1987 2c Transportation Series: Locomotive, 1870s, re-engraved

# 2226 - 1987 2c Transportation Series: Locomotive, 1870s, re-engraved

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U.S. #2226
1987 2¢ Locomotive, 1870s, re-engraved
Transportation Series

  • Re-engraving of 1982 Locomotive stamp
  • First re-engraved Transportation stamp with a First Day ceremony

Stamp Category:  Definitive
Series: 
Transportation
Value: 

First Day of Issue: 
March 6, 1987
First Day City: 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Quantity Issued: 
33,072,000 ordered
Printed by: 
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: 
Engraved
Format: 
Coils of 100, 500, and 3,000
Perforations:  10 Vertical
Color:
  Black

 

Why the stamp was issued:  Several of the early Transportation stamps had been printed on the Cottrell presses, which were no longer in use.  Over time, they needed to print more stamps of certain denominations.  When possible, they reused the same master die.  But some stamps with designs larger than .73 inches needed to be re-engraved.  This Locomotive stamp was among those to be re-engraved.  The new stamp had several small differences from the original stamp.

 

About the stamp design:  Artist David Stone produced the image of the locomotive pictured on this stamp.  The Smithsonian said it appears similar to No. 71, which was built for the Atlantic & Great Western Railway, which ran on the Erie Railroad out of New York City. Stone worked from about 50 different railroad lithographs from Currier and Ives.

 

US #2226 features the same design as US #1897A.  In keeping with the 1986 USPS decision to make stamp numerals as large as possible, the numeral "2" was enlarged to twice its original size. The cent sign was eliminated and the "USA" was moved behind the numerical value, changing the "USA 2¢" to "2 USA."

 

First Day City:  This stamp replaced a delayed flag postal card that was scheduled for release at the MILCOPEX ’87 stamp show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Issued at a special ceremony at the Kilbourn Hall of Milwaukee’s MECCA Auditorium, it was the first of the re-engraved Transportation stamps to receive a first day ceremony.  Interestingly, the booklet of five Locomotives stamps issued later in 1987 was unveiled during this ceremony.

 

About the Transportation Series:  On May 18, 1981, the USPS issued the first stamp in the Transportation Series, US #1907, picturing the Surrey, a doorless four-wheeled carriage. For the first time in US history, a coil stamp featured its own unique design rather than simply copying that of the current definitive stamp. Over 50 more coil stamps would be issued over the course of the next 15 years, each picturing a different mode of transportation. All of these types of transportation were used since American independence.

The various denominations provided face values to exactly match the rates for several categories of Third-Class mail (bulk rate and quantity-discounted mail). As the rates changed, new stamps with new values were added. Never before had a stamp series included so many fractional cent values.


The Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed most of the stamps in the Transportation Series, although private contractors printed a few. All but a few of the later stamps were produced by engraved intaglio. Differences in precancels, tagging, paper and gum provide a large number of varieties.


Scott Catalog separates the Transportation stamps into four groups. The stamps in the first group (#1897-1908) generally have the denomination in small type with a “c” next to it. These stamps were printed on the Cottrell rotary press, which joined together two plates to make a sleeve. The gaps between these plates created depressions where ink would collect and create joint lines on the stamps. Later issues were printed on a different press and didn’t have these joint lines.


The second group (#2123-36) had larger numbers with no “c.”  The third group (#2252-66) was similar in appearance to the second group, but service inscriptions were added to the designs. These stamps also used a variety of paper and gum as well as different types of tagging. The fourth group (#2451-68) marked the end of fractional values. Now bulk mailers would use either the 5¢ or 10¢ stamp and then pay the difference from the actual postage rate.


The last stamp in the Transportation Series, the 20¢ Cog Railway, was issued on June 9, 1995, at the TEXPEX ’95 stamp show in Dallas, Texas. This marked the end of the largest US definitive series up to that time. Three new series would eventually replace it – American Transportation, American Culture, and American Scenes. Additionally, the Great Americans would go on to become the largest American definitive series.

 

History the stamp represents:  The distant shriek of the whistle, a plume of smoke in the sky, the rattle of approaching wheels.  The train was a sign of hope.  Maybe a long-awaited visit from a friend... a package or letter from a distant relative... or the shipment of supplies to get a business on its feet.  Trains connected the country’s families, friends, and businesses and contributed to the rapid growth of industry.

