it had previously cost 15 shillings per ton to move goods between the two cities, the Manchester and Liverpool Railroad Company reduced it by a third. It was also much quicker - 4 or 5 hours instead of 36 hours. The railway provided employment for large numbers of workers and understandably these people were in favour of the line being built.
Some groups did not benefit from the building of the Manchester and Liverpool Railroad. The owners of the Bridgewater Canal fought against the building of the railway. Other groups, such as the Turnpike Trusts and the coach companies also opposed the Manchester and Liverpool Railroad because they were worried that it would cause their profits to fall. The workers from these companies were also concerned about the consequences of a competitor that could offer a quicker and cheaper service.
At first, farmers also tried to oppose the Manchester and Liverpool Railway. They were afraid that the noise of the locomotives would upset their animals. Later, most farmers changed their minds when they realised that the railways could be used successfully to transport their produce to the growing number of people living in the industrial towns.
Brief History of Railroads in Europe
The importance of rail transportation to the history of Europe cannot be understated the implementation of railroads throughout Europe brought about huge changes to Europe as a continent and continues to play an important role in Europe to this day. When looking at the history of railroads in Europe, however, it is hard to look at “Europe.” The history of rail transportation happened in phases. Rail transportation first exploded in Great Britain and then spread to continental Europe, where each nation approached railroads differently and at different times.
Tapping a Puddler Furnace
Although each European country has a different history when it comes to railroads, every European country can trace the history of their railroads to the same beginning. The development of the modern railway system came about thanks to two factors: technological advances and war. Early trains were powered by steam engines, but steam engines were not originally suitable for rail transportation. The steam engine needed two major improvements before it would be suitable for rail transportation. The first issue with the steam engine was that its oscillating motion had to be made into a rotary motion that cold drive the wheels of a train. The second problem was that a stronger iron was needed to withstand the pressure needed to drive steam locomotives. The first problem was solved by James Watt. His Sun and Planet gear connected the piston to the wheels of the train somewhat off center to drive it forward. The second problem was solved by the implementation of the rolling and puddling process in 1783, which made iron stronger by eliminating impurities. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars also contributed to the rise of railroads in Europe. The loss of so many horses during these wars made an alternative form of transportation necessary. Thanks to these factors, the first steam locomotive came in 1804. By 1820, a properly running locomotive had been designed and the rolling and puddling process had been developed and widespread enough to make cheap, quality railroads possible. From here, the history of railroads in Europe diverges by country.
Great Britain was “the pioneer of train travel.” The first public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, was constructed in Britain in 1825. It was not until 1830, however, that the train “Rocket” of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway grabbed the world’s attention and led to the start of the Railroad Era. Railroad Mania began in the 1840s, during which Parliament passed 272 acts, many of which led to the creation of new railroad companies. This Railway Mania led Britain to reach a new peak of 9,000 kilometers of track in 1950 compared to 1,500 kilometers in 1939 and 90 kilometers in 1829. Railroads became crucial to Britain’s economy. Trains transported iron and coal supplies from North England to the factory-filled cities of the East and West and transported many people from rural areas to cities, where they took jobs in the plethora of factories.
Festival of Calais (1848) – Priests Bless the Railway Engine
France’s first railway came in 1828, three years after Great Britain erected its first railway. Although France was only a few years behind Britain when it came to rail transportation, the industry was not as important to the French as it was to the British. The Napoleonic Wars hindered France’s ability to construct railroads and countries like Britain, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland were able to continue to expand their railroads while France was incapacitated. Aside from this, many French citizens were opposed to the idea of a railway system. They were not happy with the idea of the country’s picturesque landscape being marred by the construction of railroads. France also lacked the coal and iron resources of Britain, with Britain producing over 200 million tons of coal annually compared to France’s measly 35 million tons. On top of this, France lacked a strong, central government, which meant it took ages for the government to reach decisions related to rail transport. France also had many navigable waterways, which were supplemented by the construction of canals. A national railway network would have hurt these water-transport industries and local riverside businesses. It was not until the 1880s that France caught up to Britain in total railroad length.
Germany’s first railroad came in 1835 with the construction of the six-kilometer Bayerische Ludwigsbahn, which was located in Bavaria. Germans had visited Britain prior to this and examined the British railway industry and brought what they learned back to Germany. British investors were also looking to invest in the industrialized regions of Germany. In fact, the locomotive and driver of Germany’s first railroad were both British. Railway construction boomed in Germany in the 1840s and the Germans once again learned from the British and passed laws to prevent something like Railway Mania from happening in Germany. By 1849, Germany had over 5,000 kilometers of track, double that of France, which had 2,467 kilometers of track at the time. Aside from economic benefits, a national railway system assisted in German unification. As the various German states began developing their own railways, the corners of Germany began to connect. In 1871, twenty-five German states were unified by the national railway network and by 1873 Germany had surpassed Britain’s total railway length.
Tsarskoe Selo Railway (1837)
Russia was perhaps the European country that benefited most from railroads, seeing as their other modes of transportation, rivers and roads, were useless during the harsh Russian winters. Ironically, Russia was at first opposed to the implementation of a national railroad system. Czar Nicholas I supported rail transport, but Russian noblemen were skeptical of the profitability of railroads and many supported the development of canals instead. Russia did not start building modern railways until the 1830s, when between 1834 and 1836 E.A. Cherepanov and his son M.E. Cherepanov laid three and a half kilometers of railway to connect the Vyskii Factory and the Mednyi Mine. In 1836, Czar Nicholas I approved the construction of the Tsarskoe Selo Railway, which was a twenty-seven kilometer railroad that connected St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo. After this, other railway lines were constructed throughout the country. It did not take Russia long to catch up with its European neighbors, with the country surpassing France in total rail length in 1876, Britain in 1886, and Germany in 1900. The national railway system greatly helped Russia’s economy and led to the employment of millions of workers.
Railroads continued to expand throughout Europe, lacing the countries of the continent together slowly but surely. Greece was the last European country to start a train service. The first Greek railroad, the Piraeus-Athens service, opened in 1869, well after the first British train services were implemented. The Greek railroad system continued to expand during the 1900s and was eventually connected to the Macedonian railway system, which effectively added Greece to the European railway grid. By the early 1900s, all of Europe had railway lines, and these lines formed a grid that connected Europe in a way it had never been connected before.
History of Russian Railways: Part 1 – The Tsars
Russia has one sixth of the world’s landmass and has more water than any other country within its borders. With the construction of various canals – the first in 1709, by the early 19th century, its capital, St Petersburg, had three water routes to the interior. However, it took several months for lower Volga grain to reach the city as frozen rivers halted boats in winter.
The attraction of railways seemed obvious. However, in the first of a three-part series on the growth of railways in Russia, David Shirres reports on the shaky start to what became one of the most impressive networks in the world.
After steam railways were built in Europe, their use in Russia was initially resisted as they were considered unsuitable for a country with long distances and harsh winters. However, in 1836 an Austrian engineer, Franz von Gerstner, convinced Tsar Nicholas I to authorise a demonstration line between the capital and his summer palace at Tsarskoe Selo.
This was 23 km long and built to six-foot gauge. The line took 17 months to build and opened on 30 October, 1837. It showed a steam railway to be a practicable proposition in Russia and carried 726,000 passengers in its first year but had little freight traffic.
The Tsar approved Russia’s second railway for military reasons. This was a standard gauge line from Warsaw to the Austrian-Hungarian frontier. Construction started in 1839 but ceased in 1842 due to lack of funds. After the Treasury took over the line, it opened in 1848. Its first use was to carry troops to crush an uprising in Hungary.
The first useful railway
St Petersburg to Moscow was the obvious route for Russia’s first commercially useful railway. At 644 km, it was also to be the world’s then longest double-track railway. For a barely industrialised country, this was a huge project for which Nicholas I set up a special committee to be chaired by his future heir, Alexander II. He felt the benefits of the line justified state funding.
Construction of the railway started in 1843. It required extensive earthworks and 190 bridges. The Tsar wished the line to be a Russian enterprise. As engineers were scarce in Russia, almost all the graduates from the Imperial School of Engineering were drafted to the railway. An American engineer, George Whistler, was appointed a technical adviser. Fifty thousand serfs worked on the railway. For negligible pay, they worked long hours and were badly fed and housed. Several thousand died during construction.
To establish a Russian locomotive industry, an American company re-equipped the Alexandrovsk State Factory, near St Petersburg. This produced the 162 25-tonne engines, 2,500 freight wagons and 70 passenger coaches needed for the line. The company also trained Russian craftsmen and engine drivers.
Unlike future railways, the line was well built. The Tsar took a close interest in its construction and wished no expense to be spared. It had a maximum 1 in 125 gradient and was almost a straight line, being less than 1 per cent longer than the straight- line distance between the two cities. England supplied almost 1.1 million tonnes of rails for the line. Russian industry could only supply 10,000 tonnes.
It opened on 1 November, 1851, after funding difficulties delayed its completion. Its first passenger train left St Petersburg at 11.15 and arrived in Moscow at 09.00 the next day, achieving an average speed of 18.5 mph. Traffic exceeded expectations, with 693,000 passengers in the first year. In 1856, it carried 1.2 million passengers despite the Tsarist regime requiring everyone to have permission to travel. The 168,000 tonnes of freight carried in 1852 rose to 380,000 tonnes by 1856.
The question of gauge
This was the first railway built to the Russian five-foot gauge. It seems that Whistler successfully advocated a five- foot (1524 mm) gauge as he considered the Tsarskoe Selo railway’s six-foot gauge to be expensive and unnecessary. At the time, it was not clear that British standard gauge would become widely accepted and there were five-foot gauge railways in America.
One theory for the adoption of Russian gauge is that it makes it difficult for invading armies to use the Russian railway network. Whilst this was certainly the case in WW2, it is doubtful that Whistler considered this an issue.
