Railroad History

Its all about the rails


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Steam Engine

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard (1849-1921) was a prominent African American entrepreneur who rose from slavery to become an inventor in the 1880s and 1890s. Largely self-educated, he invented, among other things, a specially designed the double plow, a type of rotary steam engine, and a device for the automated coupling of railroad cars. The "Jenny Coupler" has been credited with saving countless railroad workers from mutilation and death. He also founded several successful businesses in Jefferson County, including a real estate firm and a taxi company.

Peter Cooper of Canton Iron Works

Peter Cooper (February 12, 1791 – April 4, 1883) was an American industrialist, inventor, philanthropist, and politician. He designed and built the first American steam locomotive, the Tom Thumb, founded the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and served as the Greenback Party's candidate in the 1876 presidential election.

Peter Cooper's Tom Thumb Rail Steam Engine

In the 1820s the port of Baltimore was in danger. The threat came from the newly opened Erie Canal (see "Traveling the Erie Canal, 1836") and the proposed construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that would parallel the Potomac River from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD. These new water routes promised to provide a commercial gateway to the West that would bypass Baltimore's thriving harbor and potentially hurl the city into an economic abyss. Something had to be done.

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick (1771 – 1833) was a British inventor and mining engineer from Cornwall, England, UK. The son of a mining captain, and born in the mining heartland of Cornwall, Trevithick was immersed in mining and engineering from an early age. He performed poorly in school, but went on to be an early pioneer of steam-powered road and rail transport. His most significant contribution was the development of the first high-pressure steam engine. He also built the first full-scale working railway steam locomotive.

Oliver Evans' Non-condensing High Pressure Stationary Steam Engine

In 1803, visitors to Evans' Philadelphia workshop were witness to a non-condensing high pressure steam-powered engine.

James Watt Steam Engine

Scotsman James Watt built first useful stationary steam engine. Watt truly put all his efforts into the production of the engine and is credited with several patents that improved the steam engine.

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