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The Propelling Force of the Railway

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Through time men have achieved to go beyond the natural limitations they were born with. The strive for more strength and faster speeds can be seen from the earliest times, when men harnessed the power of horses, whether it be for battle scenarios or merely the thrill of the ride. With the entrance of industrialization and machinery into the world, even greater things were dreamed of that could out-do any creature. Born was the eventual creation of the steam railway. Although its impacts could not fully be seen at first, this machine would indeed turn out to be the most influential technology of the modern period. Growing from a simple invention of a powered cart, the steam railway instantly captured the attention of the general public as well as scientists and engineers. Once established, it influenced trade, travel, and society in revolutionary ways, jump-starting the "shrinking" of the modern, connected world.

Even in the early stages of developing the steam railway's technology, the powerful implications could be seen. Transportation across land would be shifted from a person or animal that had a limited amount of energy and speed to a steam-powered machine that would never tire (Marsden and Smith 132). Once the concept was developed and construction of a large railway system began, the societal influences could start to be seen. This technology was unique in that all types of people, across all classes, could be excited about its uses and impacts on their own lives. It was not just a new machine to increase production or efficiency; it provided something completely new that could be experienced by all. This is shown clearly when the first trials for steam engines began, drawing huge crowds of scientists, locals, and even national media (Marsden and Smith 138). This new technology brought lots of excitement to people. With the influence of the railways this would mean traveling to new places, moving quickly over land, and seeing new sights, all of which were foreign to commoners. It introduced a mode of transportation that had never been seen, being faster and more efficient than anything previous. With some locomotives being able to carry a cart full of passengers at 35 mph, people could now cover distances in hours which normally would have taken days (Marsden and Smith 139). But the speed wasn't the only thing that made this technology so influential; beginning with the English railway mania in the 1840's and eventually spreading across the rest of Europe, one could travel internationally like never before (Otter). Prior to these railways, explorers would spend their entire lives traveling to other parts of the world. But with the global expansion of railways into Russia, China, and India, traveling took only a fraction of the time it used to.

Although this new process of building the railway system brought excitement and innovation, the most influential impacts of the steam railway were seen once they started being used more extensively. First, one of the largest advantages of a growing railway system meant a growing coal industry, a crucial energy source during this industrial time. If it were not for these new railways stretching nation-wide to new areas, transporting coal from distant areas would be expensive and time consuming, thus leaving the mining industry centralized to populated areas



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