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For a more general account of the relationship between transport and communication, social organization, and sustainability see the article introducing sustainability.

Transport & communication

Sustainability must take into account human activity at all scales, from individuals to international organizations.

The article on sustainability discussed how the increase in efficiency of energy capture and use resulted in three plant-based phases of human history, each associated with increasing social organization: Natura (wild plants), Agraria (cultivated plants), and Industria (industry based on fossil fuels) followed by a fourth and current phase of Informatia (information technology) in which we are winding back the use of fossil fuels.

During Natura, the plant energy used to build social structure was generated by human muscle. During Agraria human muscles were supplemented by animal muscles and more efficient technology. The additional use of fossil fuels during Industria increased the pace of this process manyfold.

Social organization, both as physical structures and governance, ensured that energy was used efficiently to gather and process resources (social sustenance) in the production and distribution of food and other goods and services. This was facilitated by improvements in the energy-dependent key factors of technology, transport, and communication.

Collectively, these factors created the cycle of production and consumption (social metabolism) that defines modern developed industrial societies that have followed a path of increasing economic activity, more jobs, and expanding populations. Social economic growth, like biological growth, is usually treated as a self-evident ‘good’.

So, societies, like organisms, metabolize resources in order to both survive and grow.

Transport and communication systems are the oil that lubricates this activity; they are what make resources available in the places where they are needed. Resource supply, transport systems, production, and consumption are locked together, each dependent on the other to create a synergistic momentum as science, technology, and engineering advance social organization.

The more resources taken from nature, the greater the environmental impact. Today’s challenge is to minimize the negative environmental effects of this global social metabolism: to manage what is now called our ecosystem services.

The following is a brief summary of the development of modes of transport, the evolution of major international transport networks, and the goods that were traded along these communication highways.

Anthropocene map

Major global communication and infrastructure links are shown in this map assembled as an image of built-up areas & the light pollution of cities (white/yellow over land), roads (green), railway lines (orange) shipping routes (white/blue over sea), pipelines (red), transmission lines (blue) and submarine cables (yellow over sea)

Data sources:
(GPW), v4 at 0.25 degree resolution, released by SEDAC (Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center). . The following datasets were used (accessed October 2016):
– Roads, railways, pipelines, transmission lines:
– Submarine cables:
– Air routes: ICAO stats
– Shipping lanes: NCEAS data
– Built-up areas: NaturalEarth and SAGE
– Earth at night: NASA
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial – ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Human impact on the global environment is now sufficient for scientists to propose naming the current epoch of Earth’s history the Anthropocene.

Transport systems

All transport and communication systems, like all life systems, depend on the underlying deployment of energy (see History in 10,000 words). Throughout human history, up to and including the present day, we have depended on the energy of muscle power for getting around. ‘Getting around’ is the way we achieve our universal historical goal of ‘getting things done’. What we will be examining here though is the way that, over time, we have harnessed ever more effective ways of getting around so that we can get more done. Of course we can only get more done by using more energy in ever shorter times, so the history of transportation is the history of ever more effective ways of harnessing energy. But here the emphasis will be on the development of the systems themselves, not their driver.

Our default mode of transport is via our muscles which were later supplemented, comparatively late in human history, by those of amenable animals. These means have been further supplemented by Technology that has improved efficiency. There was the advent of the wheel in the late Neolithic in association with other technological advances of the early Bronze Age. Archaeological evidence at present suggests that the wheel followed several millennia after the development of agriculture and pottery. The first free-spinning wheels are dated to 4500–3300 BCE and included the potter’s wheel and the earliest wooden wheels as disks with a hole for the axle and used for wheeled vehicles. This coincides with the period when the horse was domesticated. The use of domesticated animals and wheeled carts for the transport of ever larger quantities of humans and goods prompted two further developments: the construction of roads and large sea-going ships. Famous roads of antiquity included the Royal Road of Persia built by King Darius in the 5th century BCE to enable rapid communication across his vast empire from Susa to Sardis. Messengers on horseback could travel 2699 km in seven days by using fresh horses picked up from wayside inns. The Romans would later become famous for the elaborate system of roads crossing their empire (c. 100 BCE-400 CE), often elaborately constructed with a hard-packed gravelled or stoned surface and a width of 6.25 m all contained within stone curbing. Large populations could supply the people and skills needed to build ever larger and more robust sea-going ships.

Human muscle

For most of human history transport energy was derived from human muscle power. It is still how we get around house and garden and how we move around during the day. Anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, left Africa about 70,000 years ago to occupy all major continents of the world and they did so essentially by simply walking there. Ancestors of Australian Aboriginals walked from Africa across the Arabian peninsula, round the coast of India, along the Malaysian peninsula to arrive in Australia about 55,000 years ago indicating that they walked in the general direction of Australia at an average rate of about 1-4 km a year. The shifting nomadic lifestyle was not conducive to the accumulation of goods and chattels and that included children. An efficient and effective life was one in which you could extract what was needed from the environment around you from day to day with the minimum of tools and belongings. More than one child at a time would have been a burden for a family group, overcome to some extent by extended families. Operational bands or tribes of around 20 appear to have been the norm with a maximum of about 100 before things became too unwieldy.

