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The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads

de Derek Hayes

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"A highly illustrated volume tracing the emergence of modern railways. In this book, Derek Hayes compiles archival maps and illustrations, many never before published, showing the locations and routes of the world's early railways, as well as the locomotive and rail technology that was key to the development of those railroads. In addition to maps, the illustrations include photos of most of the surviving first locomotives from collections around the world and of replicas too, where they exist"--Amazon.com.… (més)
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A nicely done and copiously illustrated book on early railroads. First, what it isn’t: this is not about early railroad locomotives – although there’s some information about them, the main focus is on railroad routes, design, and engineering. Next, author Derek Hayes starts very early indeed, considering anything that incorporated some sort of fixed guideway to facilitate moving cargo on land., and thus going all the way back to the dioklos across the isthmus of Corinth in 600BC, which had ruts cut in the stone to guide some sort of wagon or sled. A later sit was the Reißzug in Salzburg built in 1496; this was an inclined plane that hauled food and supplies from the river to the Hohensalzburg Castle on the heights above. Originall using sleds hauled by horse- or man-power, it eventually incorporated wheeled carts running on rails pulled by a stationary engine in the castle. It’s still in use, suggesting it’s the world’s oldest continuously operating railway.

England had many early guideways like this; the country had an extensive network of canals but many of the coal mines were on slopes not reachable by canals. Thus the collieries installed guideways with carts running on wooden rails from the minehead to the canal; they were hauled back up by horses. Hayes has tracked down so many of these that we don’t get to what nowadays would be considered a “railroad” – a locomotive running on metal rails – until about two thirds into the book. Hayes notes that there was a synergistic connection between locomotives and rails – it wasn’t practical to build a steam-powered locomotive until rails were developed that could stand the weight of the engine and load. There was also a competition between plate rails – which had a L-shape, so the flange was on the rail – and “edge” rails, where the flanges were on the wheels of the train. The plate rails had the advantage that a wagon could run on either rails or roads; however they could easily be jammed by debris on the track and required 30% more tractive effort than edge rails, which won out.

The railroad industry took off quickly – despite objections by landowners who didn’t want them crossing their estates. The early steam railroads developed on the colliery-to-canal theme, bringing goods to and from a town to a port; however, with the Liverpool to Manchester route it was discovered that passengers would pay to ride (paintings of some of the colliery railroads show people perched precariously on coal cars).

As noted there’s not much on locomotive design. All the first locomotives had vertical cylinders with connecting rods turning cranks on the drive wheels. The cylinders operated in unison, leading to a pounding effect that put a lot of demand on the rails until they were replaced by diagonal and horizontal cylinders. One thing that puzzled me when looking at pictures of early locomotives is the boilers often appear to be made from wood; instead the builders went with wooden covers over iron boilers to cut down on corrosion.

The last few pages cover early railroad development in other countries; the first locomotive in the United States was imported from England, although the Americans quickly began to build their own, as did the Germans, Austrians, Russians, and other Europeans.

Quite informative; multiple illustrations on every page. A long and tightly spaced bibliography. Recommended for those interested in transportation and infrastructure history. ( )
  setnahkt | May 7, 2021 |
This is a masterful history of the emergence of railways. It is well illustrated with numerous photographs and maps. The first primitive developments were guideways, followed by using firstly by wooden rails and then iron rails.. Incline planes came next and finally locomotives created to give motive power. It is a matter of contention whether the Hetton Colliery Railway (1822) or the Stockton & Darlington Railway (1825) were the first modern railway, but the author reserves that for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (1830).

In the United States, a portage railway, the Delaware & Hudson Railroad was completed in 1828, but South Carolina Railroad, the first true railway in the U.S., The first short segment of the South Carolina Railroad dates from 1830, as does the Baltimore & Ohio. ( )
  vpfluke | Sep 11, 2019 |
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"A highly illustrated volume tracing the emergence of modern railways. In this book, Derek Hayes compiles archival maps and illustrations, many never before published, showing the locations and routes of the world's early railways, as well as the locomotive and rail technology that was key to the development of those railroads. In addition to maps, the illustrations include photos of most of the surviving first locomotives from collections around the world and of replicas too, where they exist"--Amazon.com.

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