Early railroads in the United States
The railroad era in the United States began when ground was broken for the first rail line with great celebration on July 4, 1828.
The first cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was laid by the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, 90 year old Charles Carroll of Carrolton, Maryland.
The rail line was laid out to follow the Patapsco and Monocacy rivers to the Potomac.
This line connected with Ellicott’s Mills (renamed Ellicott City)on May 24, 1830.
On December 1, 1831, the B&O railroad line extension was completed to Frederick, for a total of 60 miles of track.
With this, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad became the first common carrier and the first to offer scheduled freight and passenger service to the American public. It eventually evolved from this single line into a much larger rail network.
Then on June 6, 1833, President Andrew Jackson became the first United States President to ride on a train.
The exact railway car is not known, however the 1833 carriage-style railway car shown below might have been similar to the one first used by the President.
Later in 1833, the nation’s second railroad ran 136 miles from Charleston to Hamburg in South Carolina.
A steam railway soon connected Albany and Schenectady, New York, a distance of 16 miles, which was traversed in around 40 minutes.
It was not until the 1850s, though, that railroads offered long distance service at reasonable rates.
A journey from Philadelphia to Charleston involved eight different tracks, which meant that passengers and freight had to change trains seven times.
Only at places like Bowling Green, Kentucky, were the railroads connected to one another.
So thanks to President Andrew Jackson supporting the railway by riding on one today back in 1833, the U.S. railroad system saw phenomenal growth, which at its peak constituted one third of the world’s total mileage.
Although the American Civil War placed a temporary halt to major new developments, the conflict did demonstrate the enormous strategic importance of railways at times of war.
After the war, major developments include the first elevated railway built in New York in 1867 as well as the symbolically important first transcontinental railroad completed in 1869.
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