Animal muscle

Limitations imposed by human muscle were eventually supplemented by using animals both for transport and work. To some extent the use of animals depended on the geographic availability of animals suitable for domestication and the tasks at hand. The Australian continent, for example, though having a rich fauna, had no potential beasts of burden after the demise of its megafauna. The number of domesticated animals used for transport and as ‘beasts of burden’ – to carry, push, and pull – is relatively few: the horse, ass/donkey/mule, ox, camel, elephant, llama, buffalo.

Bactrian camel

The domesticated two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is native to the steppes of C Asia, domestication occurring by about 2500 BCE although sites differ, maybe in Africa east of the Zagros Mountains, or today’s Turkestan or Afghanistan subsequently moving to Mesopotamia. Dromedaries (one hump) were domesticated c. 4000- 2000 BCE in Arabia. An ideal pack animal, these ungulates (animal with hoof or clawed toes) can carry 170–250 kg at a rate of 47 km per day, or 4 km/h for four days and are adapted to survive desert conditions of extreme heat and lack of water, the humps storing food and water as fat (See Wikipedia).


Based on archaeological and genetic evidence horse domestication probably first aoccurred in central Asia before 3500 BCE. The earliest archaeological evidence for the domestication of the horse comes from sites in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, dating to approximately 3500–4000 BC.[144][145][146] By 3000 BC, the horse was completely domesticated and by 2000 BC there was a sharp increase in the number of horse bones found in human settlements in northwestern Europe, indicating the spread of domesticated horses throughout the continent.[147] The most recent, but most irrefutable evidence of domestication comes from sites where horse remains were interred with chariots in graves of the Sintashta and Petrovka cultures c. 2100 BC.[148]

Ass (donkey)

Equus africanus asinus, – smaller than a horse with long ears and braying call used as draught or pack animals. There are both males (jacks) and females (jennys). Jacks mating with horses produce mules. Jennys mating with stallions produce hinnys. Asses were first domesticated around 3000 BCE in Egypt or Mesopotamia and they are adapted to marginal desert lands.

Ox (oxen)

Cows are female cattle and bulls males. Oxen (called bullocks in India and Australia) are castrated bulls (castration makes them more docile). They are draft animals used mostly for ploughing and pulling wagons and logs. They originated about 4000 BCE.

Sailing ships

No doubt part of the success of early river-valley settlements derived from their use of boats (with sails and oars) to transport people and resources between riverside communities.


Once larger merchant ships were built this proved a more efficient way of transporting bulk goods than using pack animals.

There were many kinds of early floating devices like bark canoes, coracles, and rafts of various kinds for fishing and limited transportation on rivers, lakes, estuaries and along coastlines. Societies needed to be quite populous before substantial sea-going craft powered by oar and sail could be manufactured. In the West these were evident at the first Egypt fleets followed by those of Greece and Rome but subsequently in the early modern Arabic caravels and the Portuguese and Spanish galleons.


Pack animals and carts were severely limited in the loads they could carry; and the larger the load the greater the need for a smooth road surface.

Though rivers were the major means of transport over water until ocean-going ships were built, human constructed canals were found useful at different times and places and for the quantities of goods that could be moved.

Early records indicate canals in Mesopotamia c. 4,000 BCE, the Indus Valley c.2,600 BCE that were also used for irrigation.

The Canal of the Pharaohs, a precursor to today’s Suez Canal, was constructed in ancient times to link the Nile to the Red Sea via the Wadi Tumilat. Excavated by Egyptian pharaohs it was probably opened by Persian king Darius the Great and may have been completed in the Ptolemaic period under Ptolemy II, when Greek engineers solved the problem of land height difference by installing locks.

The Grand Canal of China, now 1,800 km long, was begun in 605 CE (some sections date back to the 5th century BCE). It was first built to carry Emperor Yang Guang between Beijing and Hangzhou.

Canals built in the European Middle Ages in Venice and Holland are still popular including a few canals in Britain and the Canal du Midi in France opened in 1681. However, railways would eventually take over the mass transportation of goods since they were much quicker.

Many rivers were unpredictable for heavy traffic, being tidal and presenting other obstacles. This prompted the building of man-made canals with dams and locks to adjust for natural changes in land level. Holland was noted for its canals constructed in the 17th century Dutch Golden Age.

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when heavy stone and coal needed transporting between England’s industrial north and London, Britain embarked on a 70 year period of canal construction that lasted from about 1761 to 1831. The first major canal was the Bridgewater Canal completed in 1761 as engineers set about connecting Britain’s four great waterways – the Thames, Trent, Mersey, and Severn rivers – thereby facilitating the trade connection between the Midlands and London. Birmingham was the greatest industrial city in Europe at that time and there was a growing need to connect it with the international docks at London’s ThamesRiver. Next to be built was the Oxford Canal, completed in 1790, and this was eventually united with others to complete a 144 mile waterway between London and Birmingham known as the Grand Union Canal whose barges carried not only coal and stone but pottery, lime, iron, timber and agricultural equipment and products. This was completed in 1811, only three years before the advent of the steam engine and as, in 1833, work on the London to Birmingham railway line began.

The nineteenth industrial-era shipbuilding that followed on the great era of European galleons produced a new wave of iron-hulled, steam-driven vessels.

