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Trains and Locomotives › Articles

Trains, engineers, railroad workers, passengers, depots, and spectacular tracks and bridges - these photos of steam and diesel powered transportation are from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Since the invention of the first steam train in 1804, trains have created massive cultural changes: They have changed the way we travel, the work we do, and even the food we eat. They are also a romantic and beautiful way to travel. But more than the fascination that trains hold for us, there are some practical changes that the railroads have created in our lexicon and daily life.

Consider these early facts about trains:

  • The term "horsepower" was created in the late 1700's as a way to market locomotives. Although the measurement is questionable, marketing how many horses were replaced by one locomotive made an impression on the public.

  • The first steam engine in the US was beaten by a horse drawn train in a race - but not because the horses were faster. It was because the engine broke down part way through the race - a belt broke - and the horse drawn train crossed the finish line.

  • The death of a President promoted train travel: After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, his body traveled by train to Illinois with a Pullman car as part of the cortege. Then Mary Lincoln traveled the same route in a Pullman car loaned to her. Front page news of the tour with pictures of the Pullman car popularized the comfort of train travel. After the death of George Pullman, the creator of the Pullman car, Lincoln's eldest son became head of the Pullman Palace Car Company.

  • Even the creation of travel agencies owe their start to trains: An English Baptist minister arranged for travel - by train - and meals for 504 of his parishioners to a temperance meeting in 1873. The trip was successful so he expanded operations throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. The travel agency Thomas Cook and Son was born. They still publish an international train timetable.

  • Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific Time owe their start to trains: The use of innumerable local times wreaked havoc on train schedules. In 1883, leaders of the major railroads met at the General Time Convention and decided on 4 time zones in the U.S. - Great Britain had already created a unified time 36 years earlier. On November 18th, the time zones were established and used but it took another 35 years for Congress to make them law - along with Daylight Savings Time.

These are the photos of locomotives, railways, railroad workers, and passengers from the beginning of the railroad industry through the 20th century.