Mar 152012

Railways in the Regency era?

Linda Banche explains how Regency Railways did exist.

1808 Richard Trevethick's Steam Engine

1808 Richard Trevethick's Steam Engine


Linda Banche says….. We think of the railroad as a Victorian invention, but railroads as we know them today got their start during the Regency.

Goods and people have always traveled from one place to another. But such movement was limited to what animal power could provide (hence the term “horsepower”) until the invention of the steam engine.

The first workable steam engine was the Newcomen engine, invented in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen.

Diagram of the Newcomen steam engine

Diagram of Newcomen Steam Engine Image via Wikipedia

Better known is James Watt, who improved the Newcomen engine in1765 and continued improvements for thirty-five years until his patent expired in 1800.


Mining played a large role in the history of the railroad.  One of the Newcomen engine’s first uses was to pump water out of mines and air in. Watt’s improved engine harnessed steam for the locomotive, which powered the trains that transported the heavy ores from the mines to their destinations.

The steam locomotive pulling a train was a vast improvement in the hauling of freight. Trains now conveyed coal and ores, which previously depended on horse-drawn vehicles, in a much shorter amount of time and at a much lower cost

The name most often associated with the invention of the locomotive is mining engineer and inventor Richard Trevithick (1771-1833). He invented a steam engine of high enough power to move a loaded train’s massive weight.

He also built the first full-scale working railway steam locomotive in 1799 inCornwall. The first railroad journey took place in 1804, as Trevithick’s improved steam locomotive powered a train along the tramway of the Penydarren Ironworks, in Merthyr Tydfil inWales.

Painting of Richard Trevithick, the engineer, ...

Richard Trevithick, Engineer


Trevithick also built the first passenger locomotive, the Catch Me Who Can.

In 1808, he demonstrated it in Bloomsbury,London, on a circular track.

Advances in railroad technology continued through the years of the Regency proper  (1811- 1820).

Starting a company lagged the technology, since Parliament had to approve every railroad proposal.


In 1821, Parliament authorized the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which would haul coal from the Durham mines to the North Seaports.

Opening Liverpool and Manchester Railway

Opening Liverpool and Manchester Railway


The first inter-city passenger railroad was theLiverpooland Manchester Railway, which was formed in 1823.

The Railway opened in 1830, and the picture above (from Wikipedia) records its first journey.


Linda Banche  – Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

I set my Regency comedy, Gifts Gone Astray in 1817, in Langley,England,Linda Banche Gifts Gone Astray south of the projected route of the Liverpool and Manchester.

The planning for the railroad’s proposal forms part of the plot.

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