In 1970 the USSR adjusted its gauge to 1520 mm. Worldwide, there is now 227,000 km of 1520 mm gauge – essentially former Soviet Union countries – and 720,000 km of standard gauge.
The next railway ordered by the Tsar was from St Petersburg to Warsaw. This was another railway built for military reasons. Work started in 1852 but funding problems delayed completion until 1863 when it was used by troops who crushed the Polish rebellion.
The railway that won a war
By the start of the Crimean War in 1854, Russia had a relatively small rail network of 650 km. Afterwards, Russia’s defeat highlighted the need for more railways. This was evident by the success of Russia’s only railway close to the battle, one that was built by the British.
As the Crimean War concerned Russia’s control of the Black Sea, the British and their allies had to take the Black Sea fortress of Sebastopol. In September 1854, the British landed in Balaclava harbour, about 13 km south of the fort. From here, a track climbed steeply to a plateau where 26,000 besieging troops were camped.
As this track became impassable in winter, the troops received few supplies. Many died from cold, disease and malnutrition. When this became known, it was decided to build a railway. In February 1855, nine ships arrived in Balaclava with the required men and materials, seven weeks later the seven-mile railway was complete. Wagons were horse-drawn – until steam locomotives arrived in November – except for a winding engine on a section with 1 in 17 gradient. Once operational the railway carried 240 tonnes a day.
In April, this enabled an unprecedented intense bombardment of Sebastopol in which 47,000 shells were fired over 10 days. The railway also carried the first hospital train to transport wounded soldiers. Russia evacuated Sebastopol in August, leading to the end of the war in March 1856. Before leaving Crimea, the British showed their railway to Russian officers who were in no doubt that it cost them Sebastopol.
The railway boom
When Nicholas I died in 1855, his son, Alexander II, succeeded him. Unlike his father, he wanted to expand Russia’s railways with private capital. In 1856, the Main Company of Russian railways was set up. This was mainly financed by French and British investors who were guaranteed a yearly 4 per cent return on capital.
Within 10 years, it planned to build lines between the Baltic and Black Sea, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod and complete the St Petersburg to Warsaw line.
It was not a success. Progress was slow and it soon exhausted its initial capital. However, railways were also built by other companies, including some to the Donets coal basin. Almost all these lines were ‘pioneer railways’ in which poor construction standards were accepted to speed construction with the intention of improving the railway later. Lightweight rails limited locomotive weight and hence the size of freight trains. This remained a problem until well into the Soviet era.
Russia’s railway network was 5,147 km in 1866. In this year, the government set up a railway fund and produced an expansion plan based
on economic requirements. Railway proposals were not authorised unless they were part of this plan. This spurred a railway boom that was to treble the size of the network in the following decade.
This boom was used to encourage domestic production. Prior to 1866, 87 per cent of rails and 60 per cent of locomotives were imported. By 1899, after various government initiatives, there were 13 steel rail factories producing half a million tonnes per year and only 16 per cent of the 5,196 locomotives delivered were imported.
As elsewhere, this boom brought ‘Railway Kings’ who were more concerned with increasing their own wealth than operating efficient railways. In the 1870s, a special commission investigated the railway’s poor performance following the Turkish War. Its recommendation for through car working was mandated in 1879. Increasing government dissatisfaction with private railways was such that by 1883, it provided 80 per cent of all railway investment.
From 1866, this enormous investment came from the railway fund, initially created by the sale of Alaska and the St Petersburg to Moscow railway. In the 1880s, loans from France became the main source of funding as part of a relationship led to the 1894 Franco- Russian Alliance. This treaty and Russia’s financial dependency resulted in some railways being constructed to serve French strategic interests with little domestic benefit.
One such railway was a 1,688 km line to Tashkent that Tsar Nicholas II approved in 1901, despite objections from his ministers. Although there was already a railway to Tashkent from the Caspian Sea, this was not connected to the Russian network. Hence, the French required a line to be constructed from Orenburg in Russia to speed up troop movements to threaten the British in Afghanistan. Its construction took four years and was completed in 1905.
The original 1,850 km line to Tashkent from the Caspian Sea was built in two stages and completed in 1898.
It included a 150 km stretch through the shifting sands of the Kara Kum desert, leaving tracks hanging as the sand blew away until a continuous embankment solved this problem.
Building the Trans-Siberian
In the 1880s, there were proposals for a line through Siberia to the Pacific for protection against foreign powers and to develop the area. A railway would enable mass immigration from the overpopulated European Russia where there was frequent famines. Before the railway, there was some emigration to Siberia but around 20 per cent of those making this difficult overland journey perished.
The Trans-Siberian line was an epic project made possible by the enthusiasm of Tsar Alexander III and the organisational genius of his Minister of Finance, Sergei Witte.
He saw the railway as part of a bigger scheme involving emigration and economic development and co-ordinated railway construction with other projects such as building a line from the Urals for metal products and re-equipping waterways crossing the route to deliver materials.
Alexander III agreed to Witte’s proposal for a high-ranking committee to drive the project. This was chaired by his heir, Nicholas II, who in 1891, on a visit to Vladivostok, laid a stone to mark the start of work in the east. Work at the western end started in 1892. When the line reached the River Ob in 1895, the city of Novosibirsk was founded. This is now Russia’s third largest city. The seven-span 790-metre bridge over the river was completed in 1897. Prior to then rail ferries were used.
Just east of Irkutsk, reached in 1898, was the greatest construction challenge – the cliffs along the southern tip of Lake Baikal. This 97 km section required 39 tunnels, 470 bridges / culverts, and 29 km of retaining walls. Until this was completed in 1904, two ice-breaking ferries, one of which carried trains, were required to cross the lake. These were built in Newcastle and dismantled for transport to Lake Baikal where they were rebuilt two- and-a-half years later.
Construction of the line from the eastern shore of Lake Baikal to Chita took from 1895 to 1900. From Chita, Vladivostok was reached by a railway through Chinese Manchuria that was started in 1897 and completed in 1902. This was 600 km shorter than a route through Russia and intended to extend Russian influence in China.
After Russia lost its war against Japan in 1904, it was decided to build the Amur Railway from Chita, as the line through Manchuria was vulnerable – after Japan invaded China in 1931 it was converted to standard gauge. This was a difficult line to build as floods prevented use of the valley floor. At Khabarovsk, it required a 22-span, 2.3 km bridge over the River Amur. Work started in 1908 and lasted eight years to complete the current 9,286 km Moscow to Vladivostok route.
The Trans-Siberian line was a ‘pioneer railway’, which resulted in frequent derailments and traffic backlogs. Yet it met its objective of developing Siberia.
In its first 10 years, it carried over three million immigrants to Siberia and carried a large amount of, mainly agricultural, freight traffic including high-value farm products. By 1911, trains with Siberian butter for Europe ran directly to the ports and Siberia supplied half the meat consumed in St Petersburg and Moscow.
Eve of the revolution
At the start of the 20th century, the government was increasingly concerned about the railway’s performance. Although traffic was increasing, they continued to lose money and there was an increasing freight backlog. In 1906, this was 210,000 carloads. There was inefficient management, corruption and supplier cartels. Nevertheless, Russia’s railways had supported a sevenfold increase in the country’s industrial output over the previous 40 years.
In 1913, Russia had 20,000 locomotives, 31,000 coaches and 475,000 wagons. Its railways carried 76.8 billion tonne/km of freight and 244 million passengers, in both cases almost double the 1903 figures. The main freight traffic was coal (22 per cent), grain and flour (13 per cent) and timber (9.5 per cent). The Donetz area accounted for 38 per cent of all freight. With a network of 70,500 km in 1913, Russia had almost twice as many railways as Britain. After a late start, by the eve of World War One it had become a significant industrial power. However, this had drawn hundreds of thousands of peasants to the cities where they were exploited, lived in appalling conditions and were clustered together. This, and the repressive Tsarist regime, triggered the abortive 1905 revolution. When combined with the horror of WW1, it was to lead to further revolution and civil war. The railways would play a significant role in this next part of Russia’s history.
The role of the railways in the early development of Bradford football
With the news that Bradford has been designated a stop on the Northern Powerhouse Railway it seems topical to consider the historical importance of railways to the district, in particular their contribution to the development of football.
Surprisingly the significance of rail links to Bradford sport has tended to be overlooked.  This is astonishing because no-one would dispute the significance of the railways to the economic and social transformation of Great Britain in the nineteenth century. Indeed, the impact of the railways on Bradford’s development was no different and it is hardly surprising that they played a big part in the commercial transformation of sport in the district, from recreational activity into business.
The city’s two railway stations serve as a metaphor for Bradford’s economic decline. Yet although Bradford’s railways are nowadays a fraction of what once existed and what was planned, their legacy remains. Whilst redundant stations have long since been demolished, there are sufficient surviving civil engineering structures in the Bradford district to remind us that the railways had a major impact. They should also be remembered for their role in defining the history of football in the district.
As the Transport for the North body has now recognised, the tragedy for Bradford is that it lacks a through line connection on the railway network, undoubtedly a disadvantage for the economic prospects of the city. During the second half of the nineteenth century Bradford was very much in the grip of railway mania although – as we know to our cost – there was one scheme that proved elusive. Following the collapse of another scheme to construct a (north-south) through line in Bradford, a correspondent to the Leeds Times in January, 1884 wrote: ‘As it was in the beginning – Bradford on a siding – is now – Bradford on a siding – and ever shall be – Bradford on a siding – world without end – Bradford on a siding.’ 
Investment in national rail links has bypassed the city and as things stand, Bradford metaphorically remains on a siding with two railway stations. There was no shortage of schemes to achieve a through line in Bradford but their failing should not allow us to under-estimate the influence of the railways in Bradford, least of all with regards to the commercial development of (rugby) football in the final quarter of the nineteenth century.
