Ride the Rails in the Comfort of Home
With 50 Used Worldwide Train Stamps
Trains have been a popular stamp subject since the mid-1800s. These “Iron Horses” were technological marvels that moved goods and people over longer distances and faster than ever before. Because of their important role in history, trains have been honored on hundreds of stamps from around the world. Now you can explore some of that history with this affordable collection of worldwide train stamps.
Selections will vary, but the one I looked through pictured all sorts of trains – from older primitive vehicles to steam locomotives, to the sleek and modern trains of recent years. It’s really interesting to see all the trains of the world side by side on stamps – seeing how they’re alike and how they differ. Get ready to explore lot of great train history – order now.
A Bit of Train History…
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. 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.
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.
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 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.
In the 1820s, 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. 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 over $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’s 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.
In 1827, Charleston merchants organized the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. 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 an 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. 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.
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.
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 wagonload of coal. It became apparent that passengers should travel separately from freight.
Early passenger trains were not comfortable. 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.
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.
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.