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The Railroad

early-passenger-trainDuring Monroe’s two terms as President, another great change took place. As there were places where steamboats could not go, and as stages seemed too slow, people began to talk of building passenger railroads. For more than two hundred years the English had used roughly built railroads to carry coal and other heavy materials short distances. In the year 1804 the first steam railroad was built in England, but it was a very imperfect one, the speed being only five miles an hour.

A short railroad to carry earth for grading streets had been built in Boston in 1807, where the cars were drawn by horses or mules. This was the first attempt at a railway in America, although one of our citizens had said in 1804: “The time will come when a steam carriage will set out from Washington in the morning, the passengers will breakfast at Baltimore, dine at Philadelphia, and sup at New York.”

This prophecy seemed very wild to the people who heard it, but it soon came true. Now railroad travel is much faster than it was at first, so that one can easily breakfast in Washington, and still have half a day to spend in New York. Besides, people no longer need to stop for their meals, as the trains are provided with comfortable dining cars.

Soon after this prediction, the inventor John Stevens began making experiments with steam railroads, and in 1826 he built a small model road at Hoboken, in New Jersey. This attempt was laughed at just like the steamboat and canal, but people soon ceased to make fun when they saw how useful it would be. In fact, during the next five years orders were given for the building of several passenger and freight railroads, although the cars on them were at first to be drawn by horses instead of steam engines.

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