We’re pretty deep into the history of the rail transport industry and even deeper into our explorations of the freight transport industry in general. We’ve covered a lot of ground but none so important as what we’re going to look at today. There is a lot be said for the invention of the wheel and other major milestones in the progression of technology that has led to freight transportation as we know it, but the engine which drives the industry is just without equal. And that engine is… well, just that, an engine. Now, to the savvy reader of this freight transport blog, it might bear noting that, of course, without the invention of the wheel, gears (close relatives of the wheel and fundamental components of any engine) might never have been invented. But since we’re not in the business of splitting hairs, we’ll assume the huge importance of the engine and move forward in our exploration, digging deeper into the heart of this invention that dramatically altered the course of human development and sprung forth both freight transport and rail transport.
The story goes something like this; in 1698 Thomas Savery patented the very first crude steam engine in 1698. This design was improved on by Thomas Newcomen, and later by James Watt. It was Watt’s improvements that sealed the steam engine as a promising and viable piece of equipment. It was this invention, or series of inventions and improvements that really helped catapult the industrial revolution and ultimately both the freight transport industry (including flatbed trucking, heavy haul, ltl trucking, and rail transport.
The next part of the story is also vital in the development of the freight transport industry. Three years into the 1800’s, a man named Samuel Homfray (whom we’ve already mentioned in previous posts on the JB Transport blog) made the decision to sponsor the invention and development of a steam-powered vehicle that would take the place of the horse-powered carts that populated the tramways of Europe. Builder Richard Trevithic, being sponsored by Homfray, built the first steam engine tramway locomotive, a development that would alter the course of human life and rail transport forever