The urban geography and topography of the town created limitations on where the game could be played but the railways had a major role in making new venues accessible to people living within and without the district. The best illustration of this was the ground nearby the Stansfield Arms at Apperley Bridge where Bradford FC was based between 1874-80. In the absence of a suitable site near the centre of the town, the railway connection made a relatively peripheral site accessible requiring a journey of around twenty minutes from the Midland station.
In the 1870s the prime consideration was the commuting time for players rather than the means to attract spectators. Apperley Bridge was not convenient for everyone and this gave impetus for games to be played closer to Manningham which was home to a good number of football enthusiasts. Nevertheless, railway connections remained vital with Manningham station serving Lister Park and Peel Park and then after 1875, Frizinghall station encouraged the use of a ground on Frizinghall Road (currently the lower playing fields of Bradford Grammar School).
Railways allowed fixtures with other clubs further afield and were relied upon by each of the leading sides in the Bradford district to attract visiting clubs as well as to fulfil fixtures away from home. Yet another way that railways were influential in their contribution to the sport was by facilitating governing structures to be established which oversaw the administration and control of Yorkshire rugby.
Rail links allowed deputies from across West Yorkshire (and Hull) to attend the regular meetings of the Yorkshire Rugby Union at the Green Dragon Hotel in Leeds and co-ordinate the development of the game. In December, 1888 the Great Northern Railway had boasted an express connection between Bradford and Leeds of only 17 minutes. For Bradford-based representatives this connectivity ensured that the town was able to enjoy political influence in the sport. The same could be said about participation in meetings of the national Rugby Football Union and indeed, railways made possible the selection of a national team comprising players from across the country – note that before 1895, Bradford FC provided more England internationals than any other Yorkshire club.
During the 1870s trains were routinely used for away games and the players of Bradford FC would meet at the railway station on match day. Railway timetables determined both the choice of opposition as well as the time of kick-off and in this way they helped define the earliest sporting rivalries. A further example of how they dictated arrangements was in December, 1872 when the game between Hull FC and Bradford FC was played halfway between in Selby, a consequence of railway schedules as well as the fact that overnight stays were as yet unheard of.
Kick-off times and the duration of games were flexed to accommodate railway timetables. In 1873 for example a Bradford FC game at Girlington was delayed until 3:30pm to allow the Rochdale team to arrive and a game at York in 1875 was similarly delayed until 3:45pm for the benefit of the Bradford Zingari players. In February, 1871 the kick-off for a Bradford FC game against Leeds in Peel Park was moved to 4:30pm owing to the breakdown of a train and its late arrival into Manningham station. (The inconvenience of trekking up the hill from the station was later given as a reason for Bradford FC to relocate into Manningham itself.)
Football journeys became a big part of the esprit de corps of teams and generally associated with rowdyism and drunken antics. In February, 1884 there is an account of the Bradford FC players returning by train from Sunderland via York station where they were forced to spend the night. The legend was that the station master had been so annoyed by their behaviour that he blew his whistle and the Bradford train departed early (without the Bradford team on board). Before too long it became the norm for the larger clubs to embark on an annual tour that was the highlight of the season for the participants.
By the mid-1880s Bradford FC looked beyond the confines of Yorkshire as the club chased the prestige and status of games in Scotland and the south of England. In November, 1883 it embarked on its first tour of Scotland and the defeat of Northern FC (NB based in Newcastle), Edinburgh Academicals and Glasgow University helped to define its credentials. After winning the Yorkshire Cup the following year it organised an ambitious tour in November, 1884 involving games against Marlborough Nomads, Oxford University and Cambridge University, the success of which was a defining moment in the profile and self-image of the club. The same railway connections allowed fixtures to be reciprocated at Park Avenue and in so doing Bradford FC was able to build its reputation as a leading side in England and this helped to attract spectators. Subsequent tours by Bradford FC included games in Wales. Manningham FC was equally adventurous and could boast tours of Devon, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – none of which would have been possible without rail travel.
Railways similarly ensured that the Yorkshire Senior Competition (YSC) launched in 1892 could function and fixtures could be fulfilled that allowed league football to become institutionalised. However, the benefit of this was not confined to Bradford FC and Manningham FC who were among the leading sides in the first division. By 1895 a total of 64 clubs comprised the four divisions of the YSC, of which 14 were from the Bradford district. These included the two seniors in the top tier – Bradford FC and Manningham FC second tier – Bowling FC third tier – Bowling Old Lane, Keighley & Shipley fourth tier – Bingley, Brownroyd Recreation, Idle, Low Moor St Mark’s, Saltaire, Silsden, Wibsey & Windhill. In other words, railways helped a competitive league structure to become established across West Yorkshire (as well as Hull and York) that impacted on junior rugby, arguably raising standards through competition as well as further encouraging rivalry. Each of the above named clubs were gate taking – charging people to attend – and hence the railways can be credited with providing stimulus to spectator sport in the district.
The Bradford FC players came to be regarded as celebrities and high class rail travel added to the glamour with touring arrangements reported in the local press. On 21 November, 1893 a Bradford FC squad comprising twenty players travelled to Cambridge for a game against the university side. They travelled in a Pullman Dining Car from the Midland Station in Bradford at 3:30pm, arriving at 9:05pm for a game the following day, kicking off at 2:30pm. They then departed at 4:55pm to arrive in Bradford at 10:50pm. In December, 1894 Manningham FC went one better with a trip to Paris, likewise travelling in Pullman coaches from the Midland Station.
Railway links also encouraged innovations in training and the pretence of ‘scientific football‘. For instance, in preparation for the club’s Yorkshire Cup tie at Park Avenue, Manningham FC players stayed in Blackpool for four days. The practice appears to have been copied from Lancashire soccer clubs: the previous year Blackburn Olympic FC had sent its players to Blackpool ahead of the FA Cup final against Old Etonians whilst Blackburn Rovers and Darwen prepared for their Lancashire Cup Final with breaks in Morecambe and Blackpool respectively. Although a trip to Blackpool helped Blackburn Olympic lift the FA Cup, as far as Manningham FC was concerned, it proved futile. Nevertheless, once again in 1906 the Bradford City squad spent time at Blackpool ahead of a cup tie at Everton. (The Bradford Daily Telegraph of 19 February, 1906 described the resort as a ‘favourite of athletes seeking to get to top form‘.)
Proximity to a railway connection was considered a condition precedent by those evaluating options for a sporting venue. The Bradford Daily Telegraph of 17 July, 1878 quoted the treasurer of Bradford Cricket Club regarding the search for a new ground: ‘He thought that there would be no difficulty getting a ground, but they would not get one so central as the old one (ie at Great Horton Road), and as other towns had done, they might go outside and get a ground near a railway station.’ Another correspondent on 11 September, 1875 had suggested that Bradford CC should move to the ground of Eccleshill CC on account of it being ‘within three minutes’ walk from the station and the fare is 21/2 d.’ The opening of a new station at Horton Park in 1880 would have been considered a significant factor justifying the development of Park Avenue by the newly merged Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club.
It was no coincidence that each of the major grounds in Bradford were within walking distance of a railway connection. For example not just Valley Parade (Manningham station) and Park Avenue (Horton Park) but Usher Street, home of Bowling FC (St Dunstans) and Bowling Old Lane, home of the eponymous Bowling Old Lane FC (Bowling). Clubs also relied upon horse drawn transport for transit from stations and to / from hotels that were used for dressing. In this regard the Manningham FC accounts for the 1893/94 season included expenditure on waggonettes (four wheel horse-drawn vehicles) of £53 for visiting as well as its own players.
It was not simply that football grounds were based around the railway network, the urban geography of Bradford was shaped by railway speculation and this had further influence on the location of sports grounds. The Valley Parade site for instance had been earmarked as a consignment warehouse by the Midland Railway but the financial downturn that began at the end of 1873 led to plans being deferred and then eventually abandoned in 1884 after the collapse of the so-called Bradford Central Railway scheme – hence the opportunity in 1886 for Manningham FC to utilise a vacant plot close to the city centre.  The various attempts at developing a cross-rail link in the town impacted on land use firstly around the Thornton Road / Whetley Hill area which led to the eviction of Bradford FC from Four Lane Ends in 1874 and then, following the Bradford Central Railway scheme the forced relocation of Bradford Rangers FC from Four Lane Ends to Apperley Bridge. A beneficiary was Manningham CC who occupied the vacant Whetley Lane site in 1878 after the eventual collapse of the scheme unveiled by the Midland Railway in 1873 for a tunnel underneath Manningham from Spring Gardens (adjacent to the existing line) to Whetley Lane in Girlington. 
The final attempt at a cross-rail link in 1897 (the so-called West Riding Lines scheme) led to a planning blight in the centre of Bradford for twenty years as uncertainty existed over future land use. With concerns over security of tenure at Valley Parade a decisive factor in members of Bradford City AFC rejecting merger proposals and relocation to Park Avenue in 1907 was the willingness of the club’s landlords, the Midland Railway to grant a long-term lease to the club. At the time the Midland was concerned that if City relocated that it would lose potential passenger income derived from visiting spectators who might instead travel on the Great Northern line to Horton Park, a factor that could have also disadvantaged its cross-rail scheme.
The importance of Manningham station for the Midland Railway was that it served visitors to Peel Park (and those attending the West Riding Galas) and provided transport for those working in Bradford, encouraging the development of the area as a popular suburb. Latterly it benefited from football traffic to/from Valley Parade.
The potential relocation of Bradford City to Park Avenue would have impacted on passenger revenue to/from Manningham station, the cost of which would be all the greater if a link was built and the club won promotion to Division One (which was the case in 1908). In a delicious irony it then begs the question whether the issue of a central through station in Bradford compromised the chances of the two clubs joining together. The Midland for example had every incentive to keep Bradford City at Valley Parade and was therefore willing to promise security of tenure.
