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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.

Odense | Denmark
In 1840 travelling by train was so incredibly new that there were no words to describe it. In those days railway platforms were referred to as “jutting balconies”, a train appeared to be a “string of carriages” and the locomotive was called a “steam dragon”. At least these are the words used by the ...
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Danish Railway Museum
Danmarks Jernbanemuseum
Dannebrogsgade 24
5000 Odense, Denmark

Berlin | Germany
Lifeworld Ship”, “From Ballooning to the Berlin Airlift”, “Trains, Locomotives and People”: any technological developments that Berlin witnessed during the past 120 years are showcased in the capital's Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology). Greeting travellers from a distance there ...
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German Technical Museum
Trebbiner Strasse 9
10963 Berlin, Germany

The framework: a listed factory building from around the turn of the 20th century. Inside: an exhibition split up under striking headlines like “Consumers”, “Entrepreneurs” “Workers”, “Creators” and “Karl-Marx-Stadt inhabitants”. Faces stare down from the walls; historical, contemporary, famous and ...
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Saxon Museum of Industry | Chemnitz Museum of Industry
Zwickauer Straße 119
09112 Chemnitz, Germany

Friedrichshafen | Germany
'Flying cigars', 'luxury liners of the air', 'giants of the skies': ever since the invention of airships they have sparked people's imagination. People are also the main focus of the Zeppelin Museum at Friedrichshafen. Who was this Count Ferdinand Zeppelin sticking against all odds with the idea of ...
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Zeppelin Museum
Seestrasse 22
88045 Friedrichshafen, Germany

Hamburg | Germany
The telephone, the light bulb, the camera – what we now take for granted was revolutionary around 1900. But technical progress had its price, as can be seen by the spittoon for tuberculosis sufferers – an expressive symbol of the poverty-stricken living and working conditions in the old cities. ...
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Museum of Work
Wiesendamm 3
22305 Hamburg, Germany

Papenburg | Germany
A towering lobby of white and gold, glass-cased panorama lifts, galleries like opera boxes. This is where glittering worlds of leisure are created. Floating five-star hotels. Completely artificial towns laid out specially for smooth running and utmost comfort on the high seas. The Meyer wharf has ...
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Meyer Shipyard
Papenburg Tourismus GmbH
Ölmühlenweg 21
26871 Papenburg, Germany

Rüdersdorf | Germany
What is both, near Berlin and right in the middle of it? The answer is Rüdersdorf because the limestone dug out there is part of many of the capital's iconic buildings like the Brandenburg Gate. And that's only one of the many stories told by the Museum and Park Rüdersdorf where visitors walk ...
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Rüdersdorf Museum Park
Heinitzstrasse 1
15562 Rüdersdorf bei Berlin, Germany

The powerful steel framework offers a truly imperial view, being flanked by elegant sandstone towers each of which is crowned by an ornamental globe, the whole construction majestically reflected in the waters of the Dortmund-Ems canal. Not surprisingly, it was Emperor Wilhelm II himself who ...
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Henrichenburg Shiplift LWL Industrial Museum
Am Hebewerk 2
45731 Waltrop, Germany

Zwickau | Germany
Horchstraße, Audistraße, Trabantstraße. Schon der Blick auf den Stadtplan zeigt: Hier geht es um Autos. Und was für welche! Ein Horch 303 Feuerwehrwagen von 1927 zum Beispiel mit Deutschlands erstem serienmäßigen Achtzylinder unter der knallroten Haube. Oder ein DKW F 1 Baujahr 1931, dessen ...
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August Horch Museum
Audistraße 7
08058 Zwickau, Germany

Hoorn | Netherlands
Some of the steam locomotives look just like outsize toys. Or exactly like Emma, the locomotive in Michael Ende’s fairytale about Jim Knopf and the train driver Lukas. But as soon as smoke begins to pour from the chimney and the whistle blows, it becomes quite clear that this is the real thing! The ...
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Hoorn-Medemblik Steam Tram Museum
Van Dedemstraat 8
1624 NN Hoorn, Netherlands

