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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.

Burnley | United Kingdom
The Weavers´ Triangle is a modern name for an area astride the Leeds and Liverpool Canal that was once at the heart of Burnley´s textile industry. The name was first used in the 1970s, as interest developed in preserving Burnley´s industrial heritage, and refers to the roughly triangular shape of ...

Weavers´ Triangle
85 Manchester Road
BB11 1JZ Burnley, United Kingdom

Bury | United Kingdom
A trip on the East Lancashire Railway is journey back in time. Opened in 1846 to link the Manchester to Bolton line with Radcliffe. It was a popular passenger and freight route which continued along the Irwell Valley to Rawtenstall. 1972 saw the last passengers travel on the Bury to Rawtenstall ...

East Lancashire Railway
Bolton Street Station
BL9 0EY Bury, United Kingdom

Camborne | United Kingdom
Long before I K Brunel’s broad gauge main line railway reached the west of Cornwall the tin and copper mines of the area around Redruth ahd Camborne were linked with harbours on the coast by early railways. The routes of some of these lines have been adapted so that they can be used by walkers, ...

Mineral Tramways Discovery Centre
King Edward Mine
TR16 3SE Camborne, United Kingdom

Chatham | United Kingdom
It’s obvious that a ropery has to be long. But a quarter of a mile long? That’s how long it is in the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, near London. The dockyard which only closed down in 1984 was at its peak in the 17th and 18th century and is generally regarded as the most complete remaining example ...

The Historic Dockyard
Dock Road
ME4 4TZ Chatham, United Kingdom

Chelmsford | United Kingdom
This is a walk with a difference. For 14 miles you can follow this industrial age canalised river, meandering gracefully through quiet countryside. The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation opened in 1797 to connect the Essex County Town of Chelmsford with the sea. Built to the designs of the famous ...

Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation
Paper Mill Lock Little Baddow
Chelmsford, Essex, United Kingdom

Cosford | United Kingdom
The principal objective of the museum at Cosford is to educate present and future generations about the Royal Air Force. The principal displays are of the aircraft flown since 1939 by the RAF, its allies and its enemies, and an exhibition about the Cold War housed in an innovative building opened in ...

Royal Air Force Museum
TF11 8UP Cosford, United Kingdom

Coventry | United Kingdom
Coventry was the centre of motor manufacturing in England until the late twentieth century. The city’s principal occupations in 1800 were the making of ribbons, which generate a substantial trade in the manufacture of looms, and watch-making. When ribbon-making declined with the onset of foreign ...

Coventry Transport Museum
Millennium Place
Hales Street
CV1 1JD Coventry, United Kingdom

Darlington | United Kingdom
Darlington was one of the termini of the celebrated Stockton & Darlington Railway, opened in 1825, and the location from 1863 until 1966 of the principal engineering works of the North Eastern Railway. The Head of Steam Museum comprises North Road Station, opened in 1842 once part of the Stockton & ...

Head of Steam Museum
North Road Station
DL3 6ST Darlington, United Kingdom

Daventry | United Kingdom
Braunston was one of the most important junctions on the English canal system, the starting point of the Grand Junction Canal, opened in 1805, which linked it to London, and the point where it was joined by the Oxford Canal, which took boats to central southern England, and also provided connections ...

British Waterways Braunston Office
The Stop House Braunston
NN11 7JQ Daventry, United Kingdom

The museum of industry in Derby stands on the site of a water-powered five-storey mill built circa 1721 by John and Thomas Lombe to accommodate silk throwing technology that they had observed in Italy. The mill, the first powered factory of its kind in England, prospered and was described by many ...

Derby’s Museum of Industry and History
Silk Mill Lane Off Full Street
DE1 3AF Derby, United Kingdom

Devizes | United Kingdom
The Kennet and Avon Canal, links Bath on the Bristol Avon with Newbury where it joins the River Kennet, which flows into the Thames at Reading. It has a total length of 92 km and is the most southerly of the cross-country canals in England. It was engineered by John Rennie, and opened throughout in ...

Kennet and Avon Canal
Canal Centre
Couch Lane
SN10 1EB Devizes, United Kingdom

Didcot | United Kingdom
The Great Western Railway was the largest British railway company before the industry was re-organised by the government in 1923, with radial routes from London to Penzance and through Birmingham to Birkenhead, and to most places in between. Its first main lines were built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel ...

Great Western Railway
Didcot Railway Centre
OX11 7NU Didcot, United Kingdom

Diss | United Kingdom
The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway is the only preserved railway operating in Suffolk and dates from the late Victorian period when an Act of Parliament encouraged the construction of light railways in rural areas away from the main lines.Now affectionately called "the Middy", the railway opened in 1904 ...

Mid-Suffolk Light Railway
Brockford Station
IP14 5PW Diss, United Kingdom

Douglas | United Kingdom
The 26.4 km 914 mm gauge railway from Douglas, capital of the Isle of Man, through Castletown to Port Erin in the south of the island opened in 1874. It is the only section that remains of a much larger system. The line is still operated with some of its original locomotives and carriages. It has ...

Isle of Man Steam Railway
Douglas Steam Railway Station
Banks Circus
IM1 5PT Douglas, United Kingdom

Downham Market | United Kingdom
Denver Sluice was designed originally in 1651 to bar tidal water from the low fen areas and to improve navigation. Denver lock is the main navigation structure linking the south Level River system to the tidal river and then to the middle level or the sea. The first sluice at Denver, constructed ...

Denver Sluice
Downham Market, Norfolk, United Kingdom

Dudley | United Kingdom
There’s no towpath for your horse, and no engine in your boat, so how do you get your narrowboat through the long tunnel into the vast limestone caverns? You have to get out and push! Two men would lie across the narrowboat and ‘walk’ along the tunnel walls, pushing along tons of boat and its cargo. ...

Dudley Canal Tunnel and Limestone Mines
501 Birmingham New Road
DY1 4SB Dudley, United Kingdom

Ellesmere Port | United Kingdom
This unique, award winning museum is set in over 7 acres of historic canal port and is home to the world’s largest floating collection of inland waterway craft. Set in the old dock complex overlooking the Mersey Estuary, the museum allows you to discover the fascinating social and industrial ...

Ellesmere Port
South Pier Road
CH65 4FW Ellesmere Port, United Kingdom

Falkirk | United Kingdom
The Falkirk Wheel is the most spectacular work of engineering so far constructed during the restoration of the inland waterways network in Britain which began in the 1960s. It connects two canals built in the Central Lowlands of Scotland during the Industrial Revolution period, the 56 km Forth & ...

The Falkirk Wheel
Lime Road
FK1 4RS Falkirk, United Kingdom

Fort Augustus | United Kingdom
The 96-km Caledonian Canal linking the east and west coasts of Scotland from Inverness to Corpach near Fort William, was built under the direction of William Jessop and Thomas Telford between 1804 and 1822. The waterway passes through four lochs, crosses 3 aqueducts and incorporates 29 lochs. Near ...

Caledonian Canal
Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre
Ardchattan House
Fort Augustus, United Kingdom

Fraserburgh | United Kingdom
The development of lighthouses owed much to Scottish engineers, and particularly to the dynasty established by Robert Stevenson (1771-1850), who was engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board for much of his working life, and designed 20 lighthouses, as well as building roads and bridges. He should ...

The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
Kinnaird Head
Castle Terrace
AB43 9DU Fraserburgh, United Kingdom

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WORK it Out – Day of Industrial Culture

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