1800 To 1850 Railroad History



In 1803, Richard Trevithick in South Wales built the first steam locomotive to run on rails.



In a December 10, 1813 newspaper ad, Oliver Evans of Philadelphia proposed building a railroad between New York and Philadelphia, guaranteeing a train speed of 12 miles an hour.

Timothy Hackworth and William Hedley built the first locomotive used commercially in hauling cars and was known as Puffing Billy.


The first railway survey in America was conducted between Trenton and Raritan, New Jersey in January 1814 by Colonel John Stevens, an ex-officer of the Continental Army.

In 1814, George Stephenson built his first locomotive.


The first incorporated United States railroad to perform transportation service began operations at Quincy, Massachusetts on October 7, 1826. Horses provided the motive power. The road conveyed granite for use in the construction of Bunker Hill monument.

The first incorporated company to build and operate a railroad in the United States, Granite Railway, was chartered in Massachusetts on March 4, 1826.


On July 4, 1828, ground was broken and a cornerstone laid at Baltimore, thus beginning the construction of the first American railroad to serve as a common carrier. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, turned the first spade of dirt.


The first English-built locomotive operated in America, the “Stourbridge Lion”, arrived at New York May 13, 1829.

The “Stourbridge Lion”, the first English-built locomotive to run on an American railroad made its trial run on August 8, 1829 at Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Horatio Allen was the engineer.


On January 7, 1830, the first fare-paying passengers on an American railroad carried at Baltimore.

Ground was broken for first railroad in the United States to employ steam power regularly at Charleston, South Carolina on January 9, 1830.

The first tree felled on March 10, 1830 to begin construction of the five -mile Pontchartrain Railroad which extended from the Mississippi River at New Orleans to Lake Pontchartrain. This was the first railroad in the Mississippi Valley.

Car propelled by sails operated experimentally on a railroad running out of Charleston, South Carolina on April 1, 1830.

The first locomotive to be placed in scheduled service in America began running out of Charleston, SC, December 25, 1830.


The first issue of America’s Pioneer Railway publication, “The Rail-Road Advocate”, was published by “An Association of Gentlemen” at Rogersville, Tennessee on July 4, 1831.

On August 9, 1831, the first train to operate in New York state made its initial run from Albany to Schenectady.

The first known instance of United States mail being transported by railroad was from Charleston, South Carolina in November of 1831.

The John Bull, an English locomotive, was placed in service in 1831.


The first issue of the “Rail-Road Journal” was published on January 2, 1832.

Ground was broken on February 25, 1832 in New York near 32nd Street and Fourth Avenue for the city’s pioneer railroad.  The railroad was originally operated by horse power. By 1839 the railroad extended a distance of eight miles from Prince Street, near Brooklyn Bridge, to Harlem.

The first locomotive in the Mississippi Valley, the “Pontchartrain”, made its initial run from New Orleans to Lake Pontchartrain on September 17, 1832.

On October 9, 1832, the first railroad to be laid with “T” rail—one of the foundations of modern railroading— opened for business in New Jersey.

“Old Ironsides”, Matthias Baldwin’s first locomotive, made its initial run on November 23, 1832 for a distance of six miles.


The first United States president to ride a railroad train, Andrew Jackson, made a 12-mile trip from Ellicott’s Mills to Baltimore, Maryland on June 6, 1833.


The first railroad to cross a mountain range by means of a series of inclined planes opened to traffic in Pennsylvania on March 18, 1834.

New England’s first passenger train ran a distance of seven miles from Boston to Newton, Massachusetts on April 4, 1834.


The first railway train to enter Washington, DC arrived from Baltimore on August 24, 1835. President Andrew Jackson and members of his cabinet were on hand to witness the event.


The first railway express service in the United States was established on March 4, 1839, in the carpetbag of William F. Harnden traveling between New York and Boston.


The inventor of the first successful automatic air brake, George Westinghouse, was born at Central Bridge, New York on October 6, 1846.


The Atlanta and West Point Rail Road was chartered as the Atlanta and LaGrange Rail Road.


On October 10, 1848, the first “Iron Horse” in Chicago arrived from the east.

The first rail route linking Boston and New York was completed on December 29, 1848. The route was over five railway lines, but only three changes of cars were necessary.


In his first annual message to Congress on December 4, 1849, President Zachary Taylor, proposed a railroad to the Pacific Ocean. President Taylor was the first Chief Executive to ever advocate such a project.


On September 20, 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed the first of the federal land-grant acts to encourage railway construction in undeveloped regions of the West and South.  In return, railroads carried government traffic at reduced rates, saving the government many times the value of the lands granted.


Purchases made through links provided on this website may result in a commission being paid to the website owner.