National Train Day
They travel thousands of miles to transport goods and passengers across the countryside to bring back their cargo to their destination.
As they travel through cities, forests, mountains, plains, and villages, two shining lines of silver trace their route. They transport cargo and people to wherever they are needed. We are referring to trains, the powerful machines that have influenced so much of history and done incredible things for industries and economies all around the globe.
National Train Day celebrates these amazing machines and their role in our lives.
National Train Day’s history is about trains. It goes back further than you might think. Railroads are actually a progression of wagonways which were basically railroads powered solely by horses and have a history that goes back more than 2000 years.
Around 600 BC, the first “train track” was discovered near Corinth in Ancient Greece. Animals and men would pull their boats along limestone grooves for five miles to reach their destination at the sea. Similar activities were carried out by the Romans in Roman Egypt.
Wagonways and railways were born out of practicality. You could transport heavier loads more efficiently over longer distances using prepared paths.
Modern ‘ways’ were not created using metal rails. They were created with wooden rails and, in the distance, even with cut-stone tracks. You can increase the horse’s ability to haul nearly 13 tons by being careful. This is a significant increase in cargo capacity, and a huge boon for those who need to move large quantities of it long distances.
Wooden rails had to be replaced frequently so it was common to cover them with thin metal plates to preserve the wood.
All that changed with the industrial revolution, when metal rails became more popular. In 1750, iron production in industry increased dramatically. The modern science of engineering and metallurgy made it possible to create new techniques that allowed for an explosion in output.
The price of tracks started to drop as a result of increased supply. It was suddenly possible to lay more tracks, replacing the wooden versions with broken joints that were often a problem.
However, there was still one problem: consignments were prone to veer off the rails literally. John Curr, an industrialist and manager of a colliery, saw the problem in flat wheels. He saw that there had to be a way to keep the wagon in line. He came up with the idea of creating an L-shaped profile for the wheel that would keep it from sliding off the track.
This early development does not mention steam-powered locomotives, which are the first thing people think of when talking about trains. James Watt’s proof of concept in 1769 was the catalyst for the development of the steam engine. Even he couldn’t see its potential. He wanted steam to power factories and not trains.
The first steam locomotive that was fully functional and operational took over thirty years to arrive in 1804 under Richard Trevithick’s direction. Trevithick didn’t succeed in commercializing the idea. He did build many demonstrations but he didn‚Äôt have the financial means to make it a reality. The first commercial train journeys began only in 1812 and were very small.
We all know the outcome: trains overtook the world. They created our modern, productive society and changed the lives of every person.
It was only natural that trains were a major part of our collective history. Therefore, someone somewhere had to think of hosting “train day.” This event would allow everyone who has been a beneficiary of locomotives to recognize their contribution and help us all move forward.
Amtrak planned to host events each year but ran into financial difficulties. In 2015, Amtrak closed its official National Train Day. However, that wasn’t the end. It was so popular that enthusiasts continued to celebrate it over the years.
It’s the best way to celebrate National Train Day by taking a train ride! No matter what train it is going to, it can be an amazing and relaxing experience.
Steam trains can be found in some towns. They are often part of the history of the town and are still in use. Dinner trains are always a pleasant experience. If you are planning to travel, instead of taking a plane or car, consider taking a train across the country. National Train Day offers a unique opportunity to see the world and enjoy these incredible vehicles.