Public Transport: How Did It Develop Between 1830 and 1930? - History Essay Example

I have chosen the topic of how public transport changed and improved, as this is a wide topic spanning two centuries, I shall limit mine from 1830 at the birth of the train’s expedition between Manchester and Liverpool, to 1930, just before World War Two - Public Transport: How Did It Develop Between 1830 and 1930? introduction. I have chosen this topic mainly because of London’s Tube; I have been interested in the underground for quite a while and I thought it would be interesting to see the Tube’s predecessors and how the underground was created.

Also, it is an invention that affected a lot of people- nowadays people can get from south England to north England in a matter of hours; unthought-of in the time of horse and carriage, as then it would take days. [1] It’s the big day in 1830; millions of people have arrived to see the new locomotive in action, bursting to see if it shall succeed or fail. “A whopping speed of 35 miles an hour! Can you imagine? ” one woman exclaims as the crowd thickens. This train is to travel from Manchester to Liverpool- both leading cities in the Industrial Revolution. 2]


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Although very basic trains have been around since the times of BC, this was the longest route made to that date, making it an important milestone. The train to travel this exceedingly long route (for that time) was the Stephenson’s Rocket, built by George Stephenson and his son, Robert Stephenson. [3]8 years later, again in Liverpool, a new concept was developed- the mobile Post Office. Trains were starting to be used between Birmingham and Liverpool to sort mail and deliver them on route without stopping- on a slightly adjusted passenger train.

This greatly lowered the delivery time but didn’t slow down the route of the passengers; this concept of delivery is still used for city-to-city mail delivery. [4] By 1840 1,500 miles of railroad track had been built, but it wasn’t until almost six decades later that the next big step in locomotive transport was to undergo- the steam train. One of the first steam trains was the Snowdon Railway- built in 1896. It only travelled at 20mph, so was quite slow, but it was more stabile on the track- [5]the Rocket was quite prone to rocking.

The Decapod then greatly increased time in 1902- to 70mph, over tripling the speed already set by a steam train. The next big step was to electric trains, North Eastern Railway (NER) cracked all the speed records with a 90mph train in 1904. This was short-lived, however. Coal was still a much easier and cheaper way to power the trains, so NER soon reverted back to steam engines. [2]Meanwhile, popularity of inner-city transport such as trams and the Underground had never been higher.

London Metropolitan Railway set out to develop an efficient system from the train stations on the outskirts of London (there weren’t any mainline stations in the heart of London) straight into the centre. This electrical line, the electricity picked up from a third rail, was opened in 1863. Trams, however, are much older. The first tram was invented and used in Harlem, 1832. This was a horse-driven tram. Werner Von Siemens designed an ergonomical overhead wire system, which transferred electricity to power the tram using an ‘arm’, which could be stacked down when not in use. This ‘arm’ is still used in trams, trains and trolley buses today. 6]Another form of inner-city travel were omnibuses: horse-drawn carriages that performed the same services as a modern-day bus.

In 1898 the first motorbus was used, [2][5]The biggest of all public transport up until 1930, however, has to be the boat. Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the first truly economical vessel, the SS Great Western. With a capacity of 148 people, it made its maiden voyage in 1838, transporting people to New York- a journey that took just 15 days. This feat set the scene for more boats to be built- it was proven in this voyage that steamboats can be economical, and could cover the Atlantic.

The next development in boats was steam turbines- first seen in the boat Turbinia. I used a few sources for my narrative; it was hard to find internet sources which weren’t Wikipedia- which I tried to avoid- so I used some books instead. The first book I used was “The Day the World Took Off” (Dugan). This was a highly useful source as it provided a good detailed version of the events at the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway, caputuring the perspectives of the various people involved. However, it provided little detail of the trains themselves, which was important for my narrative.

This was where “On the Move” really shone out, it had great detail of each of the trains. It wasn’t, however, the most clearly presented, so some mistakes were made prior to checking of the content. The third book I used was “Timelines Transport” This had information on both land and water vehicles, which was the most useful for the content on boats, which was clear and greatly detailed. However, while it did have lots of modes of transport, in some areas it was quite minimal, for instance there wasn’t very much on trams- only one/two paragraphs.

The development of public transport was greatly affected by the great minds behind it. For rail there was George Stephenson, Robert Stephenson and Isambard Kindom Brunel. Brunel specialised in development of bridges- many still standing today. George and Robert Stephenson were more into the development of the locomotives, enhancing and improving wherever possible to get the most efficient, fastest, strongest train so far. Werner Von Siemens developed the electricity arm- initially for the tram, but it is now used in trams, trolley buses and trains.

This development affected international travel (for instance, use on the TGV 200 years later), cross-country travel and inner-city travel (trams). Isambard Kingdom Brunel was also the father of steamboat travel, making the first cross-Atlantic steam-powered journey. This paved the way for the modern luxury cruises, freights and liners still in operation. These great people all developed technology that influenced the design of many ways of travel, that hasn’t affected a minority, but almost everyone in the world. Using trains people can travel all through Europe, from China to Russia.

Metros in Moscow parry millions of people every day, all due to their great efficiency and ease of use. And this is all because of the developers and engineers of the 19th-20th century. Overall, I can honestly say that there is much more to public transport than I had initially thought: much more than just the London Tube, there are so many allies to go down. Had I chosen a wider time range it could’ve included the more modern London Buses, Bullet Trains, Zeppelins and Planes. The developments in the century I chose were the stepping-stones for the entire future of public transport.

The finding of sources was the hardest part of this project- finding internet sites that were entirely related was near impossible, so I had to rely on the information I got from books. Next time I might see how much information I can get on a project before doing it- this one was ok because each of the books had its own valuable information and lots of it. Another hard part was planning my time wisely so I didn’t do it all at the last minute, and I gradually built up my project step by step. Next time I would actually draw up a plan for how I should build it up.

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