Prior to the Industrial Revolution transportation of people and goods was based on horsepower, carriages, wagons, barges and shipping. The advent of fossil fuel energy made the world more accessible producing a quantum leap in globalization. Factories and steam engines produced not only profits but smoke, grime and noise. Factory workers endured long working hours and aristocrats fought railways wishing to run in straight lines through their country estates.
American Robert Fulton (1765-1815) built the first commercially successful steamboat, and by the mid-19th century while small steamships plied the rivers and canals of Europe, the Mississippi and Australia’s Murray-Darling.
Iron hulled ships were built first for trade across the Atlantic and then further to Australia.
The journey from London to Edinburgh by horse and carriage took five days. As steam-powered ships were making their debut, the steam locomotive was also coming into use. In the early 1800s, British engineer Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) constructed the first railway steam locomotive and in 1830, England’s Liverpool to Manchester (Stockton to Darlington) Railway became the first to offer regular, timetabled passenger services as cotton products developed in the mills of Manchester could be transported by rail the 20 miles to the docks at Liverpool. Robert Stephenson steam locomotive ‘Rocket’ designed in 1829 averaged 29 mph on this journey which was faster than any other means of transport at that time. This led to a frenzy of rail construction and the civil engineering of bridges, tunnels and viaducts connecting the industrial north of Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham to London and thence to trade with India and southeast Asia through the Mediterranean, Suez, and the Red Sea. By 1850, Britain had more than 6,000 miles of railroad track and by the end of the 19th century this had increased to about 20,000 miles. For a period the publicly owned railways produced investment returns of around 10% but by 1847 it was a bubble that had run its course, taken over by private companies. Animals disappeared from the cities, shopping became more exciting, lower classes travelled to the countryside and football matches and, though train carriages were divided into first, second and third class they seemed to be devouring both hierarchy and the countryside. Railroad construction moved to America, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Emphasis moved to luxury, speed and food. The 1901 soccer cup final brought 114,000 people to London by train. With the advent of war in 1914 troops travelled to Folkestone and Southampton to join the front. By 1923 cars had arrived and the rail network, which had become large and unwieldy, was taken over by four conglomerates their competition culminating in a steam train land speed record of 126 mph, but as cost blew out the network was again taken over by government.
Around 1820, Scottish engineer John McAdam (1756-1836) developed a new process for road construction. His technique, which became known as macadam, resulted in roads that were smoother, more durable and less muddy.
Massive sea-going ships were steadily replacing sail, helping to building up the cities of north-west Europe on the money earned from the Atlantic in a continuous triangle of trade that passed down the West African coast to the Americas and back to Europe – consisting of European manufactured goods, African slaves, and plantation-produced sugar, rum, cotton, and tobacco.