History of the Railroad Timeline

By jamwood
  • First Steam Engine

    First Steam Engine
    Oliver Evans built the first successful non-condensing high pressure stationary steam-engine, later to be used in his building of the first steam-powered boat.
  • First American Steam Locomotive

    First American Steam Locomotive
    Oliver Evans built the first American steam locomotive in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Horse-Drawn Tramway

    Horse-Drawn Tramway
    Silas Whitney operated a horse-drawn and gravity wooden tramway on Beacon Hill, Boston
  • First Railroad Charter in America

    First Railroad Charter in America
    John Stevens, of Hoboken, New Jersey, was granted the first railroad charter in America by the New Jersey Legislature. The charter authorized the construction of a rail line between the Delaware and Raritan Rivers.
  • First Locomotive to run

    First Locomotive to run
    John Stevens built the first locomotive to run on rails in America. It was operated experimentally on a half-mile circular track in Hoboken, New Jersey.
  • The Granite Railway

    The Granite Railway
    Gridley Bryant’s Granite Railway was opened in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was used to transfer granite that would build the Bunker Hill Monument. Horses provided the moving power.
  • Charter for First Railroad in Maryland

    Charter for First Railroad in Maryland
    A charter was granted for the first railroad in Maryland. Construction began July 4, 1828.
  • Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion
    The locomotive Stourbridge Lion was put on a track at Honesdale, Pennsylvania and operated 3 miles. It was built by Foster, Rastrick, & Co. It was the first steam locomotive to run on a commercial line in the United States. It was built by Foster, Rastrick, & Co.
  • Tom Thumb Locomotive

    Tom Thumb Locomotive
    Peter Cooper’s locomotive Tom Thumb completed a trial trip from Baltimore, Maryland to Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland, and back.
  • Best Friend Locomotive

    Best Friend Locomotive
    Using the American-built Best Friend locomotive, a railroad at Charlestown, South Carolina introduced scheduled passenger service. It became the first public carrier by rail in South Carolina, and the first railroad to use steam power in regular service.
  • DeWitt Clintonin NY

    DeWitt Clintonin NY
    The first steam train ran in New York, pulled by the locomotive DeWitt Clinton.
  • First Locomotive Headlight

    First Locomotive Headlight
    Introduction to the first locomotive headlight was in South Carolina with a pine-knot fire on an open platform car.
  • Mail by Rail

    Mail by Rail
    The United States mail was carried for the first time by rail, in South Carolina.
  • Andrew Jackson Rides the Railroad

    Andrew Jackson Rides the Railroad
    Andrew Jackson became the first President of the United States to ride on a railroad train.
  • First Railroad to Washington D.C.

    First Railroad to Washington D.C.
    The first railroad to Washington D.C. was opened.
  • Eight-Wheeled Locomotive

    Eight-Wheeled Locomotive
    Philadelphian Henry R. Campbell patented an eight-wheeled engine, which was named the American type. The locomotive was completed May 8, 1837, and remained a popular model until 1985.
  • Patent No. 1

    Patent No. 1
    A U.S. senator from Maine, John Ruggles, was issued Patent No.1 for a device that would increase the power of railway locomotives and to prevent their wheels from sliding.
  • Whistle appears!

    Whistle appears!
    The first two locomotives to yield whistles were built at Lowell, Massachusetts, under the guidance of George Washington Whistler. Whistler was a prominent American railroad engineer.
  • First Locomotive Whistle Introduced

    First Locomotive Whistle Introduced
    The first locomotive whistle was introduced.
  • First Sleeping Locomotive

    First Sleeping Locomotive
    The world’s first sleeping car ran between Harrisburg and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
  • New Rail routes connect major cities

    New Rail routes connect major cities
    The first direct railroad between New York and Boston was completed.
  • First Federal Railroad Lannd-Grant Act

