High-speed Steam Trains

The crude “tea kettles on wheels” built by pioneers, such as George Stephenson in Britain and Peter Cooper in the US were transformed over the first 100 years of the railroad as steam-train technology leapt forward. The period between the world wars, in particular, saw great engineers of the time turn steam locomotives into sophisticated powerhouses.

An interesting analysis undertaken in 1889 by early “train enthusiasts” E. Foxwell and T. C. Farrer provides a comparative analysis of the speeds of trains across the world. In general, the authors were greatly disappointed by the slowness of most trains. For their research, the pair included only “expresses,” which they defined as averaging at least 29mph (46kph)—hardly ...

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