Including systems with man or horse power, and tracks or guides made of stone or wood, the history of rail transport dates back as far as the ancient Greeks.
Wagonways were relatively common in Europe (typically in mining) from about 1500 through 1800. Mechanised rail transport systems first appeared in England in the 1820s. These systems, which made use of the steam locomotive, were critical to the Industrial Revolution and to the development of export economies across the world. They have remained the primary form of long distance land transportation for many bulk materials such as coal, ore, grains, stone and sand and gravel.
Wagonways (or tramways) are thought to have developed in Germany in the 1550s to facilitate the transport of ore tubs to and from mines, using primitive wooden rails. This used "Hund" carts with unflanged wheels running on wooden planks and a vertical pin on the truck fitting into the gap between the planks, to keep it going the right way. Such a transport system was used by German miners at Caldbeck, Cumbria, England, perhaps from the 1560s. An alternative explanation derives it from the Magyar hintó - a carriage. There are possible references to their use in central Europe in the 15th century.
The first true railway is now suggested to have been a funicular railway made at Broseley in Shropshire, England at some time before 1605. This carried coal for James Clifford from his mines down to the river Severn to be loaded onto barges and carried to riverside towns. Though the first documentary record of this is later, its construction probably preceded the Wollaton Wagonway completed in 1604, hitherto regarded as the earliest British installation. This ran from Strelley to Wollaton near Nottingham.
The introduction of the Bessemer process, enabling steel to be made inexpensively, led to the era of great expansion of railways that began in the late 1860s. Steel rails lasted several times longer than iron. Steel rails made heavier locomotives possible, allowing for longer trains and improving the productivity of railroads. The Bessemer process introduced nitrogen into the steel, which caused the steel to become brittle with age. The open hearth furnace began to replace the Bessemer process near the end of 19th century, improving the quality of steel and further reducing costs.
James Watt, a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer, was responsible for improvements to the steam engine of Thomas Newcomen used to pump water out of mines. Watt developed a reciprocating engine, capable of powering a wheel. Although the Watt engine powered cotton mills and a variety of machinery, it was a large stationary engine. It could not be otherwise: the state of boiler technology necessitated the use of low pressure steam acting upon a vacuum in the cylinder; this required a separate condenser and an air pump. Nevertheless, as the construction of boilers improved, Watt investigated the use of high-pressure steam acting directly upon a piston. This raised the possibility of a smaller engine, that might be used to power a vehicle, and he patented a design for a steam locomotive in 1784. His employee William Murdoch produced a working model of a self-propelled steam carriage in that year.
The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive was built in the United Kingdom in 1804 by Richard Trevithick, an English engineer born in Cornwall. This used high-pressure steam to drive the engine by one power stroke. The transmission system employed a large flywheel to even out the action of the piston rod. On 21 February 1804 the world's first railway journey took place when Trevithick's unnamed steam locomotive hauled a train along the tramway of the Penydarren ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. Trevithick later demonstrated a locomotive operating upon a piece of circular rail track in Bloomsbury, London, the Catch Me Who Can, but never got beyond the experimental stage with railway locomotives, not least because his engines were too heavy for the cast-iron plateway track then in use. Despite his inventive talents, Richard Trevithick died in poverty, with his achievement largely unrecognised.
The first commercially successful steam locomotive was Matthew Murray's rack locomotive Salamanca built for the narrow gauge Middleton Railway in Leeds in 1812. This twin-cylinder locomotive was not heavy enough to break the edge-rails track, and solved the problem of adhesion by a cog-wheel using teeth cast on the side of one of the rails. It was the first rack railway.
This was followed in 1813 by the Puffing Billy built by Christopher Blackett and William Hedley for the Wylam Colliery Railway, the first successful locomotive running by adhesion only. This was accomplished by the distribution of weight between a number of wheels. Puffing Billy is now on display in the Science Museum in London, the oldest locomotive in existence.
In 1814 George Stephenson, inspired by the early locomotives of Trevithick, Murray and Hedley, persuaded the manager of the Killingworth colliery where he worked to allow him to build a steam-powered machine. He built the Blücher, one of the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotives. Stephenson played a pivotal role in the development and widespread adoption of the steam locomotive. His designs considerably improved on the work of the earlier pioneers. In 1825 he built the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the north east of England, which was the first public steam railway in the world. Such success led to Stephenson establishing his company as the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives used on railways in the United Kingdom, United States and much of Europe.
