1825 John Steven of Hoboken, New Jersey, built the first steam locomotive in North America. It ran on a circular track in front of his house¬.
1826 The first railroad in America opened. The Granite Railway of Quincy, Massachusetts, carried blocks of granite from the Bunker Hill Quarry to the Neponset River by means of horse-drawn cars.
1828 Construction began on the Baltimore & Ohio Railway (B&O), the first US railroad chartered to carry freight and passengers. The B&O used horse-drawn cars until 1831.
1829 The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company conducted the first railroad trip by locomotive in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, with the Stourbridge Lion, a steam engine imported from England.
1830 Peter Cooper designed and built the steam locomotive, Tom Thumb. It raced against a horse-drawn railway car to showcase the superiority of steam power.
1831 The first US built steam locomotive placed into actual service on the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad. It provided regular passenger service.
1832 Old Ironsides, built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, triggered the age of steam locomotives.
1833 Andrew Jackson stepped aboard the B&O and became the first president to ride a train.
1838 All railroads declared “Post Routes” by the US government.
1850 First railroad land grant signed by President Millard Fillmore.
1851 The telegraph allowed messages, such as changes or emergencies, to be transmitted ahead of trains.
1856 The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River completed between Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa.
1857William Phillips chose this area in Kansas for a new town, founding Salina. He believed it was a prime location for a future railroad route. (Strategic Thinking)
1859 Topeka and Atchison business leaders planned to link trade routes to Chicago and Los Angeles. Derailed by the Civil War, construction did not start on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (AT&SF) until 1868.
First Pullman sleeping car put into operation.
Railroads first used to transport soldiers. Col. Robert E. Lee took soldiers by train to end John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry.
1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act to construct the first transcontinental railroad. (The Great Race)
1863 Brotherhood of the Footboard (locomotive engineers) formed.
1865 George Baker used hot water to heat passenger cars.
1866 Fruit first shipped in ice refrigerated cars.
First block signals in operation.
1868 First refrigerator car patented.
Janney coupler patented.
First Pullman dining car in use.
1869 Completion of first transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah.
George Westinghouse patented the air brake.
1872 George Westinghouse patented the first automatic air brake, similar to what is used today.
1876 Fred Harvey began first restaurant for the AT&SF.
1877 First large-scale railroad workers’ strike.
1881 First electric light in a railroad car.
1882 William Baker and George Westinghouse used steam from the locomotive to heat passenger cars.
1883 Railroads instituted time zones and standard time.
1886 Movement to standard gauge: 4 feet 8 ½ inches.
1887 Interstate Commerce Commission established.
1890 Steel rails dominated US railroads.
1893 American Railway Union formed.
1894 Pullman strike.
1895 B&O used first electric locomotives.
1900 Casey Jones rode the "Cannonball" into history. (The Brave Engineer)
1913 End of wooden passenger cars.
1917 US government took over railroads during World War I.
Most miles of track in Kansas, totaling 9,367 operated by 26 different railroads. All counties had track.
1925 First successful diesel-electric switching locomotive. Central Railroad of New Jersey #1000.
1927 First all private-room Pullman sleeper.
1929 W. Carrier built first mechanical air conditioner for railroad cars.
1934 Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) installed.
1934 First lightweight streamliners introduced. The Union Pacific’s City of Salina and the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy’s Zephyr.
1935 Electro-Motive Division of General Motors built first twin diesel units #511 and #512.
1937 Brotherhood of Pullman Porters signed first labor contract.
1939 Electro-Motive Division displayed first diesel-electric freight locomotives.
1942 US had 3,000 miles of track under CTC.
1950sThe Plainville, Kansas, line made its final run. Known as the jitney, passengers often rode this line from Lincoln to Salina. (The Jitney)
1968 Pullman Company ceased offering porter services.
1969 Sixteen railroad lines operated more than 8,000 miles of track in Kansas. More than a third of the track belonged to the AT&SF.
1971 Amtrak began. (Traveling the Rail)
1977 Last operation of a Railway Post Office car.
1995 AT&SF merged with the Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe Railway. It is now called BNSF.
Notable Dates in Railroad History