By the 1880s there was a commercial imperative to attract spectators and proximity to a railway station amounted to a strategic commercial advantage. Nevertheless it is impossible to say how many football supporters were carried by the railways to games involving the Bradford clubs. The local rail network was limited in its ability to convey people from one side of the district to another but its importance was that it allowed people to travel into town from the suburbs or outside the district whence they could make an onward journey to the likes of Valley Parade or Park Avenue through a further rail connection, on foot, by taxi-cab or horse-drawn tram. The railways thus extended the catchment area of Bradford clubs and allowed people to get into Bradford to attend games.
Prior to 1895 at least Bradford FC attracted visitors from outside the Bradford district to witness big games and this further raised the stature and influence of the club within West Yorkshire. (During the 1880s the team had also comprised players who lived outside the district such as Skipton, Leeds and Wharfedale.) It is similarly reported that Manningham FC attracted spectators from the Aire valley (who would have utilised the Midland Railway line) and after the launch of Bradford City in 1903 a good proportion of spectators came from outside Bradford to support the pioneering soccer club – the first member of the Football League to be based in West Yorkshire.
Railways were also the means by which Bradford people could attend games elsewhere. Excursions were regularly arranged for important cup games and on occasions the numbers travelling were respectable. In November, 1883 The Athletic News reported that a special excursion train had been booked from Bradford to convey the players and supporters of Manningham FC to Hull. Likewise, in April, 1885 it was reported that as many as ten excursion trains converged on Halifax to allow Bradford FC and Batley FC supporters watch their sides in the Yorkshire Cup semi-final.
The strategic importance of football to the railways was commented upon in the Bradford Daily Telegraph of 4 February, 1899 quoting mention in the Athletic Record that ‘never in any previous seasons on record have so many matches been played, and never have our railways been patronised to such an extent as they have been during the season that is now in progress.’ It was stated that ‘it is a well-known fact that our great railway companies drive more pecuniary benefit directly through football than all the other branches of British pastime combined.’
The railway companies recognised the commercial opportunity of promoting excursion trips as the illustration from 1896 attests.
Such was the popularity of these journeys that after 1905 an away game was nominated each season for the annual outing of Bradford City supporters and in April, 1905 an estimated 2,000 followers saw the fixture at Grimsby Town. In February, 1908 the practice of an annual trip was adopted by the Park Avenue club and 1,000 followers travelled to London to see the Queens Park Rangers game. In this way the railways contributed to a distinct football culture. 
Away travel played its part in the viral spread of supporter behaviours, a good example of which being the exposure of City followers to singing at matches which was then replicated at Valley Parade. In this way, railways had their impact on the atmosphere at grounds. A good example of this was the adoption of the ‘Pompey chimes’ by Grimsby supporters subsequent to the visit of Portsmouth to Blundell Park for an FA Cup tie in 1901/02. The singing of the so-called ‘Pontoon Choir‘ at Grimsby made an impression upon Bradford people in September, 1903 and again during the return game at Valley Parade such that it inspired the ‘Hello Chorus‘ to be sung in Bradford. The practice of annual trips by Bradford City supporters had itself been copied from the example of Woolwich Arsenal whose fans had nominated Valley Parade for their own excursion the previous season.
In February, 1904 an estimated three thousand Arsenal fans travelled to follow their team against Bradford City – a game that was forced to be abandoned on account of the weather. However it was not unprecedented for there to be large away followings in Bradford. For instance games with Halifax prior to 1895 were known to attract a good number of visitors at Park Avenue and Valley Parade and the vitality of West Yorkshire ‘football’ competition was derived from the proximity and accessibility of neighbouring towns. Railways facilitated those rivalries but even in the 1880s people travelled from further afield and in March, 1886, a reported 800 people – out of a 10,000 crowd – came from Hull to follow their side against Manningham FC at Carlisle Road.
The popularity of the Yorkshire Challenge Cup after the inaugural season in 1877/78 and the Yorkshire Senior Competition after 1892 was based around local rivalries and the phenomenon of travelling supporters would have been an element in the success and appeal of those competitions. Yet although there was the example of Seth Firth, a Bradford FC supporter whose death was reported in the Bradford Daily Telegraph in March, 1903, credited with having followed his club home and away for each game, it would be wrong to suggest that this was common practice. Few would have been able to afford regular travel every other week and indeed in Bradford it became the practice for enthusiasts to float between clubs on the basis of attractive fixtures and/or when one of the seniors was playing away. (Even so, floaters would have accounted for no more than 15% to 20% of a bumper gate.)
The majority of spectators lived nearby and their experience of football would have been within Bradford alone and without reliance upon railways. Thus Bowling FC had its own local catchment and the support of Manningham FC and Bradford FC was based around the surrounding area. As I explain in my book ROOM AT THE TOP, a key factor in the emergence of Manningham FC in 1880 had been the demand for a local club. Whilst not impossible it was nonetheless inconvenient and time consuming for people based in the Manningham area to attend matches at Park Avenue in Horton. The haphazard and frenetic development of Bradford along a north / north-west axis had been at the expense of urban planning and/or a suitable road infrastructure to facilitate travel across the district.
Ownership of one’s own horse and trap, or indeed being able to afford a horse drawn cab, was the exception to the rule. It was not simply that ‘Shank’s pony’ was time-consuming, anyone reliant upon walking around Bradford would do so at the expense of their footwear. However people began to look outside of their locality on a day-to-day basis thanks to the evolution of a public transport network in Bradford after 1882 which had become well-established by 1903 with an extensive electric tram network. It was this that provided affordable and timely travel for the masses within urban areas.
In terms of direct access, Valley Parade was arguably better served than Park Avenue. Both horse trams and steam vehicles turned at Lister Park and electric trams served Manningham Lane from 1892 whereas the electric tram service from Victoria Square to Horton Bank Top did not commence until August, 1898. Electric trams enhanced the means to attend matches and would have played a role in generating the relatively high attendances at Valley Parade after rugby was abandoned in favour of soccer (a sport that was fashionable and commanded considerable support among younger people and women for whom rugby had lost its appeal). Writing in the Yorkshire Evening Post of 26 September, 1903 ‘Old Ebor’ marvelled at the gates at Valley Parade during the first month of soccer and contrasted them to the gates that Northern Union clubs could expect. He explained the crowds at Valley Parade were ‘not all from Bradford itself, but the city itself is so admirably situated, and so well connected by railways and trams, that other towns contribute liberally.’
In 1907 one of the deciding criteria of the newly-formed Bradford Northern club was that a new ground had to be on a penny tram route, an illustration of how public transport options continued to dominate the choice of location. (Ironically the club was forced to locate at Greenfield, Dudley Hill which was not on a direct tram route but then secured Birch Lane the following season – the ground that had been the preferred option in 1907.)
In the twentieth century tram and bus networks assumed the strategic importance that railways had enjoyed previously but even so, it would be wrong to under-estimate the enduring importance of the railways for Bradford football prior to motor coaches dominating long-distance travel after the last war. Without the trains, many of the fixtures involving far away sides could not have been fulfilled and in which case supporters would have had no reason to attend a match. In other words the importance of railways was not based simply around the number of people that they carried to games, it was the fact that they facilitated the sort of fixtures that would attract spectators in the first place.
The experience in Bradford demonstrates that the railways helped make competitive football (ie rugby) appealing by allowing clubs to broaden their horizons and give birth to a football culture. Of course Bradford was not unique in having railway connections – and other towns / clubs also benefited – but with today’s skeletal network it is easy to under-estimate just how important the railways were for the development of commercialised sport in Bradford and West Yorkshire as a whole.
The competitiveness of Yorkshire rugby in the 1880s and 1890s was a foretaste of soccer in the twentieth century on a national scale with the very same ingredients (ie compelling fixtures an engaging spectator experience popular interest local pride and press attention). The railways underpinned the early success of rugby in West Yorkshire and the measure of how the game became entrenched is that it took soccer until the twentieth century to become established locally, long after being recognised as the principal winter sport in England as a whole.
By John Dewhirst
 An example of this was a recent publication by someone who describes himself as ‘one of the north’s leading historians of sport and leisure’. His book (reviewed here) purports to provide an authoritative account of the growth of spectator sports in Bradford in the nineteenth century yet gives no recognition to the importance of railways. It is a remarkable oversight for anyone claiming such academic credentials.
Refer to my feature about The origins of Valley Parade and Midland Road – a story about railway developments.
For more detail about these schemes refer to another article by the author on the subject of aborted cross-town rail links in Bradford: On a Siding (published on his blog in January, 2018).
A further example of how the railways facilitated football excursions and organised away travel is provided on the author’s blog about the day when visiting Portsmouth and Chelsea supporters came to Bradford for FA Cup games at Park Avenue and Valley Parade respectively (on 3rd February, 1912): LINK HERE
The above is taken from the author’s book ROOM AT THE TOP, (pub BANTAMSPAST, 2016) which also includes images / maps relating to the railway network in Bradford and plans for its development. You can read about the origins of sport and football – rugby and soccer – in Bradford in his books ROOM AT THE TOP and LIFE AT THE TOP which form part of the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series. *** [Link to purchase the books] ***
If anyone wishes to reproduce this text the author expects due credit to be given for his research. Tweets: @jpdewhirst or @woolcityrivals
John contributes to the Bradford City match day programme and his features are also published on his blog Wool City Rivals
Subsequent articles on VINCIT will examine other themes that had influence on the early development of Bradford football and the commercialising of sport in the district.
A SHORT HISTORY OF NIGERIA’S RAILWAYS (1)
This is a guest post by Abdulhafeez Babatunde Siyanbola, currently a doctoral student in the Department of Industrial Design (Graphic Design Section), Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria. He is a brand consultant, graphics designer, photography enthusiast and the Creative Director of Craftsentials (an e-commerce site).
The invention of the rail transport system redefined the movement of people and goods across the globe. It is convenient, safe and cheap. Railways enable seamless transportation that engender robust economies, anchored on human resources and services accessible with limited regulatory intervention by government or its bodies.
The rail transport system creates jobs and enhances the growth and development of cities. Employments are created through the building of tracks, furniture foundries, coaches and others. Agricultural produce, clothing, animals, petroleum products and equipment can easily be transported across countries with the railway system.
