America is known as a country of freedom; the freedom to choose between Italian or Mexican for dinner, the freedom to be a lawyer or a teacher, to choose to live in an apartment in New York or a cottage in Washington. Americans have the freedom to speak their minds and the freedom to listen to whomever they choose. Within these freedoms is the freedom to embark on a dream that seems impossible. Most would call the unknown crazy, Americans would call it revolutionary. While America was not the home of the first railway system, Americans used railroads to advance the country in a whole new way. Railroads have impacted how the country is run and continues to have a lasting effect today.
No one person can be credited for the invention of the railroad; rather there are many individuals who contributed to the railways final design. To begin, as far back as the 16th century, Germans were using horse-drawn wagons, pulled along wooden rails. These systems were known as “wagonways” and are grandparents of modern railways. By 1776, wooden rails and wheels had been replaced by iron. Eventually, the wheels became flanged, allowing the wheels to better grip the rails. The major turning point of locomotives was the invention of the steam engine. The steam engine was invented by three different British inventors, over a period of a hundred years; to give only one man the credit would be a crime.
The first man who had a hand in the steam engine was Thomas Savery. In 1698, Savery patented an “engine to raise water by fire”. The machine was used as a pump, which began by water being heated to vaporize it, causing it to fill a tank with steam, then the steam created a vacuum by isolating the tank from the steam source and condensing the steam. Savery built the machine to pump water out of coal mines, but the vacuum could only draw up water from a shallow depth. Another disadvantage of this design was the pressurized boilers had a tendency to explode due to the insubstantial design. While it was a crude and simple design, one could say Thomas Savery was the first man to build a successful steam engine.
The next man who had a hand in the steam engine’s design was a blacksmith named Thomas Newcomen. Newcomen struggled for ten years to improve Savory’s crude water pumping machine. The steam engine, he created, consisted of a steam cylinder that moved a large wooden beam to drive the water pump. The cylinder below the steam piston is first filled with steam and then water is sprayed into the cylinder to condense the steam. The resulting vacuum pulls the steam piston down, pulling the main pump piston upwards, lifting the water above the main pump piston and filling the lower main pump chamber with water. At the bottom of the steam piston stroke, a valve opens to restore the steam cylinder to atmospheric pressure, and the beam tips down on the right by gravity, permitting the main piston to fall. As the main piston falls, the water from below the piston passes...