1829: Liverpool and Manchester Railway establish a locomotive competition. Ten locomotives are entered into the competition, but only five designs are constructed in time.
Nearly 10,000 spectators gather at Rainhill for the Locomotive contest. Robert Stevenson’s Rocket completes all the trials and is given a contract to produce locomotives for Liverpool & Manchester Railway.
Robert Stephenson and Company becomes a dominant railway advisor and locomotive builder. They produce locomotives for the United Kingdom, the United States, and other European nations.
George Stephenson determined an optimum track spacing of 4 ft 8 1⁄2. With the Robert Stephenson and Company having the most popular locomotives, the spacing becomes common.
George Stephenson is sometimes known as the Father of Railways. His rail spacing became known as the Standard-Gauge and is the most common spacing used today.
1840: Keeping track of train timetables becomes increasingly difficult due to different cities having their own local time. The Great Western Railway begins synchronizing their clocks to a single time.
Edmondson Railway Ticket
1842: English cabinet maker Thomas Edmondson invents a ticket booth to quickly print out tickets. Companies had been using handwritten tickets, but the process was slow and prone to fraud.
Railway Clearing House
An organization is established to help manage fares when passengers switch between railroad companies. It grows into a regulatory body that administers the running of all railways in Great Britain.
British speculators increasingly invest money in the railway and it increases shares, which causes more investment. It creates a stock market bubble that collapses after a few years.
The Edmondson Railway Ticket system was used throughout Europe until the 1990s. Taiwan and Japan continue to use a variation of the system today.
1853: Three railway companies open a large station in Indianapolis. It is the first train station in the world that is shared between companies and it allows passengers to easily transfer between train services.
First African Railway
1854: The Ottoman Government completes construction of a railway between Alexandria and Rosetta in Egypt. Rosetta is an important agricultural center in the Nile Delta.
The Great Gold Robbery
1855: Three railway workers conspire with a professional thief. They copy keys and steal £12,000 (nearly $13 million U.S. today) worth of gold from a safe during an overnight train stop in Dover, England.
Panama’s Interoceanic Railroad
A railway is built across Panama which connects the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean. The 76.6 km railway takes five years to construct and costs $8 million. Up to 10,000 workers die from infectious diseases.
Paris-Marseille Railway is built. Connecting to railways north of Paris, it creates the first transcontinental railroad. Railways are connected from the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Bessemer Process
Henry Bessemer of England invents and patents a method to remove impurities from iron while simultaneously adding the appropriate amount of carbon.
Mass Production of Steel
The Bessemer Process allows for the inexpensive mass production of steel. The process gradually improves as steel production goes from 7 pounds per ton to 40 pounds per ton.
1857: The first steel rails are used in Britain. The mass production of steel greatly improves railroads. Steel rails last ten times longer than iron rails and can carry heavier locomotives and longer trains.
The mass production of steel helped spur the Second Industrial Revolution and was a major enhancement for railroads.
After 1,756 mi (2,826 km) of track construction, the Last Spike of the Pacific Railroad is ceremonially nailed in at Promontory Summit in Utah. It marks the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
Great Indian Railway
1870: The Great Indian Peninsula Railway connects with the East Indian Railway and completes a great railroad across India. Passengers can travel directly between Bombay and Calcutta.
1870-1871: War erupts between the Second French Empire and the North German Confederation. The Germans are victorious due to strong leadership and taking advantage of railways and artillery.
French writer Jules Verne is conscripted as a coast guard in France during the Franco-German War. Inspired by transcontinental railways and the Suez Canal, he writes Around the World in Eighty Days.
Railroad companies are concerned that the United States government will adopt a costly and detrimental time zone system. They meet to establish their own time system.
American Time Zones
William F. Allen is Secretary of the General Time Convention and the editor of the Traveler’s Official Railway Guide. North American railroad companies decide to adopt his simple five time zone system.
The Day of Two Noons
On November 18th, railroad stations in the United States and Canada reset their clocks to noon for their appropriate time zone. The day is nicknamed the Day of Two Noons.
Time Zone Adoption
1884: Most large cities in North America adopt the railway companies’ time zones. The zones are named Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific, and Intercolonial (Atlantic).
The North American time zones were formally adopted by the U.S. Congress in the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918.
1885: Canada completes the construction of its first transcontinental railway. Connecting eastern and western provinces, the 4,600km-long railway is the single-longest railway of its time.
Armagh Rail Disaster
1889: A train with an Irish Sunday school group stalls on a steep incline. The crew divide the train, but the rear train slides back down the track and crashes into an oncoming train.
A failed watch causes a train collision in Ohio. The railway company hires watchmaker Webb C. Bell to establish higher standards for watches. The rules are gradually adopted by other railways in the U.S.
1904: Russia completes the very difficult construction of a long railway across Siberia. The railway is primarily used to transport grain and flour. Many farmers migrate to the region in search of work.
80 people were killed and 260 were injured in the Armagh rail disaster. It is the worst 19th century rail disaster in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The 9300km Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest passenger railway in the world today.