 

Railways

Man discovered long ago that it was easier to pull a wagon over a track than across the uneven ground.  A limestone wagonway carried boats across the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece around 600 BC.  Boats were loaded on wheeled vehicles, then pulled by men or animals.  They traveled across four miles of land from the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf on the southeast coast of Greece.

 

Many years later, wooden tracks were used to connect mines with waterways.  Horse-drawn wagons full of coal or iron ore could carry heavier loads on the tracks than on rough dirt trails.  Iron straps were applied to strengthen the rails.  The wheels were grooved to help them stay on the track.  Though used initially in Europe, American companies quickly applied the   concept as well.  Stone from quarries in Massachusetts used to make the Bunker Hill Monument was hauled over rails in 1827.  Wagons, pulled by horses, were used on tracks in quarries and mines throughout the East.  Steam power eventually replaced horsepower on the iron rails.

 

Steam Power

Just as railways were first used in mines, steam engines were developed to pump water out of mines.  Scotsman James Watt adapted the design to make an engine capable of powering a wheel, which was used in cotton mills.  In 1784, he patented a design for a steam locomotive, and his assistant William Murdoch produced a working model of a steam carriage that year.

 

British inventor Richard Trevithick built a steam engine in the United Kingdom.  In 1804, his engine pulled a train on the rails of an ironworks factory.  His engines proved too heavy for the tracks and he never saw the success of his invention. 

 

When the price of horse feed soared, a need for an alternative to horse-drawn transportation arose.  In 1812, the Salamanca became the first commercially successful steam locomotive.  Matthew Murray’s design was light enough to avoid breaking the tracks as it carried coal along the Middleton Railway in England.

 

George Stephenson of England adapted the designs of Trevithick and Murray and built the Locomotion in 1825 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway.  On its first voyage, the locomotive pulled more than 25 wagons filled with goods and adventurous passengers.  The Stockton and Darlington was the first public steam railway in the world.  It proved that rails could be used for shipping goods other than coal.  Rolled wrought iron was used to avoid breaking the rails.  The success of this venture led Stephenson to establish a company that built steam locomotives for the United Kingdom, the United States, and Europe.

 

Development in America

American Oliver Evans built the first steamed-powered vehicle in 1804.  His Orukter Amphibolos (amphibious digger) was a wagon that could be used as a boat.  He envisioned what steam railways could become.  He saw small towns and big cities being linked by miles of tracks, and fast steam engines transporting passengers and goods.  Shortly before Evans died in 1819, he said, “I do verily believe that carriages propelled by steam will come into general use, and travel at the rate of 300 miles a day.”  His ideas were ahead of his time, but they did come to pass.

 

Inventor John Stevens also believed in the future of steam railroads.  He built steamboats and owned and operated a ferry service from Hoboken, New Jersey, to New York City. This was the first steam ferry in the world.  Stevens’ proposal for a railroad described tracks, wheels with an edge to hold them on the track, and steam locomotives.  His ideas were not popular because the Erie Canal was so successful that 19 canals were being dug by 1825. 

 

The businessmen of Baltimore were threatened by the Erie Canal.  Trade from the West had come over the National Road to Baltimore’s ports.  The Erie Canal drew their business to New York.  Baltimore decided to build a railroad to the Allegheny Mountains, then use inclined planes and cables to transport the cars over the mountains to meet the Ohio River.  In 1827, the B&O Railroad was chartered.  When the cornerstone was laid, Charles Carroll, the only surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, gave a speech in which he said this event was second in importance to the Declaration.  The track, originally used by horse-drawn wagons, opened for operation in 1830.  During the first month of operation, the road took in one thousand dollars a week, the equivalent of $250,000 in today’s wages. 

 

While the B&O was being built, steam locomotives were used on tracks that were already established.  The English-built Stourbridge Lion was brought over to the US to run on the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company rails.  On its first run, in 1829, it proved to be too heavy for the track and its rigid wheels were not designed for the hills and sharp curves of Pennsylvania.  Though unsuccessful, people began to see the potential of steam locomotives.

 

Inventor Peter Cooper of New York owned land in Baltimore and was interested in building a steam engine for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  His newly designed locomotive was so small he called it the Tom Thumb.  In the summer of 1830, the little engine attained speeds of eighteen miles an hour, almost twice as fast as a horse-drawn wagon.  On one trip, the driver of a horse-drawn coach challenged Cooper to a race.  After getting up steam, the Tom Thumb gained a large lead, then a belt dislodged and the engine slowed.  The horse won the race, but B&O officials were convinced steam was the power of the future.  The B&O is now the oldest American railroad in continuous existence.

