The earliest evidence of a wagonway, a predecessor of the railway, found so far was the 6 to 8.5 km long Diolkos wagonway, which transported boats across the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece since around 600 BC.
Wheeled vehicles pulled by men and animals ran in grooves in limestone, which provided the track element, preventing the wagons from leaving the intended route. The Diolkos was in use for over 650 years, until at least the 1st century AD. The first horse-drawn wagonways also appeared in ancient Greece, with others to be found on Malta and various parts of the Roman Empire, using cut-stone tracks.
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Development of the Steam Locomotive
In 1814 George Stephenson, inspired by the early locomotives of Trevithick, Murray and Hedley, persuaded the manager of the Killingworth colliery where he worked to allow him to build a steam-powered machine. He built the Blücher, one of the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotives. Stephenson played a pivotal role in the development and widespread adoption of the steam locomotive. His designs considerably improved on the work of the earlier pioneers. In 1825 he built the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway which became the first public steam railway in the world.
Image: An 18th Century engraving of the locomotive BLUCHER
Birth of the Railway
In 18745 Oliver Evans, a United States engineer and inventor, published that there should be separate sets of parallel tracks for trains going in different directions. Unfortunately, conditions in the infant United States did not enable his vision to take hold.
This vision had its counterpart in Britain, where it proved to be far more influential. William James, a rich and influential surveyor and land agent, was inspired by the development of the steam locomotive to suggest a national network of railways. He was responsible for proposing a number of projects that later came to fruition, and he is credited with carrying out a survey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Unfortunately, he became bankrupt and his schemes were taken over by George Stephenson and others. However, he is credited by many historians with the title of "Father of the Railway".
It was not until 1825 that the success of the Stockton and Darlington Railway proved that the railways could be made as useful to the general shipping public as to the colliery owner. The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in 1825, was the world's first permanent steam locomotive hauled public railway.
Image: Locomotive Number 1, Stockton and Darlington Railway