Rail transport had immense impacts on the Industrial Revolution in Europe and America and it was a viable alternative to steamboats that were employed for traveling through canals and rivers. ElMammann (n.d) posited that the engine behind the industrial revolution of the 19 th century were the railways and an efficient railway systems and not democracy because, democracy was already in place in most of the industrializing nations of the time.
According to Osuji (2013), before the development of modern highways and airports in Nigeria, railway was the only means to travel efficiently and move goods from one point to another. This created the leeway for the modest development witnessed from the colonial times and before the early 1970s.
Olakitan (2015) describes the earlier public perception of the railways and the influence of modernisation on this system, that
the thought of trains might bring the picture of an old steam-engine huffing and puffing up a mountain into mind. Modern trains are nothing like they used to be 200 years ago. Trains can go 20-30 times faster than the first steam engine did, like France’s TGV train that can hit 300 miles per hour, this is faster than traveling in a racing car. Trains have evolved and grown as convenient subway transportations that many people take every single day.
Historically, the railways in Nigeria were conceived and constructed from Lagos to the furthermost parts of Northeastern part of the country, to open up the hinterland of southwestern Nigeria along its corridor.
In 1896 railway construction began from the Iddo area with extensions made along the Lagos route with stops at Ota, Ifo, Arigbajo, Papalanto, Abeokuta and Ibadan in 1901 (Nigerian wiki, 2008). But due to limited finance the further development of the railway in Southern Nigeria was delayed. Proposals linking Benin, Sapele in 1906 and Ibadan with Oyo in 1907 came to nothing.
Records have it that the Lagos railway terminal at Iddo was constructed to connect Lagos Island with Lagos mainland and act as a transit stop for trains using the railroad bridge constructed along two major road networks that connect the Island with other parts of Lagos the Carter bridge and the Denton bridge.
However, in 1904, the colonialists decided to construct the rail road linking Ibadan with Osogbo and Ilorin in 1907 it was approved to begin construction from Ilorin to Jebba (Osuji, 2013).
Osuji (ibid) narrates how Baro-Kano rail route was developed
The Baro-Kano line was predicated on developing the trade routes along River Niger. The initial intention was to develop a rail line along the Niger River and Port of Forcados in Southern Nigeria, and importantly both routes leading to Kano. In September, 1907 the British government approved a credit of £2million for a railroad from Baro to Kano. Reason for this, was the cutting of expenses and enhancing communication between areas of interest, which with time would cut the time and cost of transporting troops from one garrison to another and ease associated with transporting goods across the North.
Also, it was acknowledged that the British Cotton Growing Association had interest in seeing a railroad to the cotton growing areas in Northern Nigeria. The rail road would go from Baro to Bida, Zungeru and Zaria to Kano and was started in 1907, with a completion target of four years (Nigerian wiki, ibid). The railroad was a narrow-gauge, single track with a speed of 12 miles per hour and was completed in 1911. In the same year, a rail line linking Apapa to Ebutte Metta in Lagos was built and in 1912 another linking Jebba with Minna along the Lagos railway followed.
In 1912, a light rail from Zaria reaching Bauchi was built further extensions were made along the Bauchi light rail, linking the system with the tin producing fields in Jos and Bukuru. Subsequently preparations began for the development of another railway trunk from the Eastern region of Nigeria to the North-east region. A deep water port site along the Bonny River was chosen in an area of now Port Harcourt as location for the terminal. The new trunk was built to benefit major economic activities such as the Udi coalfields and upper Benue regions (Osuji, ibid).
In the 1920s and early 1930s, extensions such as the Zaria-Gusau-Kaura Namoda (1929) were built. Two other extensions, Ifo- Idogo and the Kano-Nguru lines were made in 1930. For 31 years, from 1927 to 1958, there was no railway development. It was the construction of Kafanchan-Bauchi rail line (238km) from 1958 to 1961 and the Bauchi-Maiduguri line (302km) in 1961–1964 that brought the total rail route of the Nigerian railway network to 3,505km (Bisiriyu, 2016).
There were plans to extend the existing rail tracks which were never implemented, some of these proposed extensions were captured by Okeyode and Yakubu (2015) that
Nigerian Railway Museum, Ebute Metta, Lagos. Source: @AdiyaAtuluku
There are a few extensions of the 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge network planned, but none of these have ever materialized since 1980, from Gusau on the branch to Kaura Namoda to Sokoto, 215 kilometers (134 mi), from Kano to Katsina, 175 kilometers (109mi), and from Lagos to Asaba. In the centre of the country a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) gauge (standard gauge) network is very slowly progressing, its main line extends over 217 kilometers (135 mi) from Otukpo to the Ajaokuta steelwork. A further 51.2 kilometers (31.8 mi) line of standard gauge is operational between the Itakpo mines and the Ajaokuta steelworks. There are plans to add more standard gauge lines to these ones: Ajaokuta to Abuja and Ajaokuta to the Port of Warri, together 500 kilometers (310 mi) and from Port Harcourt to Makurdi over a distance of 463 kilometers (288 mi).
Act establishing the railway system was enacted by the parliament in January 1955 and the railway became a statutory corporation known as Nigerian Government Railway (Ikechukwu, 2014 Okeyode & Yakubu, 2015). Ilukwe (1985) notes that this Act was followed by the ‘Nigerianization’ of the corporation in 1960 after the attainment of independence.
With the incorporation of the Nigerian Railway by the Act of 1955, and as amended by act No. 20 of 1955, it became a corporate body with perpetual succession and a common seal with power to sue and be sued in its corporate name, and to acquire, hold and dispose of movable and immovable property for the purpose of its function under the Act (Ikechukwu, ibid). The general objectives of the corporation are summarized as follows (Nigerian Railway Corporation, 1990):
- Carriage of passengers and goods in a manner that will offer customers full value for their money
- Meet costs of operations
- Improve market share and quality of service.
- Ensure safety of operations and maximum efficiency, and
- Meet social responsibility.
In 1978, the Obasanjo government through the Nigeria Ministry of Transport engaged the services of an Indian group: Rail India Technical and Economic Services to operate the railways. Bisiriyu (2016) noted that the Indian experts met only 20 functional locomotive engines in the system. By the time they were leaving in the early 1980s, the number had increased to 173. According to Nigerian wiki (ibid), this period also coincided with large capital outlays from the government to the railway sector, though a large amount of the money was diverted to an ill-fated change to standard gauge. The contract resulted in modest positive changes but the contract was not renewed.
By the end of the 1980s, reduced funding from the government, import bans and managerial problems decreased the performance of the railways. Osuji (ibid) highlights that an investigation carried out by the National Mirror shows that Nigeria currently has only 3,505 kms of narrow gauge and 276kms of standard gauge that will connect Ajaokuta with Warri.
Map showing Railway Routes across Nigeria Source: Okeyode & Yakubu (2015)
The network of rail tracks comprises of the following lines:
- – Agege – Ifo – Ibadan – Ilorin – Minna – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano, 1,126 kilometers (700 mi)
- Ifo – Ilaro, 20 kilometers (12 mi) – Baro, 155 kilometers (96 mi)
- Zaria – Kaura Namoda, 245 kilometers (152 mi)
- Kano – Nguru
- Kaduna – Kafanchan – Kuru – Bauchi – Maiduguri, 885 kilometers (550 mi) – Jos, 55 kilometers (34 mi)
- Kafanchan – Makurdi – Enugu – Port Harcourt, 737 kilometers (458 mi) – Onne – gauge convertible sleepers
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The history of railways in Britain: from the first steam trains to the rail revolution
They were central to the spread of the industrial revolution, helping to make Britain one of the most powerful nations in the world. How much do you know about the history of steam trains and rail travel in Britain?
This competition is now closed
Published: February 26, 2021 at 6:05 am
When travelling by train in the 21st century, few of us might realise how the railway transformed the world. Railways changed the landscape physically and culturally, putting Britain at the forefront of railway technology and architecture in the 19th century. Until the railways, most people rarely travelled further than the next market town, perhaps 10 miles away. Stations were gateways to journeys of over a hundred miles, completed in a few hours in futuristic machines. Find out more about the history of the railways, when trains were invented, and where the developments happened, with this guide to the history of railways and rail travel in Britain…
Follow the links below to jump to each section:
- When was the steam train invented?
- The development of British railways
- 8 places linked to the birth of the railways in Britain
- Fascinating facts about the history of rail travel
When was the steam train invented?
Unlike the atom bomb, for example, there was no single invention with the steam engine. First you had the stationary steam engine where the most important person was Thomas Newcomen. Then James Watt improved its efficiency and its capacity to generate power. Later on, the stationary steam engine was transformed into the locomotive with George Stephenson.
What the steam engine enabled people to do was transform themselves beyond the existing constraints of energy use, meaning that human society could develop in all sorts of ways. Now we know that the long-term environmental consequences of industrialisation were detrimental but on the other hand life would have been totally different if we had remained shackled by the manufacturing, energy, and communication systems before the steam engine.
The long-term implications of steam power were everything we understand by modernity. It gave us the ability to speed up existence and overcome the constraints under which all other animal species operated. For much of human history we were not radically different in organisational terms from other animals, which have language, the capacity for acting as a group and systems of hierarchy. For much of human history that was how we were but we moved to a very different tune when we had everything that is understood by modernity. It was the steam engine that set that in motion.
Answered by historian Jeremy Black in BBC History Magazine
The development of British railways
Thundering along at previously unimaginable speeds, early steam locomotives were a frightening prospect for their Victorian passengers. Before the opening of the first major railway line, the Liverpool & Manchester in 1830, there were fears it would be impossible to breathe while travelling at such a velocity, or that the passengers’ eyes would be damaged by having to adjust to the motion.
Little more than 20 years later, their fears allayed, people flocked to this exciting new form of transport, and by mid-century, millions were dashing across the country on tracks stretching thousands of miles. From professional football and the Penny Post to suburban living and seaside excursions, the railways changed the face of Victorian Britain.