 

While Baltimore was concerned about losing business to the Erie Canal, Charleston, South Carolina’s cotton trade was being challenged by Savannah, Georgia.  In 1827, the merchants organized the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company.  As the name suggests, they weren’t sure whether to dig a waterway or put in rails.  By 1830, they had decided to build a 137-mile railroad to Hamburg, Georgia, on the Savannah River.  After unsuccessfully trying to propel the rail cars with sails, steam power was suggested.  Horatio Allen, driver of the bulky Stourbridge Lion, who now worked for the Charleston railroad, ordered a steam locomotive from the West Point Foundry of New York.  In the fall of 1830, the Best Friend of Charleston arrived.  It pulled 50 passengers at 21 miles per hour.  On Christmas Day, it became the first American-built steam locomotive to haul a train of passenger cars on a public railroad.  By September 1833, the railroad had been extended to 136 miles, making it the longest railroad in the world at that time.

 

With the success of railroads in Baltimore and Charleston, other cities started building  railroads.  New Orleans became connected to Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico.  Lexington, Kentucky, sent goods to the Ohio River, and Boston branched out to nearby cities and Albany, New York. 

 

Railroad tracks were laid at an explosive rate once the success of steam engines was realized.  From 1820-30, only forty miles of track were built.  By 1835, more than 1,000 miles were in use and 200 lines were being planned.  By the time of the Civil War, America had built over 31,000 miles of railroad tracks.  Railroads replaced canals and steamboats as the primary method to transport goods.

 

Railroads During The Civil War

 When teams of horse-drawn wagons were used to move supplies for war, feed for the  animals took up precious cargo space.  Plus horses were sensitive to heat exhaustion and could be killed in battle.  With the advent of railroads, armies could move further and faster than before, without wasted space.  Before the start of the Civil War, only one third of the nation’s over-30,000 miles of track was in the South.  At the time, few people realized what an advantage that would give the Union.

 

President Abraham Lincoln had been an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, before becoming President, so he knew the importance of railways.  He promoted Herman Haupt, former general manager of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to colonel in the Union Army.  He was assigned to rebuilding the railroads in Virginia.  Haupt had some difficulty with generals who did not want to take orders from a colonel and who blocked the supply of goods to the army.  The secretary of war threatened instant dismissal for any officer who interfered with the running of the railroad.

 

The Confederate Army, under General Robert E. Lee, used the rails to gain some important victories.  Supplies and reinforcements were brought to Virginia from Texas.  The movement of troops from Mississippi to Tennessee helped General Bragg drive Union troops out of Tennessee.

 

Both sides destroyed railways to slow the enemy.  At first, iron tracks were dug up and thrown to the side.  When it was determined they were too easy to repair, the wooden ties were dug up and burned.  The iron tracks were thrown on the fire and melted out of shape.  When crews became adept at reshaping them, the tracks were heated by the other side and wrapped around trees or twisted into what was called “Sherman Neckties.”  General Sherman knew “if when red hot [the rails] are twisted out of line they cannot be used again.”  Entire crews were dedicated to the repair of the railroads.

 

As Sherman led his Union troops to Atlanta, he was supplied with goods delivered by trains.  Every day crews brought 160 carloads of supplies and reinforcements that took the empty trains back to reload.  Sherman wrote that his march would have been “impossible without the railroads.” 

 

Transcontinental Railroad

In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862.  It authorized building a railroad from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.  The Union Pacific Railroad Company began heading west from Counsel Bluffs, Iowa, while the Central Pacific built eastward from Sacramento, California.  When the War ended, many Army veterans worked for the Union Pacific along with Irish immigrants.  Labor was hard to find in the West, but Chinese immigrants diligently pushed the railroad over the Sierra Nevada mountains.  On May 10, 1869, a golden spike was driven into the rail at Promontory Summit, Utah, to mark the completion of the 1,756-mile transcontinental railroad.

 

The “Pacific Railroad,” as it was first called, opened the west to trade, travel, and settlement.  It marked the end of dangerous stagecoach and wagon journeys.  Towns seemed to appear overnight along the route.

