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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.

Prague-Střešovice | Czech Republic
Prague’s museum of public transport occupies the Střešovice depot, constructed in 1909 to accommodate electric tramcars which had been operating in the city since 1896. The depot remained in use until 1992 and was designated an historical landmark in 1991. The museum, sponsored by the city transport ...

Prague Public Transport Museum
Muzeum MHD
Patočkova 460/4
16200 Prague, Czech Republic

Zlonice | Czech Republic
The composer and railway enthusiast Antonin Dvořák dedicated his first symphony to the village of Zlonice in Central Bohemia, 60 km north-west of Prague. The main emphasis of the railway museum, situated at the local station, is on railway freight operations. Most of the steam locomotives in the ...

Railway Museum
Železnični museum Zlonice
Lisovice 7
27371 Zlonice, Czech Republic

Copenhagen | Denmark
Holmen is the name given to the row of islands linked by bridges to the east of Copenhagen between Zealand and the northern tip of the island of Amager, most of which are artificial, having been created from the 1680s onwards by sinking the hulks of ships and filling in the areas around them with ...

Holmen Naval Base
Copenhagen, Denmark

Helsingor | Denmark
The museum of technology was established by a private trust in Copenhagen and moved to Helsingor in 1966, where it has been located in several premises but is now all on one site in buildings once occupied by an iron foundry. It has extensive collections on science and technology from the 18th ...

Danish Museum of Technology
Danmarks Tekniske Museet
Fabriksvej 25-27
3000 Helsingor, Denmark

Jystrup Midtsjaelland | Denmark
Denmark’s transport museum is run by a voluntary association, the Sporjevshistorisk Selskab,formed in 1965, whose site at Skjoldenaesholm, 20 km south-west of Roskilde has been open to the public since 1978. There were tramways in three Danish cities. A metre gauge system operated in Arhus ...

Tramway Museum at Skjoldenaesholm
Sporvejsmuseet Skjoldenaesholm
Skjoldenaesvej 107
4174 Jystrup Midtsjaelland, Denmark

Odense | Denmark
The Media Museum brings together collections of former museums of the press and of graphics to provide a stimulating examination of the ways in which media have influenced people’s lives over the past 300 years. The museum has two strands. One is the presentation of artefacts, images and texts, ...

Danish Media Museum
Danmarks Mediemuseum
Brands Torve 1
5000 Odense, Denmark

Haapsalu is a resort of wooden villas ornamented with carvings ranged around a cathedral and the imposing ruins of a medieval bishop’s castle, situated on the sandy west coast of Estonia.Railway services ceased in 1995, but the remarkable railway station is the setting for the national railway ...

Railway and Communications Museum
Raudtee- ja Sidemuuseum
Raudtee 2
90504 Haapsalu, Estonia

Lavassaare | Estonia
An extensive 750 mm gauge railway system grew up in Estonia after the country’s first narrow gauge line, from Parnu to Valga opened in 1896. The system was nationalised in 1923, and amalgamated with the Russian-gauge Estonian Railways in 1926, and in 1939 extended over 909 route km. The narrow ...

Estonian Museum Railway
Eesti Raudtee
(Postal address) Pikk 46 10133 Tallinn (Museum address)
Lavassaare, Estonia

Helsinki | Finland
The cable factory in Helsinki characterises the changes that took place in industry in Finland, and in other European countries in the course of the 20th century. All cables used in Finland had to be imported until the Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy (Finnish cable company) was founded in 1912 by Arvid ...

Cable Factory
Tallberginkatu 1
00180 Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki | Finland
The first trams in Helsinki were horse-drawn vehicles that began operation in 1891. The system was electrified in 1900, and passed into municipal control in 1945. Tramways form an essential and popular part of the city’s present-day public transport system. The museum is situated at the rear of the ...

Tram Museum
Toolonkatu 51
00250 Helsinki, Finland

Hyvinkää | Finland
The Finnish railway museum has been located at Hyvinkää since 1974, when some of its collections were moved to a station and a locomotive depot that includes a roundhouse. The exhibition hall that accommodates most of the rolling stock was built in 1987. The museum encompasses several homes of ...

