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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.

Menai Bridge | United Kingdom
Menai Suspension BridgeCompleted on 30 January 1826, the Menai Bridge was a triumph of civil engineering – the biggest suspension bridge in the world at the time. Sixteen huge chains held up 579 feet of deck, giving 100 feet of clearance for tall sailing ships navigating the Menai Strait. The Menai ...

The Menai Strait Bridges
Menai Bridge Community Heritage Trust Thomas Telford Centre
Mona Road
LL59 5EA Menai Bridge, United Kingdom

Newport | United Kingdom
Located just outside Newport, the Fourteen Locks Canal Visitor Centre traces the growth and decline of the Crumlin Branch of the Monmouthshire Canal and its role in transporting commodities such as coal, iron, limestone and bricks from the Ebbw and Sirhowy valleys to the port of Newport. A computer ...

Fourteen Locks
Cwm Lane Highcross Rogerstone
NP10 9GN Newport, United Kingdom

Wakes Colne | United Kingdom
The East Anglian Railway Museum is not only home to the most comprehensive collection of period railway architecture and engineering in the Region, but is also based at a working railway station on historic Stour Valley railway line, dating from 1847-1849. The Station House dates from the 1890´s ...

East Anglian Railway Museum
Chappel and Wakes Colne Station
CO6 2DS Wakes Colne, United Kingdom

Wrexham | United Kingdom
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries the waterway originally called the Ellesmere Canal, but now the Llangollen Canal, some 38 m above the River Dee, and is 308 m long. It was completed in 1805 under the direction of Thomas Telford, who in the initial stages of the project was responsible to William ...

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Station Road Trevor
LL20 7YQ Wrexham, United Kingdom

The densely-forested Bregenzerwald area south of the city of Bregenz at the eastern end of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) has always been important as a source of timber which was traditionally floated to the shores of the lake along the fast-flowing river the Bregenzer Ach. Proposals to build a ...

Wälderbähnle Bregenz Forest Railway
Bregenzer Waldbahn
Bahnhof 147
6870 Bezau, Austria

The Bregenzer Pfanderbahn, the cable car system that enables visitors to the capital of the Voralberg region of Austria to ascend the mountain called the Pfander, is one of many in the Alps. Its unique feature is that there is a museum at the lower station which explains the technology used, and ...

Pfänderbahn & Pfänderbahnmuseum
Schillerstrasse 3
6900 Bregenz, Austria

Jenbach/Tirol | Austria
Jenbach is a small mountain resort that was formerly the centre for non-ferrous metal mining, on the railway from Kufstein on the German frontier to the Brenner Pass and Italy, where it is joined by two important but contrasting narrow gauge lines. The Achenseebahn, established in 1889, is a ...

Achensee Railway | Zillertal Railway
Achenseebahn AG
Bahnhofplatz 1-3
6200 Jenbach, Austria

Mürzzuschlag | Austria
The Südbahn (south railway) linking Vienna with the Habsburg Empire’s principal port at Trieste on the Adriatic Sea, planned by Karl von Ghega (1802-60), was the first of the great European main lines through the Alps, and its importance was recognised in 1998 when it was designated a UNESCO World ...

Heizhausgasse 2
8680 Mürzzuschlag, Austria

Schwechat | Austria
The collection of rolling stock at Schwechat, 12 km south-east of Vienna, is modest in size in comparison with those of the great national railway museums, but it represents a particularly interesting phase in the development of railways, and reflects the political exigencies of the Danube valley ...

Schwechat Railwaymuseum
Hintere Bahngasse 2b
2320 Schwechat, Austria

Semmering | Austria
The 58 km section of railway through the Semmering Pass between Gloggnitz and Murzzuschlag built in 1848-54 was part of the Sudbahn, the railway that linked Vienna, capital of the Habsburg Empire, with the principal imperial port at Trieste. It was the first main line railway to pass through one of ...

Semmering Railway
Informationsstelle Semmeringbahn
Bahnhofplatz 1
2680 Semmering, Austria

Strasshof an der Nordbahn | Austria
Strasshof lies 25 km east of Vienna and between 1908 and 1951 was the site of a large marshalling yard around which grew up a community of railwaymen living in houses in the Garden City style. The railway museum, a branch of the Technical Museum in Vienna, occupies an 8.5 ha site that includes the ...

Heizhaus Railway Museum
123 Sillerstrasse
2231 Strasshof an der Nordbahn, Austria

Vienna | Austria
Vienna’s Arbeitsgruppe des Verbandes der Eisenbahn freude (Working Group of the Association of Friends of Railways, or VEF) was formed in 1969, and formally organised from 1972. The association opened a Museum of the Vienna Tramways at Ottakring station in 1972 after six years of collecting, but ...

Museum Remise
Ludwig Kössler Platz
1030 Vienna, Austria

Vienna | Austria
The technical museum in Vienna holds many artefacts of significance to the industrial history of Europe. It was formally established in 1908, with Dr Ludwig Erhard as its director, as part of the jubilee celebrations of the Emperor Franz Josef, but it was not opened until 1918. The museum has an ...

Technical Museum
212 Mariahilfer Strasse
1140 Vienna, Austria

Vordernberg | Austria
Vordernberg was linked with Eisenerz by an early railway with inclined planes, the Vordernberger Förderbahn, of which archaeological evidence can still be seen. The line was replaced in 1891 by the Erzbergbahn, a standard gauge rack railway on which steam traction was employed until 1981. The line ...

Hauptstraße 140
8794 Vordernberg, Austria

Wiener Neustadt | Austria
The museum at the edge of the airport at Wiener Neustadt is managed by a private association, and occupies an exhibition hall of 400 square metres. The displays are based on collections made by Toni Kahibacher (1914-2004) and the aviation historian Reinhard Keimel (b 1944). The project to put the ...

Flugmuseum Aviaticum
Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelinstrasse 1
A-2700 Wiener Neustadt, Austria

Baranavichy | Belarus
The railways of Belarus, Belanrus’ka Chyhunka, have continued to conform to Soviet standards since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 They are still state-owned and are laid to the 1520 mm gauge that is standard in Russia. Baranavichy, an important junction in the west of the country from which ...

Baranavichy Railway Museum
Opanrhkoba 11
225402 Baranavichy, Belarus

The city of Brest, formerly Brest-Litovsk, which currently has a population of rather more than 310,000, stands at the confluence of the rivers Bug and Mukhavets, opposite the Polish city of Terespol. It is one of Europe’s historic frontier cities, and its landscape is dominated by the fortress ...

Brest Museum of Railway Equipment
Masherava 2
224030 Brest, Belarus

Grodno | Belarus
Grodno is a substantial city with a population of 366,000 near to Belarus’s borders with Poland and Lithuania, and is the centre for the interpretation of those parts of the Augustowski Canal within Belarus. The remainder of the canal is in Poland where tourist facilities are focussed on the town of ...

Augustowski Canal
Gorkogo Street 91A
Grodno, Belarus


Orsha Central’naya Station
211030 Orsha, Belarus

Antwerp | Belgium
Antwerp Central Station is one of Europe’s most breathtaking railway termini. The city’s first station was the wooden terminus of the railway from Brussels and Mechelen, which lay outside the fortifications at Borgerhoutse Pont. In 1886 it was decided to build line to a new terminus in the city ...

Central Station
Centraal Station
Konigin Astridplain 27
2018 Antwerp, Belgium