 

Passenger Trains

The two main categories of trains are passenger and freight.  When steam locomotion began, people and goods were transported on the same train, sometimes in the same car, with passengers squeezing in around sacks of flour or sitting in a wagon-load of coal.  It became apparent that passengers should travel separately from freight. 

 

Early passenger trains were not comfortable.  Stagecoaches were adapted as passenger cars and sparks from the smokestack occasionally caught passengers’ clothes on fire.  Some early trains had no brakes, so when a train reached a station, a crew of men would grab the cars to slow them down.  If the wood used for fuel ran out on a longer trip, the crew would use axes and cut down trees along the railway.  The passengers would have to wait until enough wood was cut and loaded.  Early passenger trains were linked together with chain.  When the engine started or stopped, the passengers would be thrown around the coach as the cars lurched forward or slammed into each other.  Over time, the cars were redesigned.  Their walls were enclosed so embers and sparks from the engine would no longer burn passengers’ clothes and coal stoves were added for winter travel.  Eventually, sleeping cars fashioned after canal packet boats were offered on longer trips.  People who could not endure a long, uncomfortable stagecoach ride, could now travel more easily to see family or friends.

 

With the expansion of tracks leading from cities to rural areas, families moved to the country.  Workers commuted to the city each day, then returned to the suburbs in the evening.  Commuter trains could carry many more people than if they traveled by roads and caused less air pollution.  Passenger trains running to and from the cities with set schedules became commonplace.  In Tokyo, Japan, about 3.5 million passengers now ride the Yamanote Line every day. 

 

In other parts of the world, high-speed passenger trains are used for commuting and long-distance travel.  In 1964, the first train to travel at over 124 mph was the Japanese Shinkansen, or bullet train.  In 2007, France’s TGV, which means “high-speed train,” reached speeds of over 350 mph.  China’s high-speed railway presently runs at over 200 mph during its regular schedule.

 

Freight Trains

In the United States, the rail system is used more for transporting freight than passengers.  Railroads were originally used to move heavy loads of coal and ore, and continue to be used to move large, heavy loads.  Freight engines do not need the speed of passenger trains, but they require more power.  Using modern trains is far more economical and energy efficient than transporting goods by roadway.  Containers can be carried on a freight train, then unloaded when the train reaches its destination.  Thanks to freight trains, goods from remote areas can be shipped all over the United States.

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U.S. #2226
1987 2¢ Locomotive, 1870s, re-engraved
Transportation Series

  • Re-engraving of 1982 Locomotive stamp
  • First re-engraved Transportation stamp with a First Day ceremony

Stamp Category:  Definitive
Series: 
Transportation
Value: 

First Day of Issue: 
March 6, 1987
First Day City: 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Quantity Issued: 
33,072,000 ordered
Printed by: 
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: 
Engraved
Format: 
Coils of 100, 500, and 3,000
Perforations:  10 Vertical
Color:
  Black

 

Why the stamp was issued:  Several of the early Transportation stamps had been printed on the Cottrell presses, which were no longer in use.  Over time, they needed to print more stamps of certain denominations.  When possible, they reused the same master die.  But some stamps with designs larger than .73 inches needed to be re-engraved.  This Locomotive stamp was among those to be re-engraved.  The new stamp had several small differences from the original stamp.

 

About the stamp design:  Artist David Stone produced the image of the locomotive pictured on this stamp.  The Smithsonian said it appears similar to No. 71, which was built for the Atlantic & Great Western Railway, which ran on the Erie Railroad out of New York City. Stone worked from about 50 different railroad lithographs from Currier and Ives.

 

US #2226 features the same design as US #1897A.  In keeping with the 1986 USPS decision to make stamp numerals as large as possible, the numeral "2" was enlarged to twice its original size. The cent sign was eliminated and the "USA" was moved behind the numerical value, changing the "USA 2¢" to "2 USA."

 

First Day City:  This stamp replaced a delayed flag postal card that was scheduled for release at the MILCOPEX ’87 stamp show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Issued at a special ceremony at the Kilbourn Hall of Milwaukee’s MECCA Auditorium, it was the first of the re-engraved Transportation stamps to receive a first day ceremony.  Interestingly, the booklet of five Locomotives stamps issued later in 1987 was unveiled during this ceremony.

