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European Themeroute | Transport and Communication

During the early years of the Industrial Revolution there was a radical change in transportation. The arrival of pounding steamships and steam locomotives gave a huge boost to industrialisation. The change began on the canals which, for centuries, had proved to be the best means of transporting goods. In ... more

Icon: Transport and CommunicationThe tracks of the Industrial Revolution. European Theme Route Transport

During the early years of the Industrial Revolution there was a radical change in transportation. The arrival of pounding steamships and steam locomotives gave a huge boost to industrialisation. The change began on the canals which, for centuries, had proved to be the best means of transporting goods. In 1761, the Bridgewater canal was completed in one of the birthplaces of the industrial age, the British textile area Lancashire; from then on, the route supplied the booming city of Manchester with coal. Other canals followed quickly, enabling coal to be transported to textile factories and iron mills in all the major cities in Britain.

The steam engine triggered off the revolution in transport. The first experiments with the technology date back to 1690, when a French physicist by the name of Dennis Papin designed a steam-driven boat with bucket wheels. But it was not until a century later that practical experiments took place both in France and Britain. Nevertheless it was an American, Robert Fulton, who succeeded in building the first steamship – even before the first locomotive took to the rails. The "Clermont", a flat bottomed boat with two huge bucket wheels and a steam engine, was launched into the Hudson River in 1807.

In 1827 an Austrian forest engineer, Joseph Ressel, took out a patent on a screw propeller. This only really became commercially viable in 1845 after the "Great Britain" had crossed the Atlantic, driven by a ca. 5 metre screw propeller. About the same time people stopped building ships made of wood, because iron hulls were cheaper to construct, could take greater loads and withstand rough seas more easily. A gigantic new market had been opened for the ironmaking industry.

Railways gave the other great boost to industrialisation. They were first used in collieries, where goods wagons ran on wooden rails. About the middle of the 18th century horse-driven railways were running, both above and below the surface, on rails completely made of iron. The first steam-driven wagon was made by the French artillery officer, Nicolas Cugnot around 1770. He was followed by the Englishman, Richard Trevithick, who set his vehicle on rails. In 1803 the first colliery locomotive went into action in Coalbrookdale. This gave rise to George Stephenson's classic steam engine: the front part consisted of a large steam boiler, behind which worked the driver and the stoker; within the engine were a huge amount of horizontal heating pipes, and the steam was blown out at the front. Steam cylinders and pistons were mounted beneath on either side in order to drive the wheels directly.

Stephenson also built the first railway line in England. In 1825, the Stockton and Darlington Railway was opened, and the subsequent railway boom resulted in an explosive growth in the whole of the British economy.

Just as railway mania was beginning to die down, a new development began: the motorcar engine. This revolutionised road traffic completely - primarily, however, on the continent and in the USA. Inventors started by trying to eradicate the disadvantages of the steam engine, which lost a lot of energy because the steam was created in the boiler but used separately in the operating cylinder. Therefore people started experimenting with burning the fuel directly in the operating cylinder. The obvious fuel seemed to be gas (produced from coal), for this was used for street lighting in many places. The first working gas engine was built in 1859 by a citizen of Luxembourg, Étienne Lenoir. He blew an explosive mixture of gas and air into a horizontal cylinder, alternately left and right of the pistons, and ignited it with an electric spark. Since both the mechanical stress and the fuel consumption were very high, the world had to wait until 1876 when the first really marketable internal combustion engine was launched by the German travelling salesman, Nicolaus August Otto.

Otto’s époque-making idea was the four-stroke principal. On the first stroke (intake) the piston descends, and a mixture of gas and air is sucked into the cylinder; on the second (compression), the piston rises and compresses the fuel-air mixture. This is then ignited electrically, and the resulting expansion of burning gases drives the piston downwards (power). On the fourth stroke (exhaust), the piston rises once again and pushes the waste fuel from the cylinder.

Rudolf Diesel's engine, however, was even more efficient. The German engineer based his findings on those of the French physician, Sadi Carnot. His motor sucked in pure air into the cylinder. And because this can be more highly compressed than a mixture, it heats up strongly. Only then is the fuel injected. Because of the high temperature, this ignites automatically, thereby driving the piston in the same way as in the Otto motor. Diesel's engine was presented to the world in 1897, and proved to be both durable and economic. It was possible to get several thousand horsepower from it. The result was that it replaced steam engines in small power stations and was soon built into ships. That said, the high compression demanded a robust construction, so that for a long time the motor was too heavy for locomotives and motor cars.

