Railroads and Their Industrial Impacts

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No invention of the 1800's played a more vital role in the Industrial Revolution than the steam locomotive and railroad, triggering the biggest leap in transportation technology in history. The technology central to railroads, the steam engine, needed two major improvements. First of all, a way had to be found to convert the oscillating motion of the steam engine to rotary motion so it could drive the locomotive's wheels. The solution came with James Watt's Sun and Planet gear, which connected the piston to the wheels somewhat off center to drive it forward. Secondly there was a need for stronger iron so boilers could create and withstand the pressure needed to drive steam locomotives. In 1783, the rolling and puddling process was invented, eliminating impurities in the iron and making it much stronger. In addition to creating much stronger boilers, it also led to stronger and cheaper iron rails on which the locomotives could ride. Another catalyst for the invention of the locomotive was the loss of so many horses during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. This, along with the rolling and puddling method and Watt's Sun and Planet gear, sparked experiments leading to the first steam locomotive in 1804. However, it was not until the 1820's, when a properly running locomotive had been designed and the rolling and puddling technique had advanced and become widespread enough to make good cheap rails possible, that the first railroads were born. In 1825, the Stockton and Darlington Railroad carried the first commercial freight of any railroad in history. Five years later, the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad opened operations carrying passengers as well as freight. This quickly sparked a virtual mania for building railroads in Europe and the United States after 1830. The 1800s saw incredible growth in the miles of track being laid. In 1830,

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