Train technology has been around for over 200 years. Today companies transport huge steel pillars across America, by train. You can take a quick trip on Amtrak . Or you can ride a vintage train with spectacular views. American trains reflect a history of innovation, as well as, nostalgic appeal.
Richard Trevithick developed steam powered trains in the United Kingdom.
In America, a similar version of the British technology was being used. Population centers of the Northeast developed the first railway systems. In 1815, Colonel John Stevens’ obtained a charter for the New Jersey Railroad Company. The charter allowed construction of a passenger train and railroad system.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the first to carry freight. Freight trains enabled the distribution of goods to wider markets.
By 1860, 29,000 miles of track had been built. And allowed the early railways to play a strategic role in the Civil War. The North was able to move troops and supplies by train. But the “less connected” South had a more difficult time. This gave the North the advantage.
The transcontinental railroad was complete by 1869. And it connects the US from New York to California. The railways provided the vital link for the rapid coast-to-coast expansion of America.
Train systems replaced most other forms of transport. Eventually, trains became the most popular way to travel.
Diesel locomotives began replacing the steam engine by 1940. Operations were more efficient. Trains were much faster. Passenger trains included amenities like sleeping quarters and dining cars.
Train technology was improving. But innovations in the auto industry were also dramatic. And transport trucks were produced with the ability to handle large cargos.
Trains were the easiest way to travel from 1920 to 1950. But commercial air travel was becoming more common during this time. And no one doubted that planes were faster than trains.
Millions of miles of roads were being constructed across the US. After World War II there were a lot more cars and trucks on the roads.
Planes, automobiles and trucks began to compete with train travel in the 1960’s. And the rail system infrastructure was aging. Railroads were not profitable.
In 1971, Amtrak was formed. It combines 20 railroads that were operated by failing private entities. Train travel had been losing its appeal. And it was the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)that brought railways back to life. But they continued to struggle for decades.
The current rail system covers 525 nationwide destinations. And,forty six states have service. Expansion tracks are still under construction and being updated. And train cars are being re-designed for comfort. Train technology is being tweaked to make it more eco-friendly.
More people are riding Amtrak, than ever before.
Construction is complete on the Acela high-speed trainsets. They are the fastest way to go. And the Acela reaches speeds up to 160 miles per hour. New trains are being tested in Pueblo, Colorado. And in 2021, these next-generation trains go into service.
Train travel is making another comeback. Amtrak is faster and more comfortable than ever. And trains are still the best way to experience America.