“The railways were absolutely central to the spread of the Industrial Revolution,” insists railway historian Christian Wolmar. “Britain could not have become, for a time, the world’s dominant economic power without them. But it’s also impossible to exaggerate the social impact. Almost anything you can think of was transformed or made possible for the first time by the railways.”
The technology that made it possible – engines driven by steam – was already gathering momentum by the late 18th century, when James Watt produced the steam-powered loom. But it was Richard Trevithick who opened up the possibility of making a steam-engine propel itself – by using high-pressure steam to increase the power/weight ratio. By 1804, one of Trevithick’s engines was trundling along crude early rails at an ironworks in Wales.
It wasn’t until 1825, however, with the opening of the Stockton & Darlington line, that the world saw a proper steam locomotive haul wagons for the first time. That locomotive was George Stephenson’s Locomotion, which reached speeds of 15mph on the opening day. Unfortunately, Stephenson’s engines proved so unreliable that horses were the mainstay for the first few years – and the railway age only really built up a head of steam with the completion of the Liverpool & Manchester line.
After a monumental effort from thousands of hard-working, hard-drinking navvies to construct the line, and a very public competition to decide on the best locomotive, the world’s first steam-hauled, twin-tracked railway opened to great fanfare on 15 September 1830, with Stephenson’s Rocket leading the way. Originally conceived as a freight railway to reduce the cost and time of transporting goods, the line proved equally popular among intrepid travellers.
Despite a fatal accident on the first day, thousands were using the line within weeks. Fanny Kemble, a famous actress, was awestruck: “You can’t imagine how strange it seemed to be, journeying on thus without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace”. While most couldn’t match her eloquence, Kemble encapsulated the enthusiasm. Better than anything that had gone before, the Liverpool & Manchester proved that Stephenson’s engineering was sound and demonstrated how profitable railway companies could be.
Encouraged by the success, entrepreneurs began submitting applications to parliament for all sorts of railways schemes. Known as ‘railway mania’, the ensuing rush is best demonstrated by the fact that 240 Acts were passed in 1845 (amounting to 2,820 miles of new track), compared to just 48 the year before. There was some opposition but over the next ten years, as railway companies became attractive investments, unprecedented levels of capital funded the construction of 4,600 miles of track. “It was an incredible feat of engineering and organisation, not to mention downright hard slog,” explains Wolmar. “It’s an achievement that remains completely undervalued, especially when you consider that the railways were dug out by spade and pickaxe.”
At first, train travel was too dear for the average working man but fares gradually came down thanks to competition and William Gladstone’s 1844 Railway Act, which obliged every company to supply at least one train daily at the cost of no more than 1d a mile. Meanwhile, the growth of excursion trains and the Great Exhibition of 1851 stimulated vast numbers to use the railways for the first time.
By the end of the 1850s, passenger numbers had risen beyond all expectations. In 1854 alone, 92 million journeys were made in England and Wales alone, on a network stretching 6,000 miles. The magic of train travel had caught the public imagination and the rapid expansion of the iron road left few aspects of life in Victorian Britain untouched.
8 places linked to the birth of the railways
Darlington Railway Museum, County Durham
Where the first passenger steam locomotives ran
A local holiday was declared for the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway on 27 September 1825. Aware of the importance of the day, crowds clustered around the newly-constructed line in anticipation. They weren’t to be disappointed. Ever the showman, George Stephenson hit speeds of 15mph in his steam locomotive, Locomotion – outpacing the local horses in the process. As one impressed spectator recalled: “The welkin [sky] rang loud with huzzas while the happy faces of some, the vacant stares of others and the alarm depicted on the countenances of not a few, gave variety to the picture”.
Conceived primarily to transport coal from collieries to the river Tees at Stockton, this was the first venture in the world to employ steam engines for hauling goods. But the railway also leased out the rights to run passenger services to various operators, including two female innkeepers.
Despite the fact that horses were still used far more than the unreliable locomotives, the Stockton & Darlington deserves its place in history as the first to carry passengers on steam-hauled wagons. The railway age wasn’t to begin in earnest for a few years yet, but this was a pioneering achievement.
Located on the original route of the railway, the Head of Steam museum encompasses three of the original 19th-century buildings – North Road Passenger Station, the Goods Shed and Hopetown Carriage Works. On such hallowed ground, visitors can see George Stephenson’s trailblazing Locomotion. www.head-of-steam.co.uk
Rainhill Station, near St Helens, Merseyside
Where the Rocket shot to fame
Early railway promoters understood the allure of the spectacle. Having ruled out the use of horses for their ambitious project, in April 1829 the directors of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) announced a contest of steam locomotives to be held six months later at Rainhill, nine miles from Liverpool. Rules were laid down and engineers invited to enter their engines, with £500 and a contract to supply eight locomotives as the prize.
As expected, the Rainhill Trials captured the public imagination and around 15,000 spectators took their places on specially erected grandstands for the inaugural day of the week-long event. After the more madcap inventions had been eliminated – including Cycloped, which consisted of a horse running on a treadmill that pulled the wagons – four realistic contenders emerged. With the challengers listed like runners and riders in a horse race, the final day promised much. In the event, none mounted a serious challenge to George Stephenson’s Rocket, which was the only engine to complete the course.
Having toiled long and hard to improve the unreliable engines used at Darlington, Stephenson’s new machine performed brilliantly as it sped back and forth over the 1.5-mile track, averaging an impressive 14mph and reaching 30mph when let loose. The prize, and the adulation, was his. Bigger and better locomotives would arrive soon enough, but the spectacular success of Rocket was a critical moment because it showed the world the immense potential of steam locomotives.
It is from Rainhill station that the locomotives set off toward Lea Green in October 1829. Rainhill is a Grade I listed building, and still a working railway station. The nearby Skew Bridge, a Grade II listed structure over which the A57 now runs, is also well worth a visit. The most acute of 15 such bridges on the L&MR, it was built in 1828 at an angle of 34 degrees to the railway.
Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester
Where the railway age was born
On the morning of Wednesday 15 September 1830, a procession of eight trains hauled by one of George Stephenson’s triumphant locomotives was greeted by jubilant crowds at Edge Hill, the Liverpool end of the recently completed Liverpool & Manchester Railway. The presence of a VIP, the deeply unpopular Duke of Wellington, all but ensured a mixed reaction at the Manchester end, with hostile elements making clear their antipathy to the Tory government’s stubborn resistance to social reform.
Such unsavoury scenes marred the festivities but the promoters of the railway were pleasantly surprised when passengers quickly warmed to the train in the following weeks, attracted by the fact that the journey took just a couple of hours, less than half the time it took in a stagecoach. Previous lines had been open to fee-paying passengers, but within a short period the Liverpool & Manchester Railway was primarily a passenger service – and the first to rely solely on steam locomotion.
For the first time a double-tracked, steam-powered railway hauled passengers and goods between two major cities. As the world awoke to read reports of this pioneering achievement in the north-west of England, the railway age was born.
Housed in Liverpool Road station, the original terminus for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the Museum of Science and Industry hosts a permanent exhibition on the construction and early years of the railway. Visitors can step into the first-class booking hall to see what it would have been like in the 1830s and learn about the people who worked and travelled on the early locomotives. www.mosi.org.uk
Huskisson Memorial, Liverpool Cathedral
Where the first railway fatality is commemorated
Although the onlookers could not have known at the time, the sense of wonder that characterised the first day of the Liverpool & Manchester was tempered by tragedy. Having pulled out of Liverpool, the celebratory procession made good progress, reaching Parkside, 17 miles down the track, in under an hour. Ignoring warnings to stay inside the carriage, a group of notables including the Duke of Wellington and Liverpool MP William Huskisson, took advantage of the stop to stretch their legs. Huskisson approached the duke, but as they shook hands a shout alerted them to an approaching train, the Rocket.
While everyone else shuffled to safety, Huskisson panicked and struggled to clamber into the carriage. As he thrashed around for a hold the door swung open, knocking him into the path of the onrushing locomotive. A loud crunch was heard as his leg shattered under the wheels, “squeezing it almost to a jelly,” according to a report in The Times. Stephenson rushed him to Manchester, reaching record speeds of 35mph along the way, but Huskisson died in agony later that evening.
There is a memorial tablet at the scene of the accident, alongside the line at the former site of the Parklands station, near Newton-le-Willows. Far more convenient is the rather grand tomb in St James’s Mount Cemetery, in the grounds of Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral. A monument to the world’s first widely reported railway casualty, it’s a reminder of a man crushed, quite literally, by the rapid progress of the steam train. www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk /www.stjamescemetery.co.uk
Stephenson Statue, National Railway Museum, York
Where the ‘father of the railways’ is remembered
George Stephenson (1781–1848) is lauded as the father of the railways, but the gruff engineer is a figure that stimulates as much controversy among historians today as he did among his peers in the first half of the 19th century.
He may have adapted the ideas of others, as naysayers have argued with some justification, but there is little doubt that his vision, drive and ambition played a vital role in the construction of both the Stockport & Darlington and Liverpool & Manchester lines. As a self-educated and notoriously brusque man, it’s hardly surprising he provoked the ire of many contemporaries, not least aristocratic landowners. But it was precisely that grim-faced determination that made Stephenson such an iconic pioneer of the railway age.
The imposing statue that today surveys the main hall at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York once overlooked the Great Hall at Euston station, the original terminus of the London & Birmingham Railway, which was established in 1833 and overseen by the great man’s son, Robert Stephenson. The largest museum of its kind in the world, the NRM tells the story of railways from the early 19th century to the present day, houses a vast array of railway artefacts and a full-size replica of Stephenson’s most famous engine, the Rocket. www.nrm.org.uk
Box Tunnel, Wiltshire
Where the Great Western penetrated rock
As ‘railway mania’ gripped the nation and parliament sanctioned thousands of miles of new tracks, Britain’s landscapes presented some stern challenges to the progress of the iron road. Stephenson’s main rival for the title of greatest railway engineer was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the driving force behind the Great Western Railway (GWR), an ambitious venture linking London and Bristol, approved in 1835.
