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A History of Train Travel: And Why You Should Try It

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A History of Train Travel: And Why You Should Try It

Posted by Natasha Smigelski on August 15, 2017

Tourist tram at the Peak, Hong Kong.jpeg

Train travel has evolved tremendously over the past 200 years. One of the earliest models dates back to 1804 in Britain and was a steam powered locomotive. Richard Trevithick was the first person to invent the steam powered locomotive but the initial use was for the transportation of coal. The transition was made soon after to accommodate passenger cars in order to transport people.

In the second part of the 19th century, a need for rapid transit appeared in the urban environment. London officials realized that they needed to enable faster travel for the city's citizens, as they were becoming unable to handle the sudden population boom. Henceforth, the rapid transit systems began evolving and spreading out across the entire world, creating a need for skilled tradesmen in order to build and maintain this new innovation.

Primitive train models were quickly replaced by faster, lighter counterparts, leading to growing railway lines while expanding trade and speeding up travel. By the 1850’s railway passengers were travelling along the tracks at speeds of up to 50mph (80 km/h) or more, which allowed for passengers to travel great distances in a matter of hour or days, compared to weeks or months.

Traveling by train was an affordable and luxurious way to travel long distances, and for people who had never ventured far, this was very exciting and enjoyable. Some were fitted with heating, lighting, plush seating, private sleeping quarters, a restaurant car and toilets.

The first electric train was developed in the 19th century and was met with utter popularity by the 1930’s. Diesel and electric trains replaced steam power in many countries from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Electric locomotives offered many benefits by being cleaner, faster, quieter and more reliable than its diesel or steam powered counterparts. Still to this day most high-speed trains still use the power of electricity, as well as commuter trains and busy city subways.

Diesel Locomotives made their presence after the World War I, and along with the electric engine, laid to rest the age of the steam train. Diesel locomotive are powered using diesel fuel. The fuel burns, powering a generator that supplies electricity to the motors, turning the wheels. These trains had more power than steam powered trains, caused less pollution and were more efficient than steam locomotives. They are also still widely used throughout the globe to this day, especially on rural routes where having to electrify the lines would be too expensive.

Knowing the history of train travel or having an interest to learn or see it first hand can be a good push towards wanting to take your next trip by train. But what are some other benefits that travelling by train can offer?

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Cost is one of the key questions that comes to mind. Is it cheaper to travel by train? Well for shorter distances the train is almost always less expensive than air travel. There are also usually special offers that can be found though the railway services, that airlines are just not able to offer its passengers.

Luggage restrictions are different on trains as opposed to air so that you are allowed a certain amount of luggage to travel with you free of charge, unlike air travel that makes you pay per piece of luggage. This can be beneficial while traveling with a family.

Furthermore, there is almost no fluctuation in the price of train tickets based on time or season that you are purchasing unless you are wanting to upgrade your ticket to a sleeper cabin, then there is a slight increase to the in-peak season fare. You are also able to purchase “unlimited passes” that let you travel consecutively for a 60 day period.

Taking a train on a long trip can also be more cost effective than taking your vehicle, especially if the travel time will be longer than 24 hours. Because there is no need to stop to refuel along the way or book a hotel to stop and rest you are able to wipe those costs out of your travel budget.

Train seats, even economy class offer more legroom than you would receive on any airplane without having to fork out the extra dollars. Of course traveling by train you also have the option to upgrade to a sleeper cabin for addition room at an additional price, but it is not necessary for most trips. You are also able to stand up and roam around the car while it is in motion, and some rail lines even offer free wifi to passengers.

Convenience can have a large role in travel, and trains are able to accommodate this. With buying train tickets, it can be as simple as picking your route, paying for your ticket and showing up. There is no waiting in security lines but it is recommended if you have a lot of luggage to check, to arrive approximately 30-45 minutes early to ensure everything is able to be accommodated properly.

Depending on the type of train you are travelling on and where you starting location is, travel times will vary. For example in places like Europe and Asia who have high-speed railways, some trips are actually quicker by train than by air. Most notably, the pleasure you get from traveling by train greatly surpass that of any other travel. Not having to worry about directions, or getting lost can give a traveller piece of mind and let them relax during the duration of the trip, and able to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the other side of the window.

Not only is it more relaxing to travel by train and visually pleasing, but it is actually more environmentally friendly. Travelling by train can produce nearly half of the carbon emissions than that of an airplane. If more travellers decide to use a train alternative for travel, we could greatly reduce our carbon footprint.

So next time you are planning your next getaway, see if there is a train route. Keep the legacy of train travel alive and experience the beauty of the landscapes passing by and start your vacation off on a more relaxing note. After all, the right train of thought can take you to a better station in life.


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Topics: Travel, travel options, Train Travel, A History Of, Trains

Written by Natasha Smigelski

Natasha Smigelski is the Social Media Coordinator at Genescy Corporation. A passionate conversationalist, she loves sharing information with all of Genescy’s clients and reading their stories. As a mom of 2 kids, Natasha has acquired excellent time management and organizational skills, which has allowed her to effectively multitask, a trait that most social media professionals can identify with. A hardworking individual with lots of passion and drive, in her spare time, Natasha loves to spend time with her children and explore new places.

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