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P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland
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CSS Dixieland

Probing the depths of knowledge

These essays by P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland, cover a wide range of historical, philosophical, scientifical and technical subjects. Each page deals with a particular topic, divided into sections and explained by itself. Every page shows at its top hyper links to every other page. The Start page also has short descriptions of the other pages. CSS Dixieland expresses gratitude to the readers that make this work meaningful.

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Railways page

Underground, metropolitan or sub-urban railways in the world
The charming attraction of smokey chimneys and iron rails

Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard
Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard.
Wagner Frost Illustration

Sections in this page

  History of railways
  Hyper links

Technical note: In languages other than English or Latin, but which use mainly Latin characters, some characters are taken from other alphabets, or some Latin characters are modified with diacritic marks for representing different phonemic sounds or other orthographic conventions of those languages. Those characters, when used in this document, have been encoded as entities of Hyper Text Mark-up Language or sometimes in Unicode UTF-8. Therefore computers using other character encodings may render some characters inaccurately, but hopefully, it will still be possible to read non-English words without too much difficulty.


History of railways


120 Before Christ: steam rotational sphere of Heron of Alexandria, a curiosity without practical application.

After Christ:

Early XVI century: wooden rails are laid in the coal mines of some European countries, as an aid to guide wagons loaded with mineral and pushed or pulled by hand.

Early XVII century: small steam vehicle built by Ferdinand Verbiest. It was only a toy, but it is the first self propelled vehicle in History.

1601: steam pump of Giovanni della Porta. Only a project, never built.

1629: steam turbine of Giovanni Branca. Built, but never passed the experimental stage.

1663: steam engine of the Marquis of Worcester. It was the first static steam engine that really became operational, used as a pump for drainage of water in mines.

1690: steam engine of Denis Papin.

1698: steam engine of Thomas Savery (1650-1715), used as a pump for drainage of water.

1705: first experiments with the steam engine of Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729).

1712: the steam engine of Newcomen becomes operational. It alternates heat and cold in a cylinder that simultaneously acts as the condenser.

Middle XVIII century: the wooden rails used to guide wagons in mines begin to be covered with iron.

1763: "Fardier", first steam locomotive of Nicholas Joseph Cugnot and first full-size self propelled vehicle in History (second self propelled vehicle of any size, after the small steam vehicle of Ferdinand Verbiest).

1769: steam engine of James Watt, separating cylinder and condenser.

1770: second steam locomotive of Nicholas Joseph Cugnot and second full-size self propelled vehicle in History (third self propelled vehicle of any size, after the small steam vehicle of Ferdinand Verbiest). Cugnot's locomotive was intended as a military ammunition carrier, but due to an accident it was thought dangerous and the project abandoned.

1784: steam vehicle of William Murdock.

Late XVIII century: the rails used to guide wagons in mines are now entirely made of iron.

1804: first self propelled vehicle in regular use (third of full size, fourth of any size) is the steam locomotive of Richard Trevithick, working at two atmospheres of pressure. It was used for carrying mineral ore in the line from Pennydarram Mines to Albercynon, Wales Country.

1808: second steam locomotive of Richard Trevithick.

1812: funicular system (zip railway) of John Blenkinsop.

1814: "Blücher", first steam locomotive of George Stephenson (1781-1848). Used for carrying mineral ore in the line from Lillingworth to Hetton, Killingworth Mines, England.

1815: steam engine of Oliver Evans, working at fourteen atmospheres of pressure.

1825: "Active-Locomotion", second steam locomotive of George Stephenson, which inaugurates the 61 Kilometre line from Stockton to Darlington, England. It was the first line transporting passengers (other than mine workers).

1827: re-heated steam engine of Marc Séguim.

1830: "The Rocket", third steam locomotive of George Stephenson, incorporating the re-heated steam engine of Marc Séguim.

1839: inauguration of the line from Liverpool to Manchester, England, propelled by "The Rocket" of Stephenson.

Middle XIX century: the iron rails are gradually replaced by steel rails.

1846: a more advanced model of steam locomotive, built by George Stephenson.

1863: underground metropolitan railway in London.

1869: pneumatic brake of George Westinghouse.

1872: line circuit signal system of William Robinson.

1873: automatic coupling of Eli Janney.

1879: experimental electric locomotive of Werner Von Siemens (1816-1892), shown at the Berlin Exhibition.

1881: experimental French electric locomotive, energised by accumulators.

1895: electric locomotive of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company.

1898: electrified line in Switzerland.

1896: wagons made of steel, in gradual substitution of wooden wagons. In 1930 most wagons were already of steel.

1907: conference in Bern, Switzerland. The gauge of 1435 millimetres becomes officially adopted as international. It is the gauge used today in most lines of most nations, although other gauges still continue in existence.

Wide gauges, from 1676 to 1440 millimetres, are the most diversified:

Argentina and Chile 1676 millimetres.
Spain 1674 millimetres.
Portugal 1665 millimetres.
Brazil 1600 millimetres.
Russia (and some lines in Poland) 1523 millimetres.
Italy 1445 millimetres.
France 1440 millimetres.

International gauge, of 1435 millimetres, adopted in 1907 by the Bern conference, is the gauge that covers most lines of most nations.

Narrow gauges, of 1000 or of 760 millimetres, cover lines in several nations.

Most of the nations listed above as using a special gauge for some lines, also use international gauge for other lines. Some nations use as many as four different gauges. Brazil, for instance, has a chaos of 1600 mm (wide gauge), 1435 mm (international gauge), 1000 mm and 760 mm (narrow gauges).

1925: Diesel locomotive of the New Jersey Central Railroad. Diesel engines slowly substitute steam engines. After the 1960's most lines were either electric or Diesel, steam power remaining for unimportant freight lines, or also in backward countries. After the 1980's, however, surviving or recovered steam lines become a touristic attraction.

Hyper links


Estaçoes Ferroviarias
Stations in the State of São Paulo, Brazil


Electric Transport in Latin America, including tramways



Railway Pictures
Images related to railways


Images related to railways, plus technical terms and discussions


Maps of metropolitan railways in the world

Underground railways


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