As the colliery and quarry tramways and wagonways grew longer, the possibility of using the technology for the public conveyance of goods suggested itself. On 26 July 1803, Jessop opened the Surrey Iron Railway, south of London arguably. It was not a railway in the modern sense of the word, as it functioned like a turnpike road. There were no official services, as anyone could bring a vehicle on the railway by paying a toll.
In 1812, Oliver Evans, an American engineer and inventor, published his vision of what steam railways could become, with cities and towns linked by a network of long distance railways plied by speedy locomotives, greatly speeding up personal travel and goods transport. Evans specified that there should be separate sets of parallel tracks for trains going in different directions. However, conditions in the infant United States did not enable his vision to take hold.
This vision had its counterpart in Britain, where it proved to be far more influential. William James, a rich and influential surveyor and land agent, was inspired by the development of the steam locomotive to suggest a national network of railways. It seems likely that in 1808 The success of the Stockton and Darlington encouraged the rich investors in the rapidly industrialising North West of England to embark upon a project to link the rich cotton manufacturing town of Manchester with the thriving port of Liverpool. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first modern railway, in that both the goods and passenger traffic were operated by scheduled or timetabled locomotive hauled trains. When it was built, there was serious doubt that locomotives could maintain a regular service over the distance involved. A widely reported competition was held in 1829 called the Rainhill Trials, to find the most suitable steam engine to haul the trains. A number of locomotives were entered, including Novelty, Perseverance, and Sans Pareil. The winner was Stephenson's Rocket, which steamed better because of its multi-tubular boiler (suggested by Henry Booth, a director of the railway company).
The promoters were mainly interested in goods traffic, but after the line opened on 15 September 1830, they were surprised to find that passenger traffic was just as remunerative. The success of the Liverpool and Manchester railway influenced the development of railways elsewhere in Britain and abroad. The company hosted many visiting deputations from other railway projects, and many railway men received their early training and experience upon this line.
The Liverpool and Manchester line was, however, only 35 miles (56 km) long. The world's first trunk line can be said to be the Grand Junction Railway, opening in 1837, and linking a midpoint on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway with Birmingham, via Crewe, Stafford, and Wolverhampton.
The earliest locomotives in revenue service were small four-wheeled ones similar to the Rocket. However, the inclined cylinders caused the engine to rock, so they first became horizontal and then, in his "Planet" design, were mounted inside the frames. While this improved stability, the "crank axles" were extremely prone to breakage. Greater speed was achieved by larger driving wheels at expense of a tendency for wheel slip when starting. Greater tractive effort was obtained by smaller wheels coupled together, but speed was limited by the fragility of the cast iron connecting rods. Hence, from the beginning, there was a distinction between the light fast passenger locomotive and the slower more powerful goods engine. Edward Bury, in particular, refined this design and the so-called "Bury Pattern" was popular for a number of years, particularly on the London and Birmingham.
Meanwhile, by 1840, Stephenson had produced larger, more stable, engines in the form of the 2-2-2 "Patentee" and six-coupled goods engines. Locomotives were travelling longer distances and being worked more extensively. The North Midland Railway expressed their concern to Robert Stephenson who was, at that time, their general manager, about the effect of heat on their fireboxes. After some experiments, he patented his so-called Long Boiler design. These became a new standard and similar designs were produced by other manufacturers, particularly Sharp Brothers whose engines became known affectionately as "Sharpies".
Railways quickly became essential to the swift movement of goods and labour that was needed for industrialization. In the beginning, canals were in competition with the railways, but the railways quickly gained ground as steam and rail technology improved, and railways were built in places where canals were not practical.
By the 1850s, many steam-powered railways had reached the fringes of built-up London. But the new companies were not permitted to demolish enough property to penetrate the City or the West End, so passengers had to disembark at Paddington, Euston, King's Cross, Fenchurch Street, Charing Cross, Waterloo or Victoria and then make their own way by hackney carriage or on foot into the centre, thereby massively increasing congestion in the city. A Metropolitan Railway was built underground to connect several of these separate railway terminals, and was the world's first "Metro".
By improving personal mobility the railways were a significant force for social change. Rail transport had originally been conceived as a way of moving coal and industrial goods but the railway operators quickly realised the potential for market for railway travel, leading to an extremely rapid expansion in passenger services. The number of railway passengers trebled in just eight years between 1842 and 1850: traffic volumes roughly doubled in the 1850s and then doubled again in the 1860s.
