Short History & Fun Facts of Rail Transport

Photo of an old steam locomotive

Although not a lot of people seem to be used to trains and moving around by train on a daily basis, they used to be a way more important mean of transportation. The history of the development of the railway and trains is very interesting. It all started way back, in ancient Greece, when wagonways were used mainly for transportation of goods. The functioning of the first trains was mainly based on ropes, horses and gravity.

A mechanised rail transport system first appeared in the 1820's, and the steam locomotive was a very important influence during the Industrial Revolution.

The first railroad that carried passengers that paid tickets was the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, originally known as Oystermouth Railway. The horse-drawn vehicles started transporting passengers in March 1807 between Swansea and Oystermouth in South Wales.

The energy sources that power trains vary and they include steam, diesel and electricity. The last two began replacing the steam powered locomotives in the 20th century.

As technology advanced, trains became faster and faster. One of the first high speed rail services started functioning in 1964 in Japan - Shinkansen - bullet train .

►You can read more about the fascinating history of rail transport on Wikipedia at

The fastest train in the world is Maglev - the name comes from the technology its movement is based on - the transport method that employs magnetic levitation to move the vehicle without touching the ground. This train covers a distance of 30.5km in 8 minutes and derailment on the Maglev trailway is impossible.

The longest train journeys in the world are: The Trans-Siberian (6 days), The Canadian (3 day), Shanghai to Lhasa (almost 2 days), California Zephyr (51 hours), The Indian Pacific (65 hours), Vivek Express (about 4 days), Paris-Moscow Express (2 days), The Ghan (47 hours), Eastern and Oriental Express (3 days) and the Blue Train (27 hours).

The longest uninterrupted train journey in the world actually involves multiple trains, a lot of days spent travelling (about 12) and a lot of money invested in tickets (around 1500 USD). It starts in Porto, Portugal and goes all the way to southern Vietnam.

The UK has the busiest railway in Europe, with about 3.5 million passengers travelling by train every day. The busiest station is Waterloo, with 100 million people travelling through it every year.

There are a lot of fight scenes in movies happening on top of moving trains. Viewers seem to be very fascinating with the intensity and dangers presented in such a scene. In the movie Skyfall, James Bond (Daniel Craig) fights with an enemy on top of a moving train too. The interesting thing here is that this scene was actually filmed on top of a real moving train, and the actor did not use a stunt double.

Another fun fact related to movies: The Hogwarts Express Train featured in the Harry Potter series is an actual train that runs in Scotland.

Trains rides have evolved into something more that just a way of getting to point A to point B. Nowadays, a lot of scenic train rides became a tourist attraction and a wonderful travel opportunity. A few of the best examples of tourist-frequented trains are the Glacier Express, the Hiram Bingham Orient Express, The Royal Scotsman, The Rocky Mountaineer and the Danube Express.