Similar to a road, a railroad or railway is built only for travel by train. This development of the road consist of two parallel tracks, usually made of steel that distribute the weight of the train more evenly and provides a very smooth and hard surface on which the wheels of the train may roll with a minimum of friction. The tracks are held together by wooden or concrete sleepers.
Wagonways that had been developed in Germany in the 1550s and the use of these tracks, consisting of wooden rails for horsedrawn wagons, spread across Europe. By the early 1700s these wooden tracks and wheels had started to be replaced by iron and these systems became known as Tramways.
James Watt, a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer was responsible for improvements to the steam engine that caused this device to see wider use and encouraged wider experimentation.
In 1813 George Stephenson persuaded his the manager of the colliery where he worked to allow him to attempt to build a steam-power machine, influenced by the work of James Watt amongst others. He built the Blutcher, which was the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotive. The Stockton and Darlington Railway Company's first line was opened on September 27 1825. Stephenson himself drove The Locomotion, which drew large crowds of spectators.
The railroad was invented in the early stages of the industrial revolution, and became essential to the swift movement of goods and labour that was needed for industrialization. In the beginning the railroad was in competition with canals, but quickly gained ground as steam engine and railroad technology improved.
In Britain and other commonwealth countries the term railway is used in preference to railroad.
- American English - railroad
- Commonwealth English - railway
- French - chemin de fer (way of iron)
- German - die Eisenbahn (way of iron)
- Italian - ferrovia (way of iron)
- Swedish - järnväg (way of iron)
In Britain the term railway is often used to refer to the complete organisation of tracks, trains, stations, signalling, timetables and the organising companies which collectively make up a coordinated railway system.