Little Bits of History

First Passenger Train

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 25, 2011

Oystermouth Railway's passenger train

March 25, 1807: The Oystermouth Railway begins carrying passengers, the first time trains were used for this purpose. Today, the rail line is called the Swansea and Mumbles Railway but locals call it the Mumbles Train. It is located in Swansea, Wales. It was built by an Act of Parliament in 1804 in order to move limestone from Mumbles to Swansea and then to areas beyond. It was originally a horse drawn rail system. Benjamin French first proposed the idea of carrying passengers and offered the railroad £20 for the right to offer this service for twelve months. The rail system upgraded over time and remained in use until 1960.

The idea of a system for hauling goods has been traced back as far as something called a rutway used by ancient Greeks and Romans. A trackway from Diokos across the Isthmus of Corinth measured between 3 ¾ and 5 ¼ miles long; it was used for at least 650 years. It was open to any who could pay for the service. The rutway went out of use in the first century AD and the idea was lost. In 1550, hand propelled tubs were in use for moving cargo. The idea spread from Germany, the country of origin, to other European countries.

In 1798, Lake Lock Railroad opened to carry coal from the Outwood area to the Aire in West Yorkshire, England. This is arguably the first rail system. In 1802, another railway was built in Wales called the Carmarthenshire Tramroad. The first steam locomotive railway, Pennydarren, was also built in Wales. The rails moved to Scotland next in 1808 and in that year Richard Trevithick set up a circular railway so people could experience a train ride. For one shilling, people got to ride the train in a circle before disembarking. They apparently liked it.

By 1812, steam locomotives were being used commercially in Leeds. In 1825, a publicly subscribed railway using steam locomotives was instituted for carrying freight. Passengers were still moved using horse draw railcars. On September 27, 1827, the first railway in continental Europe opened for business. On July 4, 1828, the first railway in the US (the B&O) began construction of tracks between Charleston and Savannah. Rail transport continued to improve both for freight and passenger service. Today we have bullet trains reaching speeds of 217 mph. in 2007, a heavily modified train in France reached a speed of 357.2 mph, a world record.

“Nothing was more up-to-date when it was built, or is more obsolete today, than the railroad station.” – Ada Louise Huxtable

“A private railroad car is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately.” – Eleanor Robson Belmont

“The introduction of so powerful an agent as steam to a carriage on wheels will make a great change in the situation of man.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1802

“Only fools want to travel all the time. Sensible men want to arrive.” – Metternick

Also on this day:
On Your Marks – In 1668, the first horse race was run in the American colonies.
Titan discovered – In 1655, the moon of Saturn was discovered.

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