Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is one of the first and oldest railroads in the United States, and America’s first commercial long-distance railroad, and for this reason Baltimore still keeps a keen and proud awareness of its historical heritage. A pioneeristic railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was one of the most technologically advanced American railroads back in the days of early trains history. Several great minds of railroading pioneerism gave birth to hundreds of innovative ideas in this railroad, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the first American steam-engine locomotive.

During the early 1800’s, Maryland facedeconomic stagnation as its largest port Baltimore had no direct commercial routes leading to the rich and rapidly growing western states. In 1827 an association of 25 traders and bankers decided that building a railroad was the best way to reach out the newer trade routes, and so they began building what was one of the first, and largest, commercial lines in the world. Their initial investment amounted of $3 million, an incredibly huge sum for that period, but it was more than just a “worthy investment”. In just one year, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was able to generate a yearly revenue that covered the initial investment in almost its entireness, becoming one of the principal trade routes of the North American continent. The railroad covered some 380 miles (610 km) in 1854, generating millions of dollars of shipment revenues that let Baltimore grow as the financial capital of the southernPhiladelphiaregion. The first stone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroadwas laid on July 4th, 1828 and it is now kept in the B&O Museum in Baltimore, containing a copy of the original charter. On May 24th, 1830 the line was finally completed all the way to Ellicott’s Mills, and it was built with granite stringers topped by strap iron rails. Most of the initial parts of the railroad were built with granite, and still resist today as its first bridge, the Carrollton Viaduct, named in honor of one of the railroad’s founders Charles Carroll of Carrollton, which is still intact. Granite was then deemed too expensive though, and it was later substituted by more economic materials, and more technologically advanced solutions such as cast iron rails and flanged iron wheels replacing the original wooden counterparts were also applied.

Peter Cooper’s “Tom Thumb” company was the first B&O company to operate a locomotive built in America in 1829, and in August of 1830 brought the first steam train in American history.The Baltimore and Ohio Railroadincluded the first American passenger and freight station in Mount Clare, and was the first railroad that published a timetable in 1830. From its original Potomac River course, the railroad rapidly expanded itself to reach Washington in 1835, with a steady flow of US mail transported every day within its wagons. In 1843, theB&O hosted the first American telegraph line, that run for 38 miles (61 km) along the railroad, connectingWashingtonD.C. to Baltimore. During the Civil War the railroad was used to move Union troops and supplies, and it was attacked several times, so it saw several cycles of destruction and rebuilding that actually served as a general renovation for the entire system.

The Baltimore and Ohio railroad is so important for American history, that today it’s considered as a National Historic Landmark, and an entire Railroad Museum grew over it becoming a realRailroad University of the United States. The first published history of an American railroad was published in 1853 by William Prescott Smith, and it was “A History and Description of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad”, just to point out how important this railroad was for the development of American commerce through the last 2 centuries. Today the museum with its numerous exhibits, is place of heritage preservation, fully dedicated at promoting and preserving all the culture of“America’s First Railroad”and prides itself as the oldest, most comprehensive American railroad collection in the world.

Today the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is part of the CSX Transportation (CSX) network, includes the Staten Island Rapid Transit (SIRT), and links together 13 states of the United States with more than 5552 miles of road and 10449 miles of track operated.Today nearly all modern locomotives and most freight cars are painted with the CSX logo and even the oldest vehicles have been repainted in yellow, blue and orange.



The Story Behind the Construction of The First Transcontinental Railroad

The First Transcontinental Railroad was opened in 1869 spanning 1,907 miles between the east and west coasts of the United States. Also known as the Pacific Railroad and the Overland Route, the route marked a sea change in the American transportation network and revolutionized the economy by making the transportation of goods for sale cheaper and quicker than ever before.

This was the first railroad to cross the entire continent and was an enormous feat of planning, organization and engineering. Although trains had been running since the 1830s in the eastern states, nothing to match the magnitude of the Pacific Railroad had ever been attempted, let along accomplished. The route was years in the making before the famous Golden Spike was finally driven to join the rails connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads in May of 1869.

Pressing Need

Before the first transcontinental railroad was built, traveling from one coast to the other was a perilous journey which consisted of a six-month trek across mountains and desert with the very real danger of wandering into tribes of hostile Native Americans.The alternative route involved embarking on a six week sea voyage either around Cape Horn or via Central America.

The annexation of California after the Mexican-American war and the subsequent discovery of gold in the region led to a stampede of immigrants seeking to make their fortunes in the West. Pressure for a railroad that would connect both coasts grew steadily as the economic and logistical advantages became clear.

The Pacific Railroad Surveys

The Pacific Railroad Surveys took place between 1853 and 1855, consisting of a series of expeditions involving surveyors, artists and scientists, with the goal of finding suitable routes for a transcontinental railroad.

Five surveys were published in total including the Northern Pacific survey, the Central Pacific survey, two Southern Pacific surveys and also a survey along the Pacific coast from San Diego to Seattle.

The surveys have been described as “the most important single contemporary source of knowledge on Western geography” and they resulted in the collection a huge amount of data covering 400,000 square miles.

As well as searching for potential routes, the surveys recorded zoological, geological and botanical information with illustrations of a rich variety of wildlife and ethnographic descriptions of Native Americans who were encountered during the expeditions.

The Pacific Railroad Acts

The Pacific Railroads acts were acts of congress that followed the surveys by promoting the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. This was effected by issuing grants of lands to railroad companies as well as sizeable government bonds.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, however. Although the surveys were published in 1855, it took another seven years before the act came into being. This was largely down to opposition from the southern states who rejected the need for a central route. Only upon their secession was the act able to pass, with President Lincoln signing on July 1st 1862, paving for the way for a huge construction operation to begin.

