A Brief History of the Transportation Industry – Part One

Imagine, if you will, Planet Earth around six million years ago. First human spots a tasty looking animal in the near distance, with trusty club in hand he manages to thwack said animal which in a matter of seconds becomes dinner for the family. Dinner gets dragged back to camp and in one fell swoop we have the beginning of transportation…feet!

Frankly, apart from horses and beasts of burden nothing much changed until approximately 4,200 BC when some extremely smart dude invented the wheel, this was a real game changer. However, it took another seven hundred years to work out that putting wheels on a cart would take care of a whole lot of heavy lifting.

 All that was needed to speed up the process was to attach a horse to the cart and there you have it the first method of transport across a previously impossible distance.

All well and good if they wanted to get their goods from one village to the next but if there happened to be a stretch of water in between the next settlement no option but to turn round and head home. The good news was that not long after the wheeled cart another bright spark invented the boat round about 3500 BC.

The evolution of water transport was the key to international travel, trade and sadly warfare. Early boats were man powered, often by slaves who were spurred on to row faster with liberal usage of a whip. By 2000 BC wind power was recognised and sails were rigged and enabled early ships to travel faster and further, ship building developed steadily with boats becoming sturdier, larger, and reliable and by the 16th century galleons were used to transport cargo to and from the Americas. In 1819 the first steamship was built and sea faring international trade and transportation were truly up and running.

Whilst innovation on the high seas progressed ay a “rate of knots”, land travel was restricted to horse drawn carriages all the way through to 1814 when Englishman George Stephenson famously invented the first steam train named  Blucher, in 1829 the same man invented a locomotive capable of speeds approaching 30 mph, aptly and famously named “The Rocket”. With the capability of travelling long distances overground, rail networks spread rapidly so that tons of goods and hundreds of people could be deposited at distances previously unattainable. The first steam locomotive in America was built in 1825 by John Stevens of Hoboken, New Jersey which he ran on a half mile circular track.

You only have to have seen a handful of Western movies or TV shows to realise how important the locomotive was to the history of modern America.

Coming in part 2, more trains, planes and automobiles and transport in the USA.