Noted among these was the passenger ship SS Great Britain which was designed by Isambard Brunel (1806–1859), for the Great Western Steamship Company’s transatlantic service between Bristol and New York – quicker and safer than ever before. It was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. RMS Tayleur was a fully rigged iron clipper of the White Star Line, that was the most technically advanced of its time. It was assumed that it would break all records on its voyage to Melbourne Australia which was in the middle of a Gold Rush. But, its construction rushed, it ran aground and sank on its maiden voyage in 1854 with only 280 of the more than 650 aboard surviving.
Following the use of iron-clad batteries in the Crimean War, France launched, in 1859, an ocean-going iron-clad vessel called Gloire which also carried the most sophisticated gunnery known at that time. It was driven by both sails and steam-driven propellers, and it prompted the British answer, HMS Warrior with retractable funnels (for speed), watertight compartments and a 5700 horsepower steam engine that burned 3 tons of coal per hour, although it also had sails.

Outside the fixed schedule passenger ships were, mid-19th century, the contract tramp steamers that were more reliable and ultimately cheaper than sail. These were the chartered workhorses of the seas, proving invaluable carriers of mostly Welsh coal, first around Britain, and then the world, pioneering what would become a major breakthrough in steam engines, the triple expansion engine.

The new mid-19th century fashion for tea drinking tea resulted in a race to build the fastest sailing vessel known to complete the return trip to China. Th record holder was Cutty Sark a British clipper built in Scotland in 1869 – one of the last and fastest sailing ships before steamships took advantage of the opening of the Suez Canal, also in 1869, the Cutty Sar turning to the Australian wool trade before that too adopted steamships.

With speed critical the construction of the British steam turbine ship SS Turbinia in 1894 increased the maximum speed of shipping to 34 knots by 1897 and in 1900 the Royal Navy negotiated with an American company for the production of submersibles (submarines), one aspect of shipping that lagged behind that of other countries, so that by the outbreak of WWI Britain had all the latest maritime technology at its disposal and, once again, ruled the waves.


With the Industrial Revolution came wood- and coal-powered steamships and those powered by diesel engines culminating in vast ocean-going cruise liners like floating cities, aircraft carriers, and military submarines.


The history of railways dates back about 500 years, modern electric and diesel trains being preceded by railed trams whose carriages with flanged wheels were drawn by horses. We can source the origin of railways to the very beginning of the 19th century as products of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. From here they would spread to Europe and especially the Neo-Europes that were the colonies of the British Empire. Railways could carry large quantities of goods and were an ideal way of connecting coastal ports with inland resources. Networks of railways facilitated the rapid construction of cities and other infrastructure as raw materials flowed back to the motherland and manufactured goods were imported to developing regions. In this way entire continents could be opened up.

The first steam locomotive was built by Richard Trevithic in 1804, although the first passenger railway was probably the horse-drawn carriages running on tramlines in 1807, while the Stockton to Darlington ‘Puffing Billy’ line of 1813 is taken as a starting point for public transport using steam locomotives although this line in Engalnd’s north-east thrived between 1825 and 1863 connecting Yorkshire collieries and proving so successful that it extended to the coast where a new port town of Middlesbrough was built. Then in 1830 the Liverpool to Manchester line was opened, giving access to the Liverpool Docks and the Atlantic beyond. One consequence of the railways was the synchronization of time. At first each urban centre had its own time based on geographic location but since this caused such confusion for rail travel the Great Western line synchronized its timetables. Over the next eight years the other major companies followed suit and by 1855 London Time (Greenwich Mean Time) had been adopted across the country. Other countries would take time to adopt similar systems of national time (Italy 1866, France 1891, Germany 1893).

The British rail system began as numerous local lines run by private companies that became linked into a national network in a railway frenzy that ensued in the 1840s. Though remaining privately owned there followed a phase of amalganation culminating in a WWI government-controlled (but still privately owned) ‘big four’ lines run as joint stock companies – the GW (Great Western), LNER (London & North Eastern Region), MS (Midland and Scottish) and SR (Southern Region). These would eventually become nationalized in 1948 after WWII.

Railways transformed British society giving more people access to places previously enjoyed only by the welathy while also bringing a wider range of consumer items within reach and introducing traditions like the large-scale holiday by the seaside. Telegraph systems were generally installed alongside the rails. In spite of early concerns railways were seen as not only socially progressive but extremely lucrative so they were rapidly instigated among British colonies and allies – in North America and Australia in the 1850s, India in the 1860s.

Mallard Steam Train

Built at Doncaster, England, in 1938 (Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific)
Holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives at 203 km/h
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
PTG Dudva June 2010 Accessed 7 July 2017

Bicycles, motorbikes, cars, trucks

In Europe up to and including WWI, the main means of overland transport. other than the new railways, was by horse, carriage and cart.


Cycling in America in 1887

Aquarelle print by L. Prang & Co.
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Churchh – Accessed 3 July 2017


As populations increased and domesticated animals like camels, horses, donkeys and oxen became more popular, former tracks and trails became paved, like the great connecting roads of the Roman Empire. Converted into public highways, becoming wider and sometimes curbed, paved, or sealed in some way. With the advent of heavy traffic, especially cars, the cobblestones and wooden pavers popular in cities were replaced in the 20th century by tarred macadam (tarmac) and concrete paving. There was an increasing diversity of vehicles including trucks, buses (horse-drawn at first), motorbikes, bicycles etc. using different fuels like gasoline, diesel and electricity.