Building the railroad

The construction process was fraught with complications from the beginning. One of the key figures in planning the route, civil engineer Theodore Judah, fought with his business partners over the approach to constructing the Central Pacific line. Tragically, during voyage to New York, he contracted yellow fever and soon died. He never saw the completion of a project he had done much to get started.

Over the following years, private contractors succeeded in swindling the American government out of millions of dollars, like that roofer that was recently on TV. Thomas C. Durrant had bought control of the Union Pacific Railroad company through the purchase of $2 million worth of shares. He created a front company called the Crédit Mobilier of America which posed as a private contractor but was actually owned by investors in Union Pacific. The front company proceeded to charge excessive fees and Durant even lengthened the original route to take advantage of the fact that the government paid by the mile.

Construction was also inhibited by difficulties in hiring workers for the Central Pacific part of the track. Initially many Irish immigrants were employed for the notoriously brutal labor but many abandoned the project to work in the lucrative silver mines of Nevada. Three years in, 80% of the workforce were Chinese.

To make things even worse, Native Indian raiding parties regularly attacked railroad workers and surveyors whilst stealing equipment and even livestock.


Despite such overbearing obstacles, the Central Pacific and Union lines continued to edge their way towards each other. By the beginning of 1869, they had both entered northern Utah. Neither side was willing to stop and there was fierce competition to claim as much of the $32,000 per mile on offer from the government as possible. Finally, on May 10th 1869, the joining of the two lines was signaled by locomotives from the two railroads meeting nose to nose.

To mark the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, canons were fired in Washington and San Francisco. It had been a long journey, but the reduction of a six month voyage to a two week train ride had been well worth it.



Steam Locomotives

Steam Locomotives are a locomotive that is able to run by pulling its power through the steam engine. The steam is created in the boil by burning materials such as coal, oil, and wood, moving pistons. These pistons are connected to the drivers, or main wheels of the train. The first steam locomotive was created February 21, 1804, by Richard Trevithick, who also inveted a railway and road locomotive in 1802 and 1801, respectively. Steam locomotives were commonly used until the mid-twentieth century, gradually being phased out in favor of trains that ran on electric and diesel power.

Steam locomotives work mainly by the steam engine. Water and fire combine to create the heat, which then heats the water, which then creates steam. This steam is the power of the locomotive, causing the wheels to turn and forward motion to occur. The firebox on the rear of the boiler is the place where the fuel was burned. It had a door that could be opened to add the fuel– typically, coal or wood. From there, the heated gas flowed through tubes submerged in the water of the boiler, turning it too steam, and powering the train. If the pressure got to be too much, the steam was also able to be released manually.

William Murdoch was a Scottish inventor who built the first prototype of a steam locomotive in 1784. From there, a model of the steam locomotive was developed further by John Fitch in 1794, using interior blade wheels that were guided by tracks. Although, some historians and experts dispute the date of that prototype’s creation. However, experts do agree that the first steam locomotive that worked and was built on a full scale was created by Trevithick(whose first locomotive was called “the Puffing Eagle”. It was able to run once it was put to use– but with middling success.

Ultimately, Trevithick’s design utilized innovations such as high-pressure steam, reducing the engine’s weight and thus increasing the efficiency of the engine. When the inventor visited Newcastle in 1804, owners and engineers were ready to receive him, and as a result colliery railways located in the northeast section of England became the go-to place for this locomotive to be developed and experimented with to improve it. Trevithick also experimented with other locomotives, working to develop steam propulsion. This ended with the Catch Me Who Can in 1808.

Salamanca, a twin-cylinder locomotive, came along in 1812. Invented by Matthew Murray and designed exclusively for an edge railed track, Middleton railway rolled it out and began using it. William Hedley also designed the Puffing Billy, another of the earlier prototypes of the staem locomotive, in 1813/1814. This was going to be run by the Wylam Colliery railroad and now is on display at the Science Museum of London.

The Locomotion was built for the Stockton & Darlington railway, the first public steam railway, and its creator George Stephenson built the Rocket in 1829, which claimed victory in the Rainhill Trials and resulted in the inventor successfully making his company the primary constructor of staem locomotives for not only the United Kingdom, but Europe and the United States as well. When the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened shortly after, they used steam locomotives for the purpose of both passenger trains and goods ones too.

Steam power certainly changed the way that locomotives were able to operate– and by doing so, changed the way that an entire industry operated. Freight, materials, and passengers were now moved using the powerful technology of high pressure steam, and locomotives powered this way became indispensable for the majority of the 1800s and for some time after. However, the monopoly on transportation could not last forever. As technology became more developed and more inventions were made, the steam locomotive was forced to make way for the newer– and more efficient– models.

These days, steam locomotives are featured mostly in museums. Railroad museums showcase their exhibits on steam locomotives, with real locomotives preserved and on display! From the moment they were conceived and made a reality, steam locomotives drastically changed the way that the railroads operated, and many people got rich by way of their steam locomotive companies.

Along the way, the way the locomotives operated and looked continued to evolve– even developing ‘cattle catchers’ on the fronts to move cows that may have made their way onto the train tracks. Steam locomotives were used not only to transport goods, but people as well. They became increasingly more powerful and fast as they moved from two to four-cylinder design. Unfortunately, the age of steam could not last, and the steam locomotive was effectively edged out by electric and diesel trains. But to this day, the steam locomotive remains etched in history as one of the great inventions of the Industrial Age.