In the 1870s it was discovered that oil products could be used as engine fuel, because they could easily be gasified: the heavy oil components in diesel motors, the light ones in Otto motors. Now that an alternative had been found to coal gas, people were no longer dependent on a stationary gas connection. There were no more obstacles in the way of the triumphant march of new, mobile internal combustion engines.

Otto’s four-stroke motor was first put into motion in 1885 in a three wheel car made by the Mannheim constructor, Carl Benz; and a wooden motorbike made by Gottfried Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. In the following years these two German engineers presented the first four-wheeled motorcar, which they had developed from a coach. It was driven by a single-cylinder motor with a 0.5 litre piston displacement and a performance of 1.5 horsepower. The vehicle became commercially viable on the French market where large engineering and assembly works had taken over motor manufacturing. Thanks to producers like Peugeot, Panhard & Levassor and Renault the first motorcar boom in France occurred at the turn of the century.

Further improvements soon made driving more comfortable. In 1888 an Irish vet, John Boyd Dunlop, invented rubber tyres (at first for bicycles); in 1902 the German company Robert Bosch invented sparkplugs, and in 1911 in the USA, an electric starting motor. Maybach’s 1901 "Mercedes" model contained a pioneering example of a motorcar engine: a four-cylinder, four-stroke 35 hp engine which could accelerate the car to a speed of 72 km an hour.

Motorcar production had already become an important manufacturing branch in industrial countries when Henry Ford conquered the mass market. He deliberately set out to build a cheap everyday car for farmers in the mid-west, the Ford model T. Sales rose like lightning, bringing with them revolutionary methods of production. As early as 1911 assembly line production began in the British Ford works in Manchester. In 1914 the complete Ford factory in Detroit was operating on the assembly line system.

London | United Kingdom
Tower Bridge is the most iconic of the structures that cross the River Thames in London. Discussion of a crossing near to the Tower of London began in 1876. The design was brought forward by the City of London architect, Sir Horace Jones (1819-87) and put into effect by the engineer Sir John Wolfe ...
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Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower Bridge
SE1 2UP London, United Kingdom

Lowestoft | United Kingdom
The creation of the East Anglian Transport Museum resulted from the initiative of four tram enthusiasts who restored an old Lowestoft tram from 1962. The museum was opened at Carlton Colville, 3 km from Lowestoft, in 1965. The collections consist principally of trams, trolley buses and motor buses. ...
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East Anglia Transport Museum
Chapel Road Carlton Colville
NR33 8BL Lowestoft, United Kingdom

Lydney | United Kingdom
Visitors to the Dean Forest Railway can ride between Lydney and Parkend, a distance of 6.8 km, along the course of the Severn & Wye Railway, opened in 1810. It was initially built with stone sleeper blocks, some of which can be seen in walls in Lydney Harbour, and wagons were drawn by horses, but in ...
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Dean Forest Railway
Norchard Station Forest Road
GL15 4ET Lydney, United Kingdom

Manchester was one of the very first industrial cities in the world. It is a byword for unrestrained capitalism and appalling social poverty; but also for its pioneering achievements. One of these was the first passenger railway service in the world - and with it the world’s oldest existing station ...
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The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
Liverpool Road Castlefield
M3 4FP Manchester, United Kingdom

Market Harborough | United Kingdom
Foxton LocksA unique patchwork of 18th, 19th and 20th century industrial heritage unmatched anywhere in the world, Foxton is most famous for the ruins of the Incline Plane Boat Lift, and the breathtaking staircase of 10 locks on the Grand Union Canal. The locks are grouped in two staircases of five ...
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Foxton Inclined Plane and Lock Staircase
Foxton
LE16 7RA Market Harborough, United Kingdom

Matlock | United Kingdom
The railway from Ambergate on the North Midland Railway north of Derby through Matlock to Rowsley 6.5 km north, was opened in 1849. It was extended through Monsal Dale to Buxton in 1863 and the route became the Midland Railway’s main line from London St Pancras to Manchester. It was energetically ...
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Peak Rail
Matlock Station
Station Yard
DE4 3NA Matlock, United Kingdom

Middlesbrough | United Kingdom
Middlesbrough, on the south bank of the River Tees about 9 km from its mouth, is one of the classic new towns of the industrial revolution. It developed from the 1820s as a port for the despatch by sea of coal brought to the coast by railway. It grew as a town with the growth of iron- and ...
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Transporter Bridge
Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre
Ferry Road
TS2 1PL Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

Milton Keynes | United Kingdom
Few centres of wartime activity have had as much influence on the long term development of industry as Bletchley Park, a mansion adjacent to a railway junction, 60 miles north of London and now within the boundaries of the new city of Milton Keynes. The British Government decided to move its Code ...
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National Museum of Computing
Block H
Bletchley Park
MK3 6EB Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

