All Aboard, to the future


The picture above is a titled The First locomotive. Aug. 8th, 1829. Trial trip of the “Stourbridge Lion.” It shows Crowd watching the trial trip of the first locomotive, the “Stourbridge Lion.”

The railroad systems in 1830 through 1930 spurred technological development as inventors sought to make stronger, faster, and safer engines and industrialize America. The first locomotive that operated in the United States of America and outside of Great Britain was the Stourbridge Lion (Depicted above). The first run of the Stourbridge was on August 8, 1829, in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Although this train had a short career, it was the spark that ignited the many innovations of the Industrial Revolution and gave a young country the opportunity to move from being agriculturally based to becoming a prominent figure in trade, textile, and transportation.


Above is an image of a Voyant breakdown of the book “Iron and steel in the industrial revolution(Ashton, T. S)”. The book examines how iron and steel played a significant role in the industrial revolution. 



The development of the railway system and railroads was one of the key factors in the industrialization of the United States. Before railways and trains, the United States was just an agricultural nation that had limited land it could use due to transportation and work opportunities. This remained true until railroads started being built. Starting on the east coast, railroads were built for the transportation of raw material and goods. As more people came to the United States, the government realized it needed to expand westward, and the railroads played a major role in that expansion. Aside from creating numerous jobs for the poor, immigrants, and freed slaves, the railroad development created cities across America. Ancillary industries needed large labor forces to produce iron, as well as for the felling of trees and processing of wood, and the production of other materials necessary for the manufacture of tracks, locomotives, and train cars. This increase in the demand for labor gave the people who didn’t own land a chance at a better life, and the opportunity to purchase land.

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The map above shows the development of railroads expanding west. Map of Ohio showing drainage, cities and towns, townships and counties, and the railroad network with emphasis on the main line.

As the railroads were built, people followed and set up towns along the railroad lines. This made it easy to trade, to buy raw material, and to travel. This also meant that as more towns were built, the further west America would have to develop. This led to the Homestead Act of 1862, which promised 160 acres of land to individuals, with the condition they farm it for five years. After farming it for six months, they could purchase it at $1.25 per acre. People were encouraged and eager to head west with the promise of land and a better life.

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The image above shows the westward expansion of railroads and the America population. By building the railroads, people were then given the opportunity to move westward and settle.


The maps above show the travel rates in 1830 via horseback, then in 1857 and 1930 via train. 

Significant innovations that have come from the development of railroads and trains are travel times and engine designs. To travel from International Falls, MN to Grand Rapids, MN in 1830 would take six weeks. In 1857, it would take only two weeks to travel from International Falls, MN to Texas. The different between these two time periods is the use of trains. In 1830, trains were still being developed, but by 1857 they were the preferred and safest way to travel. Rail travel was considered so safe that presidents used it to travel all across the United States. Besides being safe enough to transport the most powerful person in America, trains have been the safest way to travel around, through, and across mountains and rivers. Many historians say that if it weren’t for trains, we might not have had so many different means of transportation as we do today.


Above is an image of President Theodore Roosevelt arriving at Yellowstone National Park via train in 1903.  This image shows the trust put into trains as a mode of transportation. 

Other significant innovations in the development of railroads and trains are engine design and development. The first locomotive engine ran on steam power from coal or wood. This was considered to be a revolutionary development, but it was only a smaller piece of a bigger puzzle. In 1896, the first oil based locomotives were created. Thirty-three years later in 1929, the first electric locomotive was created and successfully used. To say trains shaped and influenced the world is an understatement. The impact trains have had on the industrialization of America, and the world is astonishing.


Beschloss‏, M. (2017, April 23). Michael Beschloss on Twitter. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from (Social Media) (Primary)

Deland, C. O. (ca. 1916) The First locomotive. Aug. 8th, 1829. Trial trip of the “Stourbridge Lion.” Honesdale Pennsylvania, ca. 1916. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Image) (Primary)

Rand Mcnally And Company & Union Pacific Railway Company. (1883) New map of the Union Pacific Railway, the short, quick and safe line to all points west. [Chicago] [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Date) (Primary)

G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co & Wheeling And Cincinnati Mineral Railway. (1882) Map showing the route and connections of the Wheeling and Cincinnati Mineral Railway. New York. [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Maps) (Primary)

Sinclair, S. & G. Rockwell. (2017). Voyant Tools. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from (Words) (Secondary)

Paullin, C. O., & Wright, J. K. (n.d.). Railroads and the Making of Modern America. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from (Statistics) (Secondary)

“Railroads.” Dictionary of American History. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from (Secondary)


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