Roman engineers were master bridge builders, using structures built from stone blocks to span rivers, canals, and at times the sea. A major advance occurred at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when the world’s first iron bridge was built across the Severn River at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, England, and opened in January 1781. Before long charcoal in the iron furnaces was replaced with the more efficient coke and with graphite removed from cast iron it would remove brittleness, allowing it to be bent and twisted. Steel made from pig iron using Bessemer converters would, by 1855, replace the former wrought iron using industrial processes that would soon be adopted across the world.

Propellers to jets to spaceships

The desire to fly like birds prompted the development of kites and artificial wings and then balloons, airships and gliders before using the energy and machinery that had become available in the industrial revolution for the construction of powered aircraft. The theory and practice of aviation and aircraft development was greatly accelerated during WW2 leadingto production of the first bombers and opening the way to commercial aviation at the close of the war. The first jet airliner was the de Haviland DH 106 Comet built at Hatfield aerodrome in Hertford UK and flown in 1949 then put into commercial service in 1952. This heralded the Jet Age, relatively cheap and fast international travel.


Spaceflight became an engineering possibility with the work of Robert H. Goddard’s publication in 1919 of his paper ‘A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes’; where his application of the de Laval nozzle to liquid-propellant rockets gave sufficient power that interplanetary travel became possible. Thiswas followed by the first human spaceflight by Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961, the placing of space stations by Russia, the use of satellites for military, meteorology, communications etc. The first human landing on the moon was in 1969 when Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission walked on the moon surface before returning safely to Earth.

International trade networks

Following the last Ice Age and an equable climate for agriculture, settled communities developed along several of the world’s great river valley waterways dispersing from their centres of origin to create farming communities in the Mediterranean, Western Asia, India, and China that by 1500 BCE were connected into a trade network.

Trade routes

Regional development

Globalization began with the linking of East and West, first through overland routes but subsequently by maritime European colonizing powers exploiting in succession the Mediterranean, Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.

India & the Indian Ocean

Arabia & the Red Sea and Persian Gulf



The Rhine and Danube connected the Black Sea through Holland to the North Sea (through Gaul’s Flanders and Lyons to Britain) and by the Rhone to the Mediterranean (from Marseilles (Massilia) mainly to Genoa and Venice). Trade along the Saône, Seine, Marne, and Moselle would connect with the Rhine.
Western Europe and the Americas – Atlantic Ocean


Cables in Pacific

Underwater cables in the Pacific Ocean
Courtesy TeleGeography – Accessed 10 May 2018

Goods traded

Even with the use of beasts of burden the goods traded needed to be light, easily stored, and not perishable. Long-distance trade was not in necessities but in luxuries, products like silk and spices. In the second millennium BCE spices and silk transported by camel for the Far East to the Arabian Peninsula.

Commentary & sustainability

Trans-Eurasian trade network. Jewish merchants operated in trade between the Christian and Islamic worlds during the early Middle Ages (approximately 500–1000). Many trade routes previously established under the Roman Empire

History is about ‘getting things done’ – not only physically but intellectually and in every other way (see History in 10,000 words). ‘Getting things done’ requires work, the expenditure of energy, so unsurprisingly much of human history has revolved around finding and managing the most effective (cheapest, most abundant, and most concentrated) energy sources and the developing of technologies for harnessing their power.

Britain leads the world in the development of coal integrated with machinery in a tradition that continues into steamships and aviation, while using the power generated by coal and gas. By the time of space flight Russia’s astronaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space and Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to walk on the surface of the moon. One major way of using this power is to improve transport systems and those nations that have done this well have translated physical power into political and economic power since transportation permits the expansion of interests and influence over ever more distant regions by transporting greater quantities of more diverse goods and ideas over ever greater distances and at increasing speeds and therefore shorter times.

Social organization is important because without shared communicated skills and diverse resources sophisticated technologies would not be possible. The fact that nomadic peoples did not invent computers was not a question of intellect but a history of integrated social activity that would only be possible where there was division of labour and access to w wide range of resources. Scale is thus an important component of the social organization that has played such a large part in the history of transport.

Sustainability and globalization, two modern concepts, are closely related since both are connected to the increasing social organization that results from the integration of environmnetal, social, and economic systems. Globalization addresses the impact of these parameters at a global scale, indeed, it may be defined as the enhanced global connectivity arising from rapid transport and communication technology.[1]

The environmental impact of transport in Australia is considerable. In 2009, transport emissions made up 15.3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1990 and 2009, transport emissions grew by 34.6%, the second-highest growth rate in emissions after stationary energy.[20]

Australia subsidizes fossil fuel energy, keeping prices artificially low and raising greenhouse gas emissions due to the increased use of fossil fuels as a result of the subsidies[citation needed]. The Australian Energy Regulator and state agencies such as the New South Wales’ Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal set and regulate electricity prices, thereby lowering production and consumer cost.


This world transport timeline demonstrates the exponential acceleration in technological innovation over time and the way that this occurred in the most politically and economically powerful countries of the world. This is indicated by the use of present-day flags for the regions where this occurred and it highlights the connections between transport, social organization, political and economic power, and sometimes geography. Most notable is the development of transport technology and systems that emanated from Britain as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. Nevertheless there is certainly a British bias in the records as the English-speaking country that built up much of the historical record.

