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European Themeroute | 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 ... more

Icon: TransportThe 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.



Bury | United Kingdom

Housed in a spacious railway warehouse built ...

Bury Transport Museum
Castlecroft Goods Warehouse, Bolton St
BL9 0EY Bury, United Kingdom

Bury | United Kingdom

A trip on the East Lancashire Railway is ...

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

Camborne | United Kingdom

Long before I K Brunel’s broad gauge main line ...

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

Cardiff | United Kingdom

By 1890 Cardiff was the most important coal ...

Pierhead Building
Maritime Road
CF10 4PZ Cardiff, United Kingdom

Chatham | United Kingdom

It’s obvious that a ropery has to be long. But ...

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

Chelmsford | United Kingdom

This is a walk with a difference. For 14 miles ...

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

Cosford | United Kingdom

The principal objective of the museum at ...

Royal Air Force Museum
TF11 8UP Cosford, United Kingdom

Coventry | United Kingdom

Coventry was the centre of motor manufacturing ...

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

Darlington | United Kingdom

Darlington was one of the termini of the ...

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

Daventry | United Kingdom

Braunston was one of the most important ...

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

Derby | United Kingdom

The museum of industry in Derby stands on the ...

Museum of Making
Silk Mill Lane Off Full Street
DE1 3AF Derby, United Kingdom

Devizes | United Kingdom

The Kennet and Avon Canal, links Bath on the ...

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

Didcot | United Kingdom

The Great Western Railway was the largest ...

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

Diss | United Kingdom

The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway is the only ...

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

Doncaster | United Kingdom

A trolleybus is a passenger vehicle that runs ...

Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft
Belton Road
DN8 5SX Doncaster, United Kingdom

Douglas | United Kingdom

The 26.4 km 914 mm gauge railway from Douglas, ...

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

Dover | United Kingdom

Dover Transport Museum has two large ...

Dover Transport Museum
Willingdon Road
CT16 2JX Dover, United Kingdom

Downham Market | United Kingdom

Denver Sluice was designed originally in 1651 ...

Denver Sluice
Downham Market, Norfolk, United Kingdom

Dumbarton | United Kingdom

The award-winning Scottish Maritime Museum at ...

Scottish Maritime Museum Dumbarton
Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank
Castle Street
G82 1QS Dumbarton, United Kingdom

Dundee | United Kingdom

The RRS Discovery was built in Dundee and made ...

Discovery Point
Riverside Drive
DD1 4XA Dundee, United Kingdom

Duxford | United Kingdom

Six large halls, one more gigantic than the ...

Imperial War Museum Duxford
CB22 4QR Duxford, United Kingdom

East Fortune Airfield | United Kingdom

The museum is part of National Museums ...

National Museum of Flight Scotland

EH39 5LF East Fortune Airfield, United Kingdom

Edinburgh | United Kingdom

The museum’s building in central Edinburgh ...

National Museum of Scotland, Science & Technology Gallery
National Museum of Scotland, Science & Technology Gallery Chambers Street EH1 1JF Edinburgh United Kingdom +44 300 123 6789
Chambers Street
EH1 1JF Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Ellesmere Port | United Kingdom

This unique, award winning museum is set in ...

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

Falkirk | United Kingdom

The Falkirk Wheel is the most spectacular work ...

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

Farnborough | United Kingdom

Farnborough was the site where the United ...

FAST Museum
FAST Farnborough Air Sciences Trust
85 Farnborough Road
GU14 6TH Farnborough, United Kingdom

Fort Augustus | United Kingdom

The 96-km Caledonian Canal linking the east ...

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

Fraserburgh | United Kingdom

The development of lighthouses owed much to ...

The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
Kinnaird Head
Stevenson Road
AB43 9DU Fraserburgh, United Kingdom

Froghall | United Kingdom

The Churnet Valley Railway is a heritage line ...

Churnet Valley Railway
Kingsley & Froghall Station
ST13 7EE Froghall, United Kingdom

Gateshead | United Kingdom

The Bowes Railway, the first part of which ...

The Bowes Railway
Springwell Road
NE9 7QJ Gateshead, United Kingdom

Gaydon | United Kingdom

The museum at Gaydon, a village 30 km. south ...

British Motor Museum
Banbury Road
CV35 0BJ Gaydon, United Kingdom

Glasgow | United Kingdom

The Riverside Museum replaces the former ...

Riverside Museum
100 Pointhouse Place
G3 8RS Glasgow, United Kingdom