As promised, we’re returning to the great endeavor of discovering the history (all the way down to the nuts and bolts) of the freight transport industry and the rail transport industry. We’ve been away from the task for a while, so it wouldn’t hurt to recap some of the key points we’ve uncovered in the course of our tour de history. We can start somewhere close to the beginning. Now, obviously to really go back to the beginning we’d need to go back to a time before the freight transportation industry was even a thought in someone’s mind, a time before modern industry and commerce, a time where only the crudest needs were considered important…here we would find the true roots of the rail transport industry as humans exercised their fundamental need to have goods transported from one place to another – but we’re not going to go back that far, so we’ll pick somewhere in the middle.
The early part of the 1800’s is a good place to start. It was in this time period when the first notions of rail transport were beginning to really take hold thought out the world. A man named Samuel Homfray was one of the pioneering founders of our modern conception of rail transport. He was one of the first men to put the idea of the steam engine to work as a mover of freight. The progression toward the railroad, and subsequently rail transport, was already in effect when he came onto the scene, but his contribution, along with the efforts of many others would eventually bear the fruit that is the modern rail transport system.
Now, we should explain some of the back story that preceded all the ‘noise’ about steam engines and such. In the early 1500’s, the closest approximation to a railroad or rail transport were the much used wagonways which provided ease of passage for…you guessed it, wagons. These were showing up throughout Germany and were often constructed of wooden rails. These wood rails would eventually be replaced by steel rails and wagon wheels with flanges to guide the wagon along the track. These wagonways were essentially the predecessors of the rail transport industry, and in many ways the freight transport industry as a whole, even flatbed trucking, heavy haul, and ltl trucking.