Ideally the claims for these dates would be carefully referenced but time has prevented this. The object of this particular timeline has been to locate general trends within the general framework of increasing social organization. Smilar timelines can be viewed on the web on sites like Wikipedia etc.


Though the history of Homo sapiens sapiens is now dated back about 300,000 years it was only in the last 10,000 or so that we see a major transition in technology as the lifestyle shifted during the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution from nomadic hunter-gatherer to settled urban dweller. . The domestication of beasts of burden including the camel, horse, donkey (ass), ox, and elephant, so between about 10,000 BCE and 2,000 BCE there was the development of the wheel and animal-drawn wheeled vehicles including carts, carriages, and chariots, the construction of both medium-size outrigger sailing craft and large ocean-going ships sometimes accompanied by landscape modification through the building of transport infrastructure such as roads, canals, and irrigation systems.

5000-4000 – Wheel developed in the Ancient Near East spreading to Europe and India c. 4000-3000 and China c. 1200
4,000-3,000 – Horses domesticated in Central Asia
c. 4000 – Canals built in Mesopotamia and used for irrigation
c. 3,500 – Wheel invented in Iraq
3,100 – Sailing boat invented in Egypt
3,000-2,000 – Camels domesticated
c. 3000 – Galleys built for operation in the Mediterranean Sea
c. 2,700 – Egyptians use wooden ships for sea trade
1300-900 – Double-hulled Polynesian rigged catamarans cover about 6000 km from Bismarck Archipelago to Micronesia and on to Hawaii
c. 200 – Kites popular in China

1st century – Network of constructed and maintained roads stretches across the Roman Empire; Roman merchant ships carry up to 1,000 tons of cargo

605 – Construction of the Grand Canal begins in China
1044 – Compass invented in China
12th century – Compass arrives in Europe; rudder used in Europe but Roman roads mostly deteriorated into tracks
c. 1300 – Arabic sailing ship or caravel
c. 1400-1450 – Huge Chinese treasure ships
c. 1450 – European galleons
Late 16th century – European shipbuilders construct Ocean-going galleons

1635 – Messengers of Charles I paid to carry letters – initiation of the Royal Mail
1663 – First privately owned and maintained tolled turnpike roads open. In towns the wealthy are still carried around in sedan chairs
1620 – Cornelius Drebbel constructs the first known submarine propelled by oars
1662 – Blaise Pascal invents a horse-drawn public bus which has a regular route, schedule, and fare system
1672 – Ferdinand Verbiest constructs the first steam-powered car
17th and 18th century physico-mathematical study of aerodynamics
1681 – Canal du Midi opened in France

1716 – Swede Emanuel Swedenborg postulates a hovering vehicle
Mid 18th century – Turnpike roads become commonplace
1756-1836 – John McAdam designs the modern highway with a soil-stone aggregate surface cambered for drainage
1760s – Cast iron rails manufactured but later replaced by rolled wrought iron rails
1761 – In England the Bridgwater Canal opens with many more canals dug in the late 18th and early 19th century
1769 – Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot demonstrates experimental steam-driven tractor
1776 – First submarine propelled by screws
1783 – Joseph Montgolfier and Étienne Montgolfier launch the first hot air balloons; Jacques Charles and Les Frères Robert (Anne-Jean Robert and Nicolas-Louis Robert) launch the first hydrogen balloon
1783 – First verifiable flight Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes went 5 miles (8.0 km) in a hot air balloon invented by the Montgolfier brothers
1784 – Englishman William Murdoch builds a working model of a steam carriage; Lionel Lukin invents the life boat
1785 – Two men fly across the English Channel in a hydrogen balloon

