Trains and railroads were an important invention. With the ability to haul goods and people across the miles on railways, new growth was suddenly possible. Trains were the first industrialized mode of transportation, coming into existence before cars and airplanes, with their business-class tickets and first-class airfares. When the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, the east and west coasts of the United States were finally connected by railway. This was an important event in American history.

1769: James Watt was a mechanical engineer who worked to design the first steam engine. In 1769, Watt applied for and received a patent for his invention.

July 26, 1803: The Surrey Iron Railway opened and began operation in London. This was the world’s first railway for transporting public goods.

June 24, 1812: Middleton Railway, the first commercial passenger railway, opened. This railway had the world’s first steam locomotives used commercially.

September 27, 1825: The Locomotion No. 1, designed by George Stephenson, pulled coal for the first time. The nine-mile track was located in England.

1826: North America’s first working railway began in Quincy, Massachusetts.

April 24, 1827: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was organized and incorporated. The B&O was the first westward railroad in America.

August 8, 1829: The Stourbridge Lion, the first steam locomotive in the United States, was tested in Pennsylvania.

August 28, 1830: The Tom Thumb, the United States’ first steam locomotive, raced against a horse-drawn B&O railroad car. The B&O car won, but the Tom Thumb showed people impressive speeds.

1832: Charles Fox patented his invention for railway points, which made it possible for trains to switch tracks.

January 1845: Asa Whitney requested a charter and grant from U.S. Congress for a 60-mile strip of land that would help begin construction of a transcontinental railroad.

September 20, 1850: President Millard Fillmore signed the Railroad Land Grant Act into law. This act helped begin the development of the western United States.

April 22, 1856: The Chicago and Rock Island railroad bridge successfully carried steam engines and passenger cars over the Mississippi River.

July 1860: Theodore Judah and Dr. Daniel Strong successfully found the point in the Sierra Nevadas where it was possible to construct a railway through the mountains.

July 1, 1862: Congress passed and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act. This act made it possible for lines to be built eastward from California and westward from the Missouri River, meeting to complete the Transcontinental Railroad.

January 10, 1863: The Metropolitan Railway opened as the first underground railway in London.

May 1865: The funeral procession for President Lincoln included the first Pullman sleeping car. This event helped with the success of this luxury sleeping car.

October 6, 1866: A group of outlaws pulled off the first armed robbery of a train in Jackson County, Indiana.

April 16, 1868: Union Pacific railway construction reached Sherman Summit, the highest elevation of railway through the Rocky Mountains.

May 10, 1869: The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads finally connect with the physical touching of engines No. 119 and Jupiter at Promontory Summit in Utah.

March 5, 1872: George Westinghouse patented his railroad air brake.

1881: Westinghouse finished design of his automatic electric block signal. This equipment helped prevent train crashes and move trains more efficiently.

February 1888: The Richmond Union Passenger Railway began operating an electric railway system on the streets of Richmond, Virginia.

1890: Underground trains in London converted to electrical power.

August 10, 1893: Rudolf Diesel operated the first diesel engine he created. This engine was run with peanut oil.

1900: Frederick Upham Adams designed the Windsplitter, which was a streamlined train that could reach speeds of up to 85 miles per hour.

1913: Sweden began using diesel-powered trains.

December 26, 1917: President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order that assumed power over the country’s railroads.

March 1, 1920: The Transportation Act, or the Esch-Cummins Act, discontinued the nationalization of railways and returned them to private management.

1925: The Central Railroad of New Jersey utilized the first diesel-electric locomotive.

1927: Initial designs of air-conditioned passenger cars were produced.

1928: The Royal Scot set a nonstop distance record between Glasgow and London.

1934: The first diesel locomotives utilized for passengers were put into service.

April 1935: The New Haven Railroad introduced the Comet, which ran between Boston and Providence. The Comet reached speeds of up to 109 miles per hour.

1964: The Tokaido Shinkansen began running a route between Tokyo and Osaka in Japan.

1979: France began operating a high-speed train named the TGV. This train traveled at average speeds of 213 kilometers per hour. High-speed trains rival airplane travel with first-class airfares and business-class tickets.

1980: The Staggers Act of 1980 partially deregulated the railroad industry. The act enabled railroads to function competitively.

1987: The British Rail high-speed train broke a speed record at 238 kilometers per hour.

1990: The French TGV broke a speed record at 515 kilometers per hour, which is 320 miles per hour.

2007: Spain began operating its Madrid-Segovia-Valladolid line, which achieved speeds of up to 350 kilometers per hour.

2010: Shanghai Metro became the biggest transit system, operating 267 stations.