 

About the Transportation Series:  On May 18, 1981, the USPS issued the first stamp in the Transportation Series, US #1907, picturing the Surrey, a doorless four-wheeled carriage. For the first time in US history, a coil stamp featured its own unique design rather than simply copying that of the current definitive stamp. Over 50 more coil stamps would be issued over the course of the next 15 years, each picturing a different mode of transportation. All of these types of transportation were used since American independence.

The various denominations provided face values to exactly match the rates for several categories of Third-Class mail (bulk rate and quantity-discounted mail). As the rates changed, new stamps with new values were added. Never before had a stamp series included so many fractional cent values.


The Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed most of the stamps in the Transportation Series, although private contractors printed a few. All but a few of the later stamps were produced by engraved intaglio. Differences in precancels, tagging, paper and gum provide a large number of varieties.


Scott Catalog separates the Transportation stamps into four groups. The stamps in the first group (#1897-1908) generally have the denomination in small type with a “c” next to it. These stamps were printed on the Cottrell rotary press, which joined together two plates to make a sleeve. The gaps between these plates created depressions where ink would collect and create joint lines on the stamps. Later issues were printed on a different press and didn’t have these joint lines.


The second group (#2123-36) had larger numbers with no “c.”  The third group (#2252-66) was similar in appearance to the second group, but service inscriptions were added to the designs. These stamps also used a variety of paper and gum as well as different types of tagging. The fourth group (#2451-68) marked the end of fractional values. Now bulk mailers would use either the 5¢ or 10¢ stamp and then pay the difference from the actual postage rate.


The last stamp in the Transportation Series, the 20¢ Cog Railway, was issued on June 9, 1995, at the TEXPEX ’95 stamp show in Dallas, Texas. This marked the end of the largest US definitive series up to that time. Three new series would eventually replace it – American Transportation, American Culture, and American Scenes. Additionally, the Great Americans would go on to become the largest American definitive series.

 

History the stamp represents:  The distant shriek of the whistle, a plume of smoke in the sky, the rattle of approaching wheels.  The train was a sign of hope.  Maybe a long-awaited visit from a friend... a package or letter from a distant relative... or the shipment of supplies to get a business on its feet.  Trains connected the country’s families, friends, and businesses and contributed to the rapid growth of industry.

 

Railways

Man discovered long ago that it was easier to pull a wagon over a track than across the uneven ground.  A limestone wagonway carried boats across the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece around 600 BC.  Boats were loaded on wheeled vehicles, then pulled by men or animals.  They traveled across four miles of land from the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf on the southeast coast of Greece.

 

Many years later, wooden tracks were used to connect mines with waterways.  Horse-drawn wagons full of coal or iron ore could carry heavier loads on the tracks than on rough dirt trails.  Iron straps were applied to strengthen the rails.  The wheels were grooved to help them stay on the track.  Though used initially in Europe, American companies quickly applied the   concept as well.  Stone from quarries in Massachusetts used to make the Bunker Hill Monument was hauled over rails in 1827.  Wagons, pulled by horses, were used on tracks in quarries and mines throughout the East.  Steam power eventually replaced horsepower on the iron rails.

 

Steam Power

Just as railways were first used in mines, steam engines were developed to pump water out of mines.  Scotsman James Watt adapted the design to make an engine capable of powering a wheel, which was used in cotton mills.  In 1784, he patented a design for a steam locomotive, and his assistant William Murdoch produced a working model of a steam carriage that year.

 

British inventor Richard Trevithick built a steam engine in the United Kingdom.  In 1804, his engine pulled a train on the rails of an ironworks factory.  His engines proved too heavy for the tracks and he never saw the success of his invention. 

 

When the price of horse feed soared, a need for an alternative to horse-drawn transportation arose.  In 1812, the Salamanca became the first commercially successful steam locomotive.  Matthew Murray’s design was light enough to avoid breaking the tracks as it carried coal along the Middleton Railway in England.

 

George Stephenson of England adapted the designs of Trevithick and Murray and built the Locomotion in 1825 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway.  On its first voyage, the locomotive pulled more than 25 wagons filled with goods and adventurous passengers.  The Stockton and Darlington was the first public steam railway in the world.  It proved that rails could be used for shipping goods other than coal.  Rolled wrought iron was used to avoid breaking the rails.  The success of this venture led Stephenson to establish a company that built steam locomotives for the United Kingdom, the United States, and Europe.