Sparing no expense in his pursuit of perfection, Brunel not only decorated his stations, like Bristol Temple Meads, with great panache, he also overcame considerable engineering challenges. Maidenhead Bridge, at the time the widest in the world, is a good example of his genius, but the 1.75-mile tunnel at Box, near Corsham in Wiltshire, remains one of his most impressive achievements.
Despite protestations that it was impossible to take the train straight through the hill, work on the project began in September 1836. It was a monumental task, with 4,000 labourers employed to blast out the limestone with explosives, and excavate with pickaxes and shovels. By the time it was finished five years later, the project had claimed the lives of 100 men, with many more injured while working by candle-light deep underground. Much to Brunel’s pleasure, however, the resulting tunnel was almost perfectly straight. One (probably apocryphal) story goes that Brunel aligned it so that every year on his birthday, 19 April, the rising sun is visible through the tunnel.
When it finally opened in 1841, Box Tunnel proved the doubters wrong and marked a watershed in the history of the GWR. Its striking west portal is easily visible from the A4, but walkers setting out from nearby Colerne will be rewarded with the best views. www.visitwiltshire.co.uk
Royal Albert Bridge Saltash, Cornwall
Where Brunel opened up the west
Although rival schemes for a railway to Falmouth, Cornwall, were proposed as early as the 1830s, the line only got parliamentary consent in 1846, with the Act stipulating that the ferry across the river Tamar at Saltash be replaced by a railway bridge. As chief engineer, Brunel’s challenge was to create a structure that would stretch across 1,000 feet of water, a formidable obstacle.
On 1 September 1857, watched by thousands of expectant spectators, the first truss was floated out into the centre of the river supported by two barges. Gradually raised at a rate of six feet a week with hydraulic jacks, the truss reached its final height, 100 feet above the water, on the first day of July 1858. Some six years after the foundation for the first pier was laid, a south Devon locomotive crossed the bridge for the first time in April 1859.
Brunel was too ill to attend the official opening and the great engineer died that September. A few months later, his name was spelled out in vast metal letters at either end of the bridge – a fitting memorial to his achievement there. As majestic today as it must have appeared for the first time in 1859, the Royal Albert Bridge is best appreciated from one of the many vantage points on the banks of the Tamar river. www.royalalbertbridge.co.uk
St Pancras Station, London
Where rampant competition produced a landmark
The rivalry between the biggest train companies – by now the largest companies in the world – had intensified by the second half of the 19th century. With millions taking advantage of cheap trains to the capital, the Great Exhibition of 1851 was a real money-spinner for some. But the Midland Railway had failed to profit like its rivals because it lacked direct access to London. With all merger options blocked, the Midland had no choice but to make its own way, quickly obtaining consent to build a line from Leicester to Hitchin, connecting to the Great Northern’s tracks into King’s Cross. The line opened in May 1857 but traffic was already heavy and the Midland’s trains were constantly delayed.
If the Midland was to transform a prosperous regional network into a strategic long-distance system, carrying tonnes of Yorkshire coal to the insatiable grates and furnaces of the Big Smoke, it had to be brave enough to build another line into London. It took another decade, but the directors did take the plunge. The resulting construction project, to create a terminus at St Pancras, caused mayhem across vast swathes of north London, with 20,000 people losing their homes. Even the dead, buried in the old St Pancras church yard, had to be removed. After all that destruction, the line into London and the great Gothic station at St Pancras finally opened on 1 October 1868.
Like the station itself, the Midland Grand Hotel, completed in 1873, was a deliberate attempt to dominate its neighbour, King’s Cross, owned by the Great Northern. The Midland may have been the last train company to arrive in London, but they were determined not to be the least. The sheer scale and Gothic grandeur of St Pancras station is a lasting testament to the vigour and ambition engendered by the competition that characterised this incredible period of railway expansion. www.stpancras.com
Words by Daniel Cossins. Historical advisor: Christian Wolmar, author of Blood, Iron and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World (Atlantic, 2009).
8 fascinating facts about the history of rail travel
Peter Saxton, author of Making Tracks: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Railway History, shares eight lesser-known facts about the history of railways…
Early travel was heavy going
Early railway engineers had to overcome extraordinary challenges when building their lines. Steam engines tend not to deal well with heavy inclines, so every effort was made to keep railways as flat as possible. This resulted in huge engineering structures: bridges, tunnels, embankments and cuttings began to appear across the country.
In some areas, even flat land could be a problem. When surveying the route for his Liverpool and Manchester Railway in the 1820s, George Stephenson had to figure out a way to cross the large peat bog known as Chat Moss in Manchester. He came up with the solution of floating the railway across the bog on a bed of tree branches and heather, bound together with tar and rubble.
Huge amounts of material were swallowed by the bog before enough of a foundation was built up. The line exists today and was recently electrified as part of the modernisation of rail routes in the north-west of England.
Early train tunnels faced plenty of challenges
A damp problem of another kind faced Marc Brunel and his son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, when they undertook to dig the first tunnel under the Thames, between Wapping and Rotherhithe.
Originally designed as a foot tunnel, construction started in 1825 but the tunnel wasn’t opened until 1843, because of gas leaks, floods, and financial problems. The Brunels used a revolutionary method of construction called the ‘shield’: an iron framework containing 36 chambers, each large enough to contain a workman.
Wooden shutters were installed at the front of each chamber and the whole apparatus was positioned against the surface to be excavated. The workmen removed the wooden shutters and proceeded to dig away at the earth facing them. Once they had dug to the required depth, they would prop up their excavated chamber, place the wooden shutter against the new earth face, and the whole structure would be winched along for the process to start again.
This must have been back-breaking, unimaginably hard work, with the constant risk of the river breaking through. Upon completion the tunnel became an immediate tourist attraction, with people flocking to experience the thrill of walking beneath the river. Eventually, though, it became part of the railway network, and today it sees an intensive railway service as a part of the London Overground network.
Train travel helped to standardise UK time
Before the railways were built, communities across the UK set their clocks according to their own local time. Bristol, for example, was 10 minutes behind Greenwich Mean Time. This was fine for as long as the pace of life was governed by the natural speed of humans and horses, but the advent of a fast, structured form of transport in the railways meant that a standardised system of time became imperative.
The risk to safety of various parts of the country working on slightly different, locally agreed time is clear, not to mention the difficulty in constructing understandable timetables. The Great Western Railway had already adopted standardised time, but it was the Railway Clearing House – a body set up to apportion financial receipts among the many private railway companies – that set the pace elsewhere. It decreed in 1847 that all railway companies should operate using GMT, and by 1855 the vast majority of towns and cities had complied. Clocks were set to a signal set to GMT sent along the newly installed telegraph system.
Charles Dickens was a prolific rail user
Charles Dickens had described the coming of the railway to London’s Euston station in a powerful passage in Dombey & Son (1848). He described the havoc and dislocation brought to Stagg’s Garden (Camden) as an almighty canyon that was cut through the existing streets.
Dickens was in fact a prolific user of railways, both in Britain and on the occasion of his visits to the United States. In 1865, however, he was involved in a tragedy that would change his life: Dickens was returning from the continent with his mistress, Ellen Ternan, and her mother, on 9 June 1865. Near Staplehurst in Kent, a gang of workers was busy repairing the track – they had, however, misread the timetable and had thought there was no train due. They had removed a section of track, and the train, hitting this missing section, crashed down into the valley of the river Beult.
Dickens’ carriage was precariously close to the edge – he and his companions managed to climb out and he then went down into the valley to help the victims. Dickens later remembered that he had left the manuscript of Our Mutual Friend in the carriage, and he climbed back into the wreckage to retrieve it.
The incident marked him – he had flashbacks for the rest of his life, and the year after the crash he published his eeriest short story, The Signalman: the chilling tale of a lonely signalman, haunted by an apparition that appears just before tragedy strikes.
There was stiff competition for the fastest trains
All over the world, railway companies produced locomotives that were grand statements of the new age. As technology improved, trains got faster and railway companies vied with one another to produce the fastest locomotives.
In the 1920s and 30s, the two great companies running trains between London and Scotland engaged in a battle to win passengers to their lines. These were the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), running up the West Coast line, and the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), running up the East.
William Stanier of the LMS produced the Princess Coronation class of locomotive – the most powerful steam engine to be built for use in Britain – and for a time one of these engines held the steam speed record, beating its arch rival the LNER. The latter, however, held the trump card. Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, the A4 class of locomotive was a sleek, streamlined wonder, and on 3 July 1938, one of the class named Mallard famously snatched the record back, reaching 202.8 km/h (126mph) and achieving a record for steam that still stands today.
Trains were central in early brand awareness campaigns
City transport systems also invested in strong design, such as the Art Nouveau Metro stations designed by Hector Guimard in Paris or the huge decorated stations on the Moscow Metro. In London, from the early decades of the 20th century, transport companies recognised the value of a strong image for the transport system. Underground station platforms had become cluttered with advertising that made it difficult for passengers to pick out the actual station name boards.
Advertisements for beer and port at Holborn Underground Tram Station, London, 1931. (Photo by City of London: London Metropolitan Archives/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Consequently, Albert Stanley and Frank Pick, two geniuses of early brand awareness, created a standardised name board consisting of a blue bar showing the station name against a solid red circle. This later evolved to become the ubiquitous London Transport roundel seen throughout the capital today.
Further to this, Pick decided to commission designer Edward Johnston to come up with a new typeface, bold and clear, that could be used on signage throughout the system. The Johnston typeface can still be seen across the London transport network – in the 1970s it was tweaked slightly to create New Johnston, but the principle of clarity remains.
