Railroad History

Its all about the rails

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1603 The Wollaton Wagonway

Huntingdon Beaumont (c. 1560 – 1624) is credited with the invention of the modern railway. His work led to the first recorded wagonway in England. Called the first true railway, Beaumont incorporated a flange on the inside to keep the wheel on a wooden track. The invention led to the modern train wheel still in use today.

Before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, tracks were made of a few inch wide wood planks. The planks were fastened perpendicularly two to three feet apart by "sleepers" (see photo). The setup looked similar to the modern-day rails laid over railroad ties.

Wooden Planks Become Wooden Wagonways

It began with the transport of coal and ore, first by pack horse, then by horse-drawn wagon. The use of wagons increased the load carried per horse. With the increased weight, the wagons turned paths into mud. The mud forced horse and wagon around, widening paths and spoiling the terrain. In turn, landowners began to refuse access to their land.

Wooden planks were used through the muddy areas and then through the length of the entire path. The paths came to be called wagonways.

Soon after Beaumont's successful creation, similar railways and wagonways started appearing across England.

See the Nottingham Hidden History Team for more information on the history of Nottingham England »

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