    First Federal Railroad Lannd-Grant Act
    President Millard Fillmore signed the first Federal Railroad Land-Grant Act. The Act was intended to promote construction of a railroad that would run from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • First International Railroad

    First International Railroad
    The first international railway in North America was built from Quebec to New York.
  • First Locomotive west of the Mississippi

    First Locomotive west of the Mississippi
    The first locomotive built west of the Mississippi River, ran from St. Louis to Cheltenham, a distance of five miles.
  • Rail route from Eastern seaboard

    Rail route from Eastern seaboard
    The first rail route from the Eastern seaboard was opened. It ran from Chicago to the Mississippi River.
  • "Night Seat" Coaches

    "Night Seat" Coaches
    Reclining-seat cars were introduced between Philadelphia and Baltimore. They were nicknamed “night seat” coaches.
  • The Niagara Suspension Bridge

    The Niagara Suspension Bridge
    The Niagara Suspension Bridge was completed. It was the world’s first working railway suspension bridge. This opened another route between the East and West. It connected Niagara Falls, Ontario to Niagara Falls, New York.
  • West Coast's first railroad

    West Coast's first railroad
    The West Coast’s first railroad was opened from Sacramento to Folsom, California.
  • Mississippi River Bridge

    Mississippi River Bridge
    The first railroad bridge to cross the Mississippi River was built at Davenport, Iowa. It was later partially burned, rebuilt, and reopened.
  • Pullman Sleeping Car

    Pullman Sleeping Car
    The introduction of the first Pullman sleeping car, demonstrated the luxury. The car was invented by George Pullman.
  • New Constuction by Lincoln

    New Constuction by Lincoln
    President Abraham Lincoln signed an act to authorize the construction of a line of railroads from the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast.
  • Automatic Block Signals

    Automatic Block Signals
    Automatic block signals were introduced. The automatic block signals indicate whether or not a train may enter a block based on whether or not a block is clear.
  • Rulling Dining Car

    Rulling Dining Car
    The first Pullman dining car was put into service.
  • Golden Spike Ceremony

    Golden Spike Ceremony
    The completion of the first transcontinental rail route. It was signified by the Golden Spike ceremony in Promontory, Utah.
  • Pullman Parlor Car

    Pullman Parlor Car
    The introduction of the first Pullman parlor car.
  • Standardization of Gauge

    Standardization of Gauge
    The standardization of gauges, at 4 ft. 8 ½ in., of railroads was completed, allowing an interchange of cars throughout the country for the first time.
  • Electric Lights

    Electric Lights
    The first trains to run fully equipped with electric lights
  • Brake Improvements

    Brake Improvements
    The adoption of an automatic, quick-action, triple-valve break for freight service
  • 100 MPH Run

    100 MPH Run
    Locomotive No. 999 made the world’s first 100 mph run in New York.
  • Conversion to Electricity

    Conversion to Electricity
    The first railroad conversion to electricity was completed on three railroads in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland.
  • The Cascade Tunnel

    The Cascade Tunnel
    The Cascade Tunnel was built in Washington, making it the longest tunnel in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Air-Conditioned Trains

    Air-Conditioned Trains
    The world’s first completely air-conditioned passenger train was put in service between New York and Washington.
  • Gas-Turbine-Electric-Locomotive

    The first gas-turbine-electric locomotive in the United States went into regular service.
  • Silicon Rectifier Locomotive

    Silicon Rectifier Locomotive
    The first silicon rectifier locomotive was introduced to an Eastern railroad.
  • High-speed Metroliner

    High-speed Metroliner
    High-speed Metroliner rail service was put into service between Washington and New York.
  • High-Speed Turbo-Train

    High-Speed Turbo-Train
    High-speed Turbo-train service was introduced between New York and Boston.
  • Amtrack Created

    Amtrack Created
    The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrack) was established.
  • Railroads become more popular

    Railroads become more popular
    Amtrack carried 18.5 million passengers, marking a steady increase in the use of railroads.