1801 – Richard Trevithick runs full-sized steam ‘road locomotive’ in Camborne England
1802 – André-Jacques Garnerin and Edward Hawke Locker make a 27 km) balloon flight from Lord’s Cricket Ground in England, takingabout 15 mins
1803 – Etienne Robertson and his co-pilot Lhoest ascend in a balloon from Hamburg, Germany to an altitude of c. 7,300 m
1804 – Sir George Cayley builds a model glider with a main wing and separate, adjustable vertical and horizontal tail surfaces; scientists Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Jean Baptiste Biot use a balloon to measure the earth’s magnetic field and composition of the upper atmosphere
1803 – Trevithick builds 10-seater London Steam Carriage; first voyage of William Symington’s ‘Charlotte Dundas’ is the world’s first practical steamboat
1804 – Trevithick builds prototype steam-powered railway locomotive t orun on the Pen-y-Darren Line near Merthyr Tydfil Wales
1807 – Maiden voyage of Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat, the world’s first commercially successful steamboat ; Nicéphore Niépceuses internal combustion engine in a boat on the river Saone in France
1809 – George Cayley publishes On Aerial Navigation explaining the scientific principles of heavier-than-air flight
1812 – First commercially successful self-propelled engine on Land, Mathew Murray’s ‘Salamanca’ on Middleton-Leeds Railway using toothed wheels and rail; Timothy Hackworth’s “Puffing Billy” runs on smooth cast iron rails at Wylam Colliery nr Newcastle England
1814 – George Stephenson builds first practical steam-powered railway locomotive ‘Blutcher’ at Killingworth Colliery
1815 – Steamships begin crossing the English Channel
1816 – Most likely originator of the bicycle is the German, Baron Karl von Drais, who rode his 1816 machine while collecting taxes from his tenants
1819 – ‘SS Savannah’,first vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean partly under steam power, arrives at Liverpool, England from Savannah, Georgia
1822 – Stevenson builds locomotive and designs railway for Hetton Colliery, the first railway not to use horse-traction
1825 – Stevenson’s ‘Locomotion’ runs on Stockton to Darlington railway which opens as the first Public railway using horses, self-propelled steam engines, and stationary engines with ropes along a single track; Sir Goldsworthy Gurney invents steam-powered passenger carriages and by 1829 completes the 120-mile journey from London to Bath, Somerset and back
1829 – Rainhill Trials to find best self-propelled engine for the Liverpool to Manchester line are won by Robert Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ (model for all future steam engines with boiler tubes, blast pipe, and the use of coal rather than coke) proving there is no need for horse traction or static engines; horse drawn omnibuses run in London
1830 – Liverpool Manchester Railway opens. First public transport system without animal traction, first public line with no rope hauled sections for main journey, first twin track, first railway between 2 large towns, first timetabled trains, first railway stations, first train faster than a mail coach, first tunnels under streets, first proper modern railway which formed the template for all subsequent railways
1835 – First hansom cab is made in Hinckley
1836 – The Great Balloon of Nassau flown by Charles Green covers 722 km from London to Weilburg, Germany in 18 hours, the first overnight balloon flight and a distance record that stands until 1907
1838 – Charles Green and others ascend to height of 8,280 m over England in the Great Balloon of Nassau reaching speeds of 130 to 160 km/hr
1842 – English engineer William Henson makes complete drawing of a power-driven aeroplane with steam-engine. Proposal to English House of Commons for an ‘Aerial Transport Company’ greeted with hilarity
1843 – William Henson and John Stringfellow file articles of incorporation for the world’s first air transport company, the Aerial Transit Company
1845 – Henson & Stringfellow build a steam-powered model aircraft, wingspan 3.0 m
1838 – A steamship crosses the Atlantic in only 19 day; the first elevated railway is built in London
1838 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Western, the first purpose-built transatlantic steamship, inaugurates the first regular transatlantic steamship service
1840s – A frenzy of railway construction as a network is built across Britain
1847 – HMS Driver the first steamship to travel round the world
1848 – Stringfellow flies powered monoplane model a short distance in a powered glide at an exhibition at Cremorne Gardens in London
1849 – Frenchman Francisque Arban makes the first (and until 1924 only) balloon flight over the Alps, flying a hydrogen balloon from Marseille to Turin; George Cayley launches a small glider towed by a team of people running down a hill – the first known flight by a person in a heavier-than-air machine
1852 – French engineer Henri Giffard flies 27 km from Paris in a steam-powered dirigible at aspeed ofabout 10 km/h
1853 – A George Cayley glider flown across part of Brompton Dale in Yorkshire, the first adult aeroplane pilot
1853 – Sir George Cayley built and demonstrated the first heavier-than-air aircraft (a glider)
1857 – Félix Du Temple flies clockwork and steam-powered model aircraft
