A history of steam trains
Publication Date: Friday Apr 11, 1997

A history of steam trains

The evolution of the steam-powered locomotive:

1803: Richard Trevithick builds the first steam locomotive in England.

1813: "Puffing Billy," a steam locomotive built by Englishman William Hedley, becomes the first locomotive to haul 50-ton coal wagons.

1829: A steam-powered locomotive called "Rocket," built by Robert Stephenson, is named the best locomotive to run on England's Liverpool to Manchester railroad in an English contest called the Rainhill Trials.

1830: "Best Friend of Charleston" is the first successful U.S. steam-powered locomotive.

1830: England's Liverpool to Manchester line provides the first steam-powered passenger and freight trains to provide a regularly scheduled service.

1863: First underground railroad in London uses steam trains.

1864: George Pullman invents Pullman cars with bunk beds on North American and European steam locomotives.

1869: First U.S. coast-to-coast railroad is completed with the joining of Central Pacific and Union Pacific.

1876: Special train on Pennsylvania Railroad, traveling 438 miles from Jersey City to Pittsburgh, sets world record for nonstop run by a steam locomotive.

1893: First steam locomotive, called "999," travels more than 100 mph outside Batavia, New York.

1902: Introduction of luxury steam train service; New York Central's Twentieth Century Limited consists of three Pullman cars, a buffet car, a barber shop and maids.

1941: Union Pacific Railroad builds the world's biggest steam locomotive, called "Big Boy," to carry freight over the Rocky Mountains. It was 130 feet long with a speed of 80 miles per hour.

1950s: Almost all railroad companies buy diesel locomotives.

1970s: Steam locomotives fall into obsolescence. They are sent to railroad museums, junk yards and movie companies, which used them for historical films.



Back up to the Table of Contents Page