Minehead | United Kingdom
The West Somerset Railway prides itself in being the longest standard gauge heritage railway in the United Kingdom, and scenically is amongst the most attractive. Regular service operate over the 33 km. from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard. The single track line was opened from a junction with the Great ...
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West Somerset Railway plc
The Railway Station
TA24 5BG Minehead, United Kingdom

Near Matlock | United Kingdom
The museum at Crich was established in 1955 in a former limestone quarry that provided sufficient space for the operation of tramcars from big cities that had been preserved by private individuals and groups. The National Tramway Museum is now part of what is in effect an open air museum, in which ...
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Crich Tramway Village
DE4 5DP Crich, United Kingdom

Newport | United Kingdom
Completed in 1906, this unique Grade 1 Listed structure is the essence of industrial development in Newport. Designed by the eminent French Bridge Engineer, Ferdinand Arnodin, this ‘Aerial Ferry’ was built to provide safe passage across the River Usk, with its great tidal range, and thus assist the ...
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Newport Transporter Bridge
Stephenson Street
NP19 4 Newport, United Kingdom

North Queensferry | United Kingdom
The cantilever bridge that carries the line from Edinburgh to Aberdeen of the former North British Railway over the Firth of Forth, 14 km west of Edinburgh, was one of the first major structures to be built of mild steel. The North British Railway planned to replace with bridges it ferries across ...
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Forth Bridge
Forth Bridge Heritage Centre North Queensferry Station
KY11 1HP North Queensferry, United Kingdom

Northwich | United Kingdom
Located near Northwich in Cheshire, the Anderton Boat Lift is one of the greatest monuments to Britain´s last canal age and known as the "Cathedral of the Canals". Built in 1875 and silent for 20 years, now re-opened after a £7 million restoration, the world’s first and England´s only boat lift.  ...
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Anderton Boat Lift
Lift Lane Anderton
CW9 6FW Northwich, United Kingdom

Peterborough | United Kingdom
The Nene Valley Railway is an immensely impressive mixture of industrial landscape and steam nostalgia. British and European mainline steam and diesel locomotives run real services into the heart of Peterborough through seven and a half miles of a rural landscape. After a short walk, you can change ...
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Nene Valley Railway
Wansford Station Stibbington
PE8 6LR Peterborough, United Kingdom

Pickering | United Kingdom
The railway between Pickering and Grosmont in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park was originally part of the Whitby& Pickering Railway built with the advice of George Stephenson in 1835. In 1845 it became a double track steam railway as part of the York & North Midland Railway, and from 1854 was ...
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North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Pickering Station
Park Street
YO18 7JA Pickering, United Kingdom

Porthcurno | United Kingdom
Porth Curno, 2 km from Land’s End and 16 km from the town of Penzance was, from 1870, the landing point for the cables that linked Britain with Spain, Portugal, Africa, the Mediterranean and more distant parts of the Empire. The first, linking England with Portugal, was laid in 1870 under the ...
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Porthcurno Telegraph Museum
Eastern House
TR19 6JX Porthcurno, United Kingdom

Porthmadog | United Kingdom
The Festiniog Railway was built to carry slate from quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog over the 21.7 km to the harbour at Porthmadog, and opened in 1836, using, over the first 1.5 km from Porthmadog station the embankment known as The Cob, originally built as part of a land reclamation scheme. ...
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Festiniog Railway
Harbour Station
LL49 9NF Porthmadog, United Kingdom

Quainton | United Kingdom
The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre is a museum with some exhibits of outstanding interest, based at a station with a long and complex history. The station lies 1 km from the village of Quainton, 10 km north west of Aylesbury, and 71 km from London. The first station on the site was opened in 1868 by ...
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Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
Quainton Road Station
HP22 4BY Quainton, United Kingdom

Rushden | United Kingdom
The Rushden Historic Transport Society, a voluntary organisation in the small Northamptonshire market town interprets the transport history of the area in a variety of ways. Its headquarters is the former Midland Railway station on a branch line from Wellingborough to Higham Ferrers, which opened in ...
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Rushden Transport Museum & Railway
Station Approach
NN10 0BW Rushden, United Kingdom

Sandtoft | United Kingdom
The museum at Sandtoft is the principal collection in Europe of trolleybuses, the electrically-powered ‘free-wheeled’ cars, that developed, chiefly in the United Kingdom after 1910, from experiments carried out by German engineers in the 1880s. It originated in 1969 when the Reading Transport ...
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The Trolleybus Museum
Belton Road
DN8 5SX Sandtoft, United Kingdom