Finnish Railway Museum
Suomen Rautatiemuseo
Hyvinkäänkatu 9
05800 Hyvinkää, Finland

Kangasala is a town with a population of about 17,000 in western Finland, 20 km from Tampere,  in an area of spectacular scenery commemorated in the poem ‘Summer Day in Kangasala’ written in 1853 by Zacharias Topelius. The Vehoniemen Automuseo occupies a spectacular hilltop site and includes an ...

Vehoniemen Car Museum | Mobilia Automobile and Road Museum
Vehoniemen Automuseo Vehoniemenharjuntie 91 36570 Kangasala Tel + 358 (0) 376 - 7795 Automobile and road museum Mobilia
Kustaa Kolmannen tie 75
36270 Kangasala, Finland

Lahti | Finland
The name of the Finnish town of Lahti appeared on the dials of radio sets in most European countries in the 1930s. Lahti is situated in central Finland, and after a private radio station began transmission there in 1924, it was chosen by the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, established in 1926, to ...

Radio & Television Museum
Radio- ja TV-Museo Radiomäki
Radiomäenkatu 25
15110 Lahti, Finland

Toijala | Finland
The town of Toijala lies south of Tampere on the main railway line linking the city with Helsinki. The locomotive museum is located in a roundhouse of the 1870s. Its collection of about 20 locomotives consists primarily of early diesels, although there are three steam locomotives, the largest of ...

Lokomotive Museum
Ryödintie 3
37800 Toijala, Finland

Vantaa | Finland
The Finnish Aviation Museum occupies a site close to Helsinki’s Vantaa international airport. It originated with a collection displayed by the Aviation Museum Society from 1969 which was exhibited elsewhere at Vantaa from 1972. The first of the present museum buildings was opened in 1981, and ...

Finnish Aviation Museum
Suomen Ilmailummuseo Tietotie
Datavagen 3
01530 Vantaa, Finland

Virrat | Finland
Virratt is a large village due north of Tampere, which grew up during the twentieth century. It is set in a particularly attractive landscape and is regarded as a ‘heritage village’ where several historic buildings are preserved. The 825 m. long Herraskoski Canal was built between 1903 and 1907 to ...

Herraskoski Canal Museum
Herrasentie 16
34800 Virrat, Finland

Arques | France
The Fontinettes hydraulic lift on the Neufossé Canal at Arques, 4 km SE of Saint-Omer was built in 1883-87 by the English engineer Edwin Clark (1814-94), and was similar in principle to that at Anderton. It replaced five locks that linked the Aa and Lys waterway systems, and raised vessels 13 m. It ...

Fontinettes Canal Lift
L’Ascenseur à Bateaux des Fontinettes
21, rue Denis Papin
62510 Arques, France

Competition between the waterways and the railways was always one-sided. From the very start the project for an inclined lift for ships at Saint-Louis-Arzviller was doomed to failure. The Rhein-Marne canal, completed in 1853, ran between Vitry-les-Francois and Strasbourg and linked the Saone, the ...

Saint-Louis-Arzviller canal inclined plane
Association Touristique du Plan Incliné Saint-Louis-Arzviller
Route du Plan Incliné
57820 Arzviller, France

Bastia | France
Corsica belonged to Genoa until the Treaty of Versailles of 1748 under which it was transferred to the French crown. It is celebrated as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). The island is mountainous and a decision to build railways was not taken until 1877, the difficult terrain ...

Corsica Railway
SNCF Chemin de Fer de la Corse
BP 170
20294 Bastia, France

The maritime museum has been located since 1958 in one of the finest fortresses on the French coast, one that has walls surviving from Gallo-Roman fortifications of the 3rd century ad, but which is largely the work of Sebastien, Marquis de Vauban (1633-1707) from the late 17th century. The museum ...

National Maritime Museum and Museum of the Port Louis East India Company
Chateau de Brest
29200 Brest, France