Plan, plan, plan
The railway network in India was planned in its earliest years by the then governor general, Lord Dalhousie. He stipulated that there should be a common ‘gauge’ (the width between the rails), and he settled on 1676mm (5ft 6in) – wider than the generally adopted standard.
In such a vast country, the need for a coherent system to link the cities and regions was paramount – initially, of course, with the imperial objective of moving troops and goods quickly and efficiently. Today India has a well-used railway system that with a few exceptions runs throughout on one gauge.
In Australia, however, there was no one to plan out a rail system for the whole country. Early signs were promising, with an objective laid out that the standard gauge be adopted throughout the country. Unfortunately, a farcical set of circumstances ensued, with one Irish chief engineer in New South Wales plumping for the Irish broad gauge, only to be replaced by a Scottish engineer who favoured the standard gauge.
The decision by Queensland and South Australia to adopt a narrower gauge still meant that once the various networks met up with one another, Australia had an almighty transport-related headache. As early as 1911, agreement was reached to convert lines to standard gauge where possible – this is a process that continues today, where finances allow.
The high-speed dream
Speed has been a key selling point for the railways throughout their history. In 1957, Japan opened its first high-speed line and has since become famous for its (to British eyes) unbelievably punctual network. Countries around the world are investing in high-speed networks – none more so and most astonishingly than China.
A slow starter in railway history, China has invested huge amounts in steam technology, building main line steam locomotives right up to 1988. In a complete reversal of this policy, in recent years the country has invested huge sums of money in its high-speed network, meaning that today it possesses the biggest network of high-speed lines in the world, and one that continues to grow.
China is also home to the fastest regular service in the world, albeit not on a conventional railway: the Shanghai Maglev (magnetic levitation) train operates from Shanghai Airport and reaches a top speed of 431 km/h (268mph).
This information first appeared in BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed magazine and has been combined for use online
The Transition for Steam to Electric
The first underground electric rail line was launched by the City and South London Railway in 1890. Five years later, Sprague came up with a game-changing multiple-unit traction control system (MU) for trains. Each car was equipped with its a traction motor and motor-controlled relays. All the cars drew power from the front of the train and the traction motors worked in unison. The MUs got their first practical installation for the South Side Elevated Railroad (now part of the Chicago L) in 1897. With the success of Sprague’s invention, electricity soon took over as the power supply of choice for subways.
In 1895, a four-mile stretch of the Baltimore Belt Line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) that connected to the New York became the first American main rail line to be electrified. Steam locomotives pulled up to the south end of the electrified line, and were then coupled to electric-powered trains and pulled through the tunnels that surrounded Baltimore.
New York City was one of the earliest to ban steam engines from their train tunnels. In the aftermath of a 1902 Park Avenue tunnel collision, the use of smoke-generating locomotives was outlawed south of the Harlem River. The New York Central Railroad started using electric locomotives by 1904. Beginning in 1915, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad electrified service across the Rocky Mountains and to the West Coast. By the 1930s, the Pennsylvania Railroad had electrified its entire territory east of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
With the advent of diesel-powered trains in the 1930s and the following decades, the expansion of infrastructure for electric-powered trains slowed. Eventually, however, diesel and electric power would be combined to create several generations of electro-diesels and hybrids that employed the best of both technologies and would go on to become the standard for many railway lines.
Brief History of Indian Railways
For the development of any nation, a well- developed transportation system is extremely crucial. One such mode of transportation is the railways.
Since the time it was invented, railways have played an important role in transportation of goods and people from one place to another, which in turn ensures development and prosperity. In fact, it was the invention of railways that fueled Industrialization and made it profitable. In India too, railways play an important role.
Indian Railways is one of the largest railways in the world. It is also one of the largest employers in the world, providing livelihood to millions of people. It is responsible for serving the country with the second largest population in the world, who are heavily dependent on it.
Indian Railways is run and operated by the Government of India. Till 2016, there used to be a separate budget, just for the Indian Railways. Such is its importance. In present times, Indian Railways is well connected with its presence in almost all corners of India.
It connects even the most remote corners of India to mainland India. But the Indian Railways was not built in a day, or even a few years. Indian Railways have a history behind it, which traces its development to what it is today.
Railways were first introduced in Britain. India was a British colony. The aim of the British was to gain as much profit and resources from India as possible. So, they decided to introduce railways in India, to achieve their objectives.
In 1832, the first recorded proposal for establishing Railways in India were made in Madras. Madras was one of the largest British settlements in colonial India. Soon, construction of railways began in Madras.
Soon, the first train started running in in Madras in 1837. It was called the Red Hill Railway because it ran from Red Hills to Chintadripet bridge. Its main use was for transportation of granite stones.
In 1845, another railway was built at Rajahmundry, in the Madras Settlement. It was named the Godavari Dam Construction Railway. As its name suggest, it was used for transportation of raw materials for the construction of the Godavari Dam.
In 1845, a formal East India Railway company was established. To ensure that private companies agree to work for the construction of railways in India, the British Parliament passed the establishment of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway and introduced a system in which land at no cost and return rate of 5 percent was guaranteed to these private players. However, all the railways that were established were for transporting goods. No passenger trains had been constructed yet.
Finally, after a few years in 1853, the first passenger train in India became operational. It ran between Bombay and Thane. In 1854, the first passenger train in Eastern India became operational. It ran between Howrah and Hooghly. In 1856, the first passenger train in South India started to operate. It ran from Madras to Arcot. Soon, horse drawn tramways were also built in all major cities.
Later, in 1897, railways saw another important development. Electricity in passenger coaches was introduced for the first time in India. In 1902, Jodhpur Railway became the first railway in India to provide electric lights as standard fixtures. Consequently, electric lighting in signals was also introduced.
This made the administration of railways more efficient. In 1925, India’s first fully electric passenger train became operational. It traveled between Victoria terminus and Kurla.
In the same year, the first railway budget was proposed. In this budget, the state decided to take over the administration and control of the East India Railway Company and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. Work on the electrification of all the railway lines in India had already begun.
In the bid to make Indian railways more efficient, automatic colour light signals began to be introduced. The first colour light signals were used in lines between Bombay Victoria Terminus and Byculla. After 1929, many new stations were constructed to increase the connectivity on Indian railways. Consequently, Kanpur and Lucknow stations were constructed.
In the same year, the famous Grand Trunk Express started its operation. It ran between Peshawar and Mangalore. In 1930, its route was changed. It then ran between Delhi and Madras.
In 1947, British left India. India had gained her independence. India became a republic. Before Independence, as stated above, it was the state that controlled and operated the Indian Railways. After Independence, the same system was followed.
The Indian Railways began to be operated by the Government of India, through the Ministry of Railways. The system of having a separate budget and allocation for railways was continued. In recent years, the Indian Government led by Narendra Modi has merged the Railway Budget with the main Fiscal Budget.
After Independence, the Indian government decided to re-organise Indian Railways. In 1951, plans to divide the administration of Indian Railways into regional zones began. Soon, Southern Railway, Western Railway and Central Railway were established.
The government also decided to do away with the post of Chief Commissioner of Railways as it was not efficient. In its place, it was decided that the senior- most member of the Board of railways would become the Chairman. Even the administration of Tramways was taken over by the government.
In the following year, Northern Railway, Eastern Railway and North-Eastern Railway were established. Consequently, in 1955, Eastern Railway was split into Eastern Railway and South- Eastern Railway for better and more efficient administration. Following this, in 1958 the North-Eastern Railway split. A new railway branch named the North- East Frontier Railway was established.
Soon, the government made it mandatory for all coached of the trains under Indian Railways that were for passenger, to have fan, lights and basic necessities. Accommodation or berths for the purpose of sleeping were also introduced.
This was a huge development in the Indian Railways. But, it didn’t stop there. Indian Railways were rapidly developing and adopting new systems and ideas available at the time. In 1956, the first fully air- conditioned train in India was introduced.
It ran between the stations of Howrah and Delhi. The electrification system under Indian Railways was also upgraded to the latest technology available at the time. Later in 1966, the first containerized freight services of India began its operation between Bombay and Ahmedabad.
Later, in the 1980s, Indian government decided to introduce Metros in India. Metro System was known for being fast, efficient and safe. The first Metro in India was started in Kolkata.
It ran between Esplanade to Bhowanipore in Kolkata. Now, various cities in India have the Metro system. It is the plan of the present government to introduce Metro in all major cities under the smart city project.
Many other new changes were brought in the Indian Railways in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1986, the first computerized ticketing system was started in India, at New Delhi. The first Shatabdi Express which was the fastest train in India became operational in 1988.
It ran between New Delhi and Jhansi. Consequently, in 1990, Self-Printing Ticket Machine was introduced, which made the ticketing system more efficient. AC 3-Tier system, which is so famous today, was first introduced in 1993. Sleeper class coached also became operational in the same year. Consequently, in 1996, CONCERT system of computerized reservations and in 1998, Coupon Validating Machines (CVMs) was introduced.
In 1998, South central Railway was also established. In February, 2000, another importance development happened. The Indian Railways website started its functioning. Tickets could now be booked online, at the comfort of one’s home.
In 2002, the East Coast, South Western, South East Central, North Central, and West Central zones came into being. April 2016, Gatiman Express became India’s fastest train. It has the speed of 160 km/h, and runs between Delhi and Agra.
This is the history of development of railways in India. Indian Railways have come a long way from its inception till date, but there is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, Indian Railways are an important part of this great nation and has contributed to its development and prosperity.
1926 - First electric trains
During the 1920s, Dr John J.C. Bradfield developed his visionary plan to provide Sydney with a world-class electric railway system.
The first electric trains commenced running on the Illawarra Line in June 1926 and the city underground system was opened to St James and Museum Stations in December of that year.
On 19 March 1932, the Harbour Bridge was opened, connecting the North Shore Line to Wynyard Station.
In 1956, the Circular Quay station opened completing the City Circle, and the Eastern Suburbs railway was opened through to Bondi Junction in June 1979.