 

Development in America

American Oliver Evans built the first steamed-powered vehicle in 1804.  His Orukter Amphibolos (amphibious digger) was a wagon that could be used as a boat.  He envisioned what steam railways could become.  He saw small towns and big cities being linked by miles of tracks, and fast steam engines transporting passengers and goods.  Shortly before Evans died in 1819, he said, “I do verily believe that carriages propelled by steam will come into general use, and travel at the rate of 300 miles a day.”  His ideas were ahead of his time, but they did come to pass.

 

Inventor John Stevens also believed in the future of steam railroads.  He built steamboats and owned and operated a ferry service from Hoboken, New Jersey, to New York City. This was the first steam ferry in the world.  Stevens’ proposal for a railroad described tracks, wheels with an edge to hold them on the track, and steam locomotives.  His ideas were not popular because the Erie Canal was so successful that 19 canals were being dug by 1825. 

 

The businessmen of Baltimore were threatened by the Erie Canal.  Trade from the West had come over the National Road to Baltimore’s ports.  The Erie Canal drew their business to New York.  Baltimore decided to build a railroad to the Allegheny Mountains, then use inclined planes and cables to transport the cars over the mountains to meet the Ohio River.  In 1827, the B&O Railroad was chartered.  When the cornerstone was laid, Charles Carroll, the only surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, gave a speech in which he said this event was second in importance to the Declaration.  The track, originally used by horse-drawn wagons, opened for operation in 1830.  During the first month of operation, the road took in one thousand dollars a week, the equivalent of $250,000 in today’s wages. 

 

While the B&O was being built, steam locomotives were used on tracks that were already established.  The English-built Stourbridge Lion was brought over to the US to run on the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company rails.  On its first run, in 1829, it proved to be too heavy for the track and its rigid wheels were not designed for the hills and sharp curves of Pennsylvania.  Though unsuccessful, people began to see the potential of steam locomotives.

 

Inventor Peter Cooper of New York owned land in Baltimore and was interested in building a steam engine for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  His newly designed locomotive was so small he called it the Tom Thumb.  In the summer of 1830, the little engine attained speeds of eighteen miles an hour, almost twice as fast as a horse-drawn wagon.  On one trip, the driver of a horse-drawn coach challenged Cooper to a race.  After getting up steam, the Tom Thumb gained a large lead, then a belt dislodged and the engine slowed.  The horse won the race, but B&O officials were convinced steam was the power of the future.  The B&O is now the oldest American railroad in continuous existence.

 

While Baltimore was concerned about losing business to the Erie Canal, Charleston, South Carolina’s cotton trade was being challenged by Savannah, Georgia.  In 1827, the merchants organized the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company.  As the name suggests, they weren’t sure whether to dig a waterway or put in rails.  By 1830, they had decided to build a 137-mile railroad to Hamburg, Georgia, on the Savannah River.  After unsuccessfully trying to propel the rail cars with sails, steam power was suggested.  Horatio Allen, driver of the bulky Stourbridge Lion, who now worked for the Charleston railroad, ordered a steam locomotive from the West Point Foundry of New York.  In the fall of 1830, the Best Friend of Charleston arrived.  It pulled 50 passengers at 21 miles per hour.  On Christmas Day, it became the first American-built steam locomotive to haul a train of passenger cars on a public railroad.  By September 1833, the railroad had been extended to 136 miles, making it the longest railroad in the world at that time.

 

With the success of railroads in Baltimore and Charleston, other cities started building  railroads.  New Orleans became connected to Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico.  Lexington, Kentucky, sent goods to the Ohio River, and Boston branched out to nearby cities and Albany, New York. 

 

Railroad tracks were laid at an explosive rate once the success of steam engines was realized.  From 1820-30, only forty miles of track were built.  By 1835, more than 1,000 miles were in use and 200 lines were being planned.  By the time of the Civil War, America had built over 31,000 miles of railroad tracks.  Railroads replaced canals and steamboats as the primary method to transport goods.

 

Railroads During The Civil War

 When teams of horse-drawn wagons were used to move supplies for war, feed for the  animals took up precious cargo space.  Plus horses were sensitive to heat exhaustion and could be killed in battle.  With the advent of railroads, armies could move further and faster than before, without wasted space.  Before the start of the Civil War, only one third of the nation’s over-30,000 miles of track was in the South.  At the time, few people realized what an advantage that would give the Union.