Narvik | Norway
It would be sea and iron-ore that would decide Narvik’s fate. Despite Narvik’s location north of the Arctic Circle, the town at the head of the Ofoten fjord is an ice -free port. Narvik has been and still is a reloading point for a seemingly inexhaustible supply of iron ore from Kiruna in ...
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Museum Nord - Narvik
Administrasjonsveien 3
8502 Narvik, Norway

Entroncamento | Portugal
Portugal's royal family used to travel by train. Of course, not like everyone else, but on a splendidly equipped private train with its own wagons for the princes and the pompous queen Maria Pia. The Royal Steam Train from the 19th century is one of the highlights of the National Portuguese Railway ...
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National Railway Museum
Museu Nacional Ferroviario
Rua Eng. Ferreira de Mesquita
2334-909 Entroncamento, Portugal

Vila Nova de Famalicão | Portugal
The very appearance of the repair and maintenance sheds, dating back to the 19th century and forming the framework of the museum, hints to a precious relic of Portuguese railroad history. The train depot sits right next to the station of Lousado and is home to a collection that offers railway ...
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National Railway Museum at Lousado
Museu Nacional Ferroviário – Núcleo do Lousado
Largo da Estação - Lousado
4760-623 Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal

Gijón | Spain
Which engineer's design is that locomotive? Who were the workers who built it? Which driver handled it, and what people and goods did it carry? Questions like that make the Asturias Railway Museum such an exciting experience. Thus, any of the 140 rolling stock – including sixteen steam locomotives, ...
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Asturian Railway Museum
Museo del Ferrocarril de Asturias
Plaza Estación del Norte s/n
33212 Gijón, Spain

The most eye-catching feature of the Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover in Terrassa near Barcelona is doubtless its unique roof. It consists of row upon row of 161 shell-shaped half arches, each with gently curving windows like stylised crests of waves. At first sight the building, designed by the Catalan ...
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Catalonian Museum of Science and Industry
Museu nacional de la Ciéncia i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (mNACTEC)
Rambla d’Ègara 270
08221 Terrassa, Spain

In the age of the cell phone almost every place on earth can be reached within seconds. That said, less than 100 years ago wireless communication demanded gigantic technical equipment. The clearest example of this is the radio station in Grimeton near Varberg that was built in 1924 on the southwest ...
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World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station
Radiostationen 72
432 98 Grimeton, Sweden

Dudley | United Kingdom
It could hardly be easier to step back in time. Visitors just need to get on the tram, and take it in to town. While strolling around the shops, they can watch the children whipping their spinning-tops in the street. In order to learn more about the wares in the historic shop windows it only takes ...
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Black Country Living Museum
Tipton Road
DY1 4SQ Dudley, United Kingdom

Duxford | United Kingdom
Six large halls, one more gigantic than the other: inside, hundreds of veteran aeroplanes, from biplanes via propeller-driven reconnaissance and combat aircraft to jets. Glitteringly restored, they stand on the floor and in galleries, or hang suspended from the ceiling as if in flight. During air ...
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Imperial War Museum Duxford
CB22 4QR Duxford, United Kingdom

Swansea | United Kingdom
Computer screens with interactive film sequences. Graphics and projections. Multi-media shows demonstrating how fireproof bricks, iron and steel were manufactured. The first impressions make it unmistakably clear that the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea (Wales) prides itself on ...
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National Waterfront Museum
Oystermouth Road
SA1 3RD Swansea, United Kingdom

Telford | United Kingdom
Length: 30.6 metres. Height: 16.75 metres. Weight: 378 tons. These are the basic facts about the Iron Bridge, which spans the Severn Valley in Telford. But who can regard the history of the first ever iron bridge in mere statistics? It is universally recognised as the symbol of the industrial ...
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Iron Bridge World Heritage Site
Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust Coach Road Coalbrookdale
TF8 7DQ Telford, United Kingdom