See also: History of rail transport, Category:Early steam locomotives
The earliest railways employed horses to draw carts along railed tracks.
As the development of steam engines progressed through the 18th century, various attempts were made to apply them to road and railway use. In 1784, William Murdoch, a Scottish inventor, built a prototype steam road locomotive. An early working model of a steam rail locomotive was designed and constructed by steamboat pioneer John Fitch in the United States probably during the 1780s or 1790s. His steam locomotive used interior bladed wheels guided by rails or tracks. The model still exists at the Ohio Historical Society Museum in Columbus.
The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive was built by Richard Trevithick in the United Kingdom and, on 21 February 1804, the world's first railway journey took place as Trevithick's unnamed steam locomotive hauled a train along the tramway from the Pen-y-darren ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon in south Wales. Accompanied with Andrew Vivian, it ran with mixed success. The design incorporated a number of important innovations that included using high-pressure steam which reduced the weight of the engine and increased its efficiency. Trevithick visited the Newcastle area in 1804 and he had a ready audience of colliery owners and engineers. The visit was so successful that the colliery railways in north-east England became the leading centre for experimentation and development of the steam locomotive. Trevithick continued his own steam propulsion experiments through another trio of locomotives, concluding with the Catch Me Who Can in 1808. Only four years later, the successful twin-cylinder locomotive Salamanca by Matthew Murray for the edge railed rack and pinion Middleton Railway debuted in 1812. In 1825 George Stephenson built the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, north-east England, which was the first public steam railway in the world. In 1829, he built The Rocket which was entered in and won the Rainhill Trials. This success led to Stephenson establishing his company as the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives used on railways in the United Kingdom, United States and much of Europe. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened a year later making exclusive use of steam power for both passenger and freight trains.
The United States started developing steam locomotives in 1829 with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Tom Thumb. This was the first locomotive to run in America, although it was intended as a demonstration of the potential of steam traction, rather than as a revenue-earning locomotive. Many of the earliest locomotives for American railroads were imported from Great Britain, including the Stourbridge Lion and the John Bull (still the oldest operable engine-powered vehicle in the United States of any kind, as of 1981) but a domestic locomotive manufacturing industry was quickly established, with locomotives like the DeWitt Clinton being built in the 1830s.
The first railway service in Continental Europe (or for that matter, anywhere outside the United Kingdom and the United States) was opened on 5 May 1835 in Belgium, between Mechelen and Brussels. The name of the locomotive used was The Elephant.
In Germany the first working steam locomotive was a rack-and-pinion engine, similar to the Salamanca, designed by the British locomotive pioneer John Blenkinsop. Built in June 1816 by Johann Friedrich Krigar in the Royal Berlin Iron Foundry (Königlichen Eisengießerei zu Berlin), the locomotive ran on a circular track in the factory yard. It was the first locomotive to be built on the European mainland and the first steam-powered passenger service, because curious onlookers could ride in the attached coaches for a fee. It is portrayed on a New Year's badge for the Royal Foundry dated 1816. Another locomotive was built using the same system in 1817. They were to be used on pit railways in Königshütte and in Luisenthal on the Saar (today part of Völklingen), but neither could be returned to working order after being dismantled, moved and reassembled. On 7 December 1835 the Adler ran for the first time between Nuremberg and Fürth on the Bavarian Ludwig Railway. It was the 118th engine from the locomotive works of Robert Stephenson and stood under patent protection.
In 1837 the first steam railway started up in Austria on the Emperor Ferdinand Northern Railway between Vienna-Floridsdorf and Deutsch-Wagram. The oldest continually working steam engine in the world also runs in Austria: the GKB 671 built in 1860 has never been taken out of service and is still used for special excursions.
In 1838 the third steam locomotive to be built in Germany, the Saxonia, was manufactured by the Maschinenbaufirma Übigau near Dresden, built by Prof. Johann Andreas Schubert. The first independently designed locomotive in Germany was the Beuth built by August Borsig in 1841. In 1848 the first locomotive produced by Henschel-Werke in Kassel, the Drache, was delivered.
The first railway line over Swiss territory was the Strasbourg–Basle line opened in 1844. Three years later, in 1847, the first fully Swiss railway line, the Spanisch Brötli Bahn, from Zürich to Baden was opened.
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