About the Automotive Industry
Railways in Great Britain are run under a structure established by the Railways Act 1993 (as amended), which provided for the break-up of the former vertically integrated state railway, the British Railways Board, and the transfer of its operations into the private sector. The Secretary of State for Transport has overall responsibility for the railways within the Government
The railway track and infrastructure is owned and operated by Network Rail which is regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation.
In Great Britain, passenger trains are run under either franchises from the Department for Transport or on an open access basis, which means their operators have no contract with government. Freight train operators have no contracts with government, and rely on the competitiveness and attractiveness of their product and services to maintain and increase their market shares.
Rolling stock is largely owned by rolling stock leasing companies - ROSCOs.
In 2006, using powers in the Railways Act 2005, the Department for Transport took over most of the functions of the now wound up Strategic Rail Authority. The DfT now itself runs competitions for the award of passenger rail franchises, and, once awarded, monitors and enforces the contracts with the private sector franchisees. Franchises specify the passenger rail services which are to be run and the quality and other conditions (for example, the cleanliness of trains, station facilities and opening hours, the punctuality and reliability of trains) which the operators have to meet. Some franchises receive subsidy from the DfT for doing so, and some are cash-positive, which means that the franchisee pays the DfT for the contract. Some franchises start life as subsidised and, over their life, move to being cash-positive.
The other regulatory authority for the privatised railway is the Office of Rail Regulation, which, following the Railways Act 2005, is the combined economic and safety regulator. It replaced the Rail Regulator on 5 July 2004.
Unlike the other constituent countries of the United Kingdom, railways in Northern Ireland are a devolved matter. The Northern Ireland Minister for Regional Development has responsibility for railways in Northern Ireland. (Even during direct rule, a Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office has always had responsibility for railways in Northern Ireland, and not the Secretary of State for Transport).
The structure of the railway industry in Northern Ireland is governed by the Transport Act 1967 (Northern Ireland), an Act of the former Parliament of Northern Ireland that still applies. This established a statutory corporation, the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company - which trades under the brand name Translink - whose members are appointed by the Minister for Regional Development. The corporation has established a wholly owned subsidiary, Northern Ireland Railways Company Limited - which trades as NI Railways - to carry out its functions relating to railways.
Unlike in Great Britain, where different companies run the network, provide rolling stock, and operate trains, NI Railways carries out all these activities itself in Northern Ireland and is thus a vertically integrated railway rather than merely a train operating company. The only exception is the Dublin - Belfast railway line, where services are operated jointly with Iarnród Éireann, the nationalised railway company in the Republic of Ireland, under the brand name Enterprise.
Why choose a career in the Automotive Industry?
The railway industry in the UK is positively booming. Nearly 20% of all European passenger journeys take place in the UK alone. The network is the fastest growing in Europe, and opportunities will continue to expand in the sector. There are currently 2,500 stations in the UK running 4,000 trains with 32,000 track kilometres. This is going to expand over years to come, and the sector will have a demand for engineers to not only create these new expansions but to maintain the current ones too.
Rail opportunities are available all around the globe, not just in the UK, there can be plenty of opportunities to work all around the world.
There will always be demand for railway in the UK, which means jobs are very likely to stay in demand too. There’s so much variety in this sector that you can effectively build and create your own career path.
If you choose to work in the rail industry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work with the latest state of the art technology.
As with many engineering jobs, you can have a background in all sorts of different things and still have a good chance of re-engineering into what seems like an unrelated sector. You can specialise in materials, electronics, mechanical, telecoms and more. There’s plenty of room for extra learning and progression, and if you have come from another background, you’ll have transferrable skills to carry over.
If you’ve come from an electrical engineering background or mechanical engineering, this will play to your advantage slightly more than other disciplines. If you have telecom skills, these too will be in great demand as Network Rail increases and maintains its traffic management system.
What personnel are in demand who should contact us?
There are a wide variety of Rail industry related jobs across a range of disciplines. Typically the following personnel can transfer with ease with a little assistance:
Project Managers, Project Engineers, Automotive engineers and designers, Electrical engineers, Mechanical engineers, Civil and structural engineers, Safety personnel, planning engineers, document controllers, systems integrators, maintenance and service personnel, admin personnel,
There is also a demand for senior commercial and managerial roles (eg.. business development managers, country and sales managers, those with Technical Safety experience, government relations and project management.
In most instances no training will be required prior to placement, but we are able to assist where required. We will put you in touch with employers happy to engage you with your current skills and qualifications.
We will help you re-engineer yourself into this ever evolving high prospects industry.