1861 – First use of observation balloons in naval warfare takes place during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Balloon Enterprise with a telegraph key wired directly to the White House, Thaddeus Lowe sends a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln to demonstrate the value of balloons in military reconnaissance; Aeronaut Henry Tracey Coxwell and English physicist James Glaisher officially reach a height of 29,527 ft (9,000 m) in a coal gas balloon according to their balloon’s barometer although later estimates place the maximum altitude they attained at between 35,000 and 37,000 feet (10,668 and 11,278 meters). The two men nearly die of hypoxia during the flight, Glaisher falling unconscious and Coxwell losing all feeling in his hands
1862 – Étienne Lenoir made a gasoline engine automobile
1863 – London’s Metropolitan Railway opened to the public as the world’s first underground railway
1863 – The first underground railway opens in London. Carriages are pulled by steam trains
1865 – Solomon Andrews flies a dirigible twice over New York City; Jules Verne describes in his novel The Journey to the Moon the launch of a rocket from Florida, from which many years later American space flights actually will start
1866 – Foundation (12 Jan. London) of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain later Royal Aeronautical Society, the world’s oldest society devoted to all aspects of aeronautics and astronautics; first exhibition of aviation in London’s Crystal Palace
1868 – British inventor Matthew Piers Watt Boulton patents the aileron in its modern form
1867 – first modern motorcycle was invented
1868 – George Westinghouse invented the compressed-air brake for railway trains
1868 – Louis-Guillaume Perreaux’s steam velocipede, a steam engine attached to a Michaux velocipede
1871 – The Englishmen Wenham and Browning construct the first wind tunnel and conduct airflow experiments
1872 – German experimenter Paul Haenlein tests the first airship with an internal combustion engine in Brünn, Austria-Hungary, achieving 19 km/hr burning coal gas drawn from its balloon
1873 – New York Daily Graphic sponsors first attempt in history to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon carrying a lifeboat
1874 – Felix and Louis du Temple de la Croix build a piloted steam-powered monoplane which flies a short
1876 – Alphonse Pénaud and Paul Gauchot apply for a patent for a power-driven aeroplane with a retractable undercarriage, wings with dihedral and joystick control; experimental helicopter by Enrico Forlanini (1877)
1877 – First flight of a steam-driven model helicopter built by Enrico Forlanin
1880 – Werner von Siemens builds first electric elevator
1883 – The first electric-powered flight is made by Gaston Tissandier who fits a Siemens AG electric motor to a dirigible
1884 – First fully controlled free-flight is made in the French Army dirigible La France by Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs. The flight covers 8 km (5.0 mi) in 23 minutes. It was the first flight to return to the starting point
1885 – Frenchmen Hervé and Alluard achieve a hot air balloon flight of over 24 hours
1888 – Wölfert flies a petrol powered dirigible at Seelburg, the first use of a petrol-fuelled engine for aviation purposes. The engine was built by Gottlieb Daimler
1889 – Percival G. Spencer makes a successful parachute jump from a balloon at Drumcondra, Ireland
1883 – Karl Benz invents the first car powered by an internal combustion engine, he called it the Benz Patent Motorwagen
1885 – The car is invented
1890 – The first electric underground trains run in London. Thomas Ahearn invents the electric car heater
1892 – The first contract is awarded for the construction of a military airplane: Clément Ader is contracted by the French War Ministry to build a two-seater aircraft to be used as a bomber, capable of lifting a 75-kilogram (165-pound) bombload; 31 July – Hiram Maxim launches an enormous biplane test rig with a wingspan of 32 m (105 ft) propelled by two steam engines. It lifts off and engages the restraining rails, which prevent it from leaving the track; 4 December – German meteorologist and Aerologist Arthur Berson ascends to 9,155 metres (30,036 feet) in a balloon, setting a new world altitude record for human flight
1895 – Percy Pilcher makes his first successful flight in a glider named the Bat
1897 – 3 November – The first flight in a rigid airship is made by Ernst Jägels, flying the all-aluminium craft designed by David Schwarz and built by Carl Berg. It reaches an altitude of 24 m (79 ft), proving metal-framed airships can become airborne, but after an engine failure is damaged beyond repair in an emergency landing
1894 – Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first motorcycle available to the public for purchase
1896 – Jesse W. Reno builds first escalator at Coney Island, and then reinstalls it on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge
1897 – Charles Parsons’ Turbinia, the first vessel to be powered by a steam turbine, makes her debut
1897 – The most likely first electric bicycle was built in 1897 by Hosea W. Libbey
1898 – The Aéro-Club de France is founded; March – Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt calls for the creation of a four-officer board to study the utility of Samuel P. Langley’s “flying machine,” the Langley Aerodrome. Roosevelt asserts that “the machine has worked.” It is the first documented United States Navy expression of interest in aviation