 

President Abraham Lincoln had been an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, before becoming President, so he knew the importance of railways.  He promoted Herman Haupt, former general manager of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to colonel in the Union Army.  He was assigned to rebuilding the railroads in Virginia.  Haupt had some difficulty with generals who did not want to take orders from a colonel and who blocked the supply of goods to the army.  The secretary of war threatened instant dismissal for any officer who interfered with the running of the railroad.

 

The Confederate Army, under General Robert E. Lee, used the rails to gain some important victories.  Supplies and reinforcements were brought to Virginia from Texas.  The movement of troops from Mississippi to Tennessee helped General Bragg drive Union troops out of Tennessee.

 

Both sides destroyed railways to slow the enemy.  At first, iron tracks were dug up and thrown to the side.  When it was determined they were too easy to repair, the wooden ties were dug up and burned.  The iron tracks were thrown on the fire and melted out of shape.  When crews became adept at reshaping them, the tracks were heated by the other side and wrapped around trees or twisted into what was called “Sherman Neckties.”  General Sherman knew “if when red hot [the rails] are twisted out of line they cannot be used again.”  Entire crews were dedicated to the repair of the railroads.

 

As Sherman led his Union troops to Atlanta, he was supplied with goods delivered by trains.  Every day crews brought 160 carloads of supplies and reinforcements that took the empty trains back to reload.  Sherman wrote that his march would have been “impossible without the railroads.” 

 

Transcontinental Railroad

In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862.  It authorized building a railroad from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.  The Union Pacific Railroad Company began heading west from Counsel Bluffs, Iowa, while the Central Pacific built eastward from Sacramento, California.  When the War ended, many Army veterans worked for the Union Pacific along with Irish immigrants.  Labor was hard to find in the West, but Chinese immigrants diligently pushed the railroad over the Sierra Nevada mountains.  On May 10, 1869, a golden spike was driven into the rail at Promontory Summit, Utah, to mark the completion of the 1,756-mile transcontinental railroad.

 

The “Pacific Railroad,” as it was first called, opened the west to trade, travel, and settlement.  It marked the end of dangerous stagecoach and wagon journeys.  Towns seemed to appear overnight along the route.

 

Passenger Trains

The two main categories of trains are passenger and freight.  When steam locomotion began, people and goods were transported on the same train, sometimes in the same car, with passengers squeezing in around sacks of flour or sitting in a wagon-load of coal.  It became apparent that passengers should travel separately from freight. 

 

Early passenger trains were not comfortable.  Stagecoaches were adapted as passenger cars and sparks from the smokestack occasionally caught passengers’ clothes on fire.  Some early trains had no brakes, so when a train reached a station, a crew of men would grab the cars to slow them down.  If the wood used for fuel ran out on a longer trip, the crew would use axes and cut down trees along the railway.  The passengers would have to wait until enough wood was cut and loaded.  Early passenger trains were linked together with chain.  When the engine started or stopped, the passengers would be thrown around the coach as the cars lurched forward or slammed into each other.  Over time, the cars were redesigned.  Their walls were enclosed so embers and sparks from the engine would no longer burn passengers’ clothes and coal stoves were added for winter travel.  Eventually, sleeping cars fashioned after canal packet boats were offered on longer trips.  People who could not endure a long, uncomfortable stagecoach ride, could now travel more easily to see family or friends.

 

With the expansion of tracks leading from cities to rural areas, families moved to the country.  Workers commuted to the city each day, then returned to the suburbs in the evening.  Commuter trains could carry many more people than if they traveled by roads and caused less air pollution.  Passenger trains running to and from the cities with set schedules became commonplace.  In Tokyo, Japan, about 3.5 million passengers now ride the Yamanote Line every day. 

 

In other parts of the world, high-speed passenger trains are used for commuting and long-distance travel.  In 1964, the first train to travel at over 124 mph was the Japanese Shinkansen, or bullet train.  In 2007, France’s TGV, which means “high-speed train,” reached speeds of over 350 mph.  China’s high-speed railway presently runs at over 200 mph during its regular schedule.

 

Freight Trains

In the United States, the rail system is used more for transporting freight than passengers.  Railroads were originally used to move heavy loads of coal and ore, and continue to be used to move large, heavy loads.  Freight engines do not need the speed of passenger trains, but they require more power.  Using modern trains is far more economical and energy efficient than transporting goods by roadway.  Containers can be carried on a freight train, then unloaded when the train reaches its destination.  Thanks to freight trains, goods from remote areas can be shipped all over the United States.