1900 – Ferdinand von Zeppelin pilots his experimental first Zeppelin, LZ 1, over Lake Constance, reaching an altitude of 400 metres (1,300 feet) with five men on board. Although the flight lasts only 18 minutes, covers only 5.6 kilometers (3.5 mi), and ends in an emergency landing on the lake, it is the first flight of a truly successful rigid airship; Wright brothers arrive at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to begin a season of glider experiments; Wilbur Wright makes the Wright brothers’ first glider flight at Kitty Hawk; On her second flight, the Zeppelin LZ 1 remains aloft for 80 minutes
1903 – Wright brothers make the first sustained, controlled, and powered heavier-than-air flight on December 17, 1903 in the aircraft ‘Wright Flyer’
1899 – Ferdinand von Zeppelin builds the first successful airship
1900 – Ferdinand von Zeppelin launches the first successful airship
1900s – Electric trams begin running in many towns
1903 – Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright fly the first motor-driven airplane;Diesel engine tested in a canal boat by Rudolph Diesel, Adrian Bochet and Frederic Dyckhoff
1908 – Henry Ford develops the assembly line method of automobile manufacturing with the introduction of the Ford Model T
1911 – Selandia launched, the first ocean-going, diesel engine-driven ship
1909 – Alice Ramsey is the first woman to drive across the USA in a car
1915 – The Luftkissengleitboot Hovercraft, the first hovering vehicle was created by Dagobert Müller. It could only travel on water; a British commission was tasked with creating a vehicle able to cross a 4ft wide trench – the tank
1916 – The first tank prototype, nicknamed “mother”, was created by Britain during World War 1
1919 – Spaceflight became an engineering possibility with the work of Robert H. Goddard’s publication in 1919 of his paper ‘A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes’; where his application of the de Laval nozzle to liquid-propellant rockets gave sufficient power that interplanetary travel became possible
1919 – Planes begin carrying passengers between London and Paris
1925 – The first electric traffic lights in Britain are installed in London
1926 – Robert Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket
1930s – In most towns electric trams are replaced by buses
1934 – In Britain a driving test is introduced. Cats eyes are invented. A 30 mile an hour speed limit is introduced in built up areas in Britain
1935 – The first traffic meters are installed in the USA
1935 – First flight of the DC-3, one of the most significant transport aircraft in the history of aviation
1939 – First jet engine powered aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, takes flight
1940 – About 1 family in 10 in Britain owns a car
1942 – V2 rocket covers a distance of 200 km
1944 – Germany -MW 18014 – 20 June 1944 – First artificial human object to enter space
1947 – Chuck Yeager in the Bell X1 completes the first supersonic manned flight
1949 – The first jet airliner was the de Haviland DH 106 Comet built at Hatfield aerodrome in Hertford UK and flown in 1949 then put into commercial service in 1952
1949 – The first zebra crossing
1952 – The first passenger jet service commences
1952 – the de Haviland DH 106 Comet is the first jet put into commercial service
1955 – The first nuclear-powered vessel, the USS Nautilus, a submarine, is launched
1957 – Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite to be launched into orbit; Gateway City, the world’s first purpose-built container ship, enters service; first flight of the Boeing 707, the first commercially successful jet airliner
1955 – The hovercraft is invented by Christopher Cockerell
1957 – Sputnik 1 – 4 October – First Earth orbiter; Sputnik 2 – 3 November 1957 – Earth orbiter, the dog Laika the first animal in orbit
1958 – The first traffic meters in Britain are installed
1959 – About 32% of families in Britain own a car. The first electric underground trains run in London. The three point seat belt is invented
1959 – Luna 1 – 2 January – First lunar flyby (attempted lunar impact?); Russia Luna 3 – 4 October 1959 – Lunar flyby; First images of far side of Moon
1960 – Apollo 8 – First manned lunar orbiter; Apollo 11 – First manned lunar landing; Pioneer 5 – 11 March – Interplanetary space investigations
1961 – Vostok 1 – 12 April – First manned Earth orbiter
1963 – Dr Beeching closes many branch lines in Britain
1961 – Vostok 1, the first manned space mission, designed by Sergey Korolyov and Kerim Kerimov, makes two orbits around the Earth
1961 – First human spaceflight by Russian Vostok 1 and Yuri Gagarin the first astronaut
1962 – Mariner 2 – 27 August – First successful planetary encounter, First successful Venus flyby
1964 – Mariner 4 – 28 November – First Mars flyby
1966 – Luna 9 – 31 January – First lunar lander; Russia Luna 10 – 31 March 1966 – First lunar orbiter
1967 – Venera 4 – 12 June – First Venus atmospheric probe
1967 – first space stations Russian Kosmos 186 and Kosmos 188
1968 – Zond 5 – 15 September – First lunar flyby and return to Earth, first life forms to circle the moon; USA Apollo 8 – 21 December 1968 – First manned lunar orbiter
1969 First flight of the Boeing 747, the first commercial widebody airliner; NASA rocket technology, spurred on by the US/Russia Space Race, makes the first manned Moon landing a reality
1969 – Lollipop men and women are introduced The pelican crossing is introduced
1969 – Apollo 11 – 16 July – First manned lunar landing and first successful sample return mission; USA – Apollo 12 – 14 November 1969 – Manned lunar landing
1969 – Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission walked on the moon surface before returning safely to Earth
1971-1991 – Russian space stations Salyut and Mir
1970 – Venera 7 – 17 August – First Venus lander; Russia Luna 16 – 12 September 1970 – First robotic lunar sample return
1971 – Salyut 1 – 19 April – First space station; Mariner 9 – 30 May 1971 – First Mars orbiter; Apollo 15 – 26 July 1971 – Manned lunar landing; First manned lunar rover
1971 – Salyut 1, the first space station, launched by Kerim Kerimov
1973 – Pioneer 11 – 5 April – Jupiter flyby and First Saturn flyby; Mariner 10 – 4 November 1973 – Venus flyby and First Mercury flyby
1975 – Venera 9 – 8 June – First Venus orbiter and lander; First images from surface of Venus; Viking 1 – 20 August 1975 – Mars orbiter and lander; First lander returning data and First pictures from Martian surface
1976 – Concorde makes the world’s first commercial passenger-carrying supersonic flight
1978 – UNISEE-3 – 12 August – Solar wind investigations; later redesignated International Cometary Explorer and performed Comet Giacobini-Zinner and Comet Halley flybys – First comet flyby
1981 – First flight of the space shuttle
1983 – Wearing seat belts is made compulsory in Britain. Wheel clamps are introduced
1992 – Speed cameras are introduced into Britain
1994 – The Channel Tunnel opens
1997 – The first Maglev train prototypes are tested in Japan
1999 – First comet coma sample return – returned 15 January 2006

2001 – (April) the unmanned aircraft Global Hawk flies from Edwards AFB in the US to Australia non-stop and unrefuelled taking 23 hrs23 mins
2002 – the Segway PT self-balancing personal transport was launched by inventor Dean Kamen
2004 – the first commercial high speed Maglev train starts operation between Shanghai and its airport
2004 – EU Rosetta/Philae – 2 March 2004 – First comet orbiter and lander (Landed in November 2014); MESSENGER – 3 August 2004 – First Mercury orbiter (Achieved orbit 18 March 2011)
2008 – Chandrayaan-1 – Water Around Fresh Moon Crater; India Chandrayaan-1 – 22 October 2008 – Lunar orbiter and impactor – Discovered water on the Moon
2010 – First 24 hr flight using only solar panels and their electrical power

First published on the internet – 1 March 2019

Built at Doncaster, England, in 1938 (Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific)
Holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives at 203 km/h
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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