The History of Steel Rails in Transportation maigne|September 3, 2018

The History of Steel Rails in Transportation

What are the important things to remember in knowing the history of steel rails in transportation?

  1. The first steel rail in the United Kingdom
  2. The beginning of American railways
  3. Development of Steel
  4. Growth potential of the industry



Steel is the most widely used and most recycled material on earth, and one of the industries that utilize steel is the transportation industry. Across the globe and locally here in the Philippines, steel has different properties that meet the requirements that a wide range of applications has. The combination of high strength and the flexibility of design that steel offers make it the material of choice in transportation.

Iron and steel played a huge role in the industrial revolution and that is why it is still enjoying the spotlight as the prime building material in various applications. Check out how steel railways came about and how it is remaining strong until today:



The Beginning of American Railways

The First Steel Rail in the United Kingdom

Before steel took over the railway industry, the composite wooden and strap-iron tracks were used for early trains to run on. Shortly after that, railway companies resorted to the use of steel rails on account of the longevity and safety. The wear of iron rails resulted in its crushing or lamination, which destroyed the running surface of the rails.

The first steel rails in the world were laid in Derby Station on the Midland Railway in Britain in 1857. The Midland Railway (MR) was a railway company from 1844 to 1922 and it had a large network of lines which were managed from its headquarters in Derby. It has become known as the third-largest railway undertaking in the British Isles, behind the Great Western Railway and the London and North Western Railway. This led the way for steel railways to be adopted by other countries and the advent of the second industrial revolution.



The Beginning of American Railways

After the UK, steel rails were used by American railway companies in 1864. In that year, Chicago, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore each laid portions of steel tracks. In the same year, the Pennsylvanian Railroad ordered an experimental lot of 150 tons of steel rails, which was the first in America. Despite it being twice the cost of iron rails, steel became a famous material for the construction of rails.

However, the conversion of all of America’s railroads to steel did not take place quickly. Unaccustomed to the process, American railroad companies were slow to adopt the method and they made mistakes as the UK did. In 1880, only 29% of the 115,000 miles of track in America was laid with steel rails but the figure rose to 50% of the 200,000 miles of track in 1890, then to 93% of the 258,000 miles of track in 1900. This goes to show that steel has been a part of innovation in transportation and remains to be vital until today.



Development of Steel

Today, steel is made accustomed to transportation structures for airports, bus stations, and railroads. Engineers of steel aimed to design the material to have certain specific levels of elasticity, strength, ductility, and corrosion resistance. The global steel production grew enormously in the 20th century from a mere 28 million tons at the beginning of the century to 781 million tons at its end.

The production of the building material rises at an astounding rate and this is because of the durability and ductility of steel. With post-war industrial development across countries especially Asia, the steel industry continues to rise. In 2017, China alone accounted for 50% of production, with Europe contributing 24% and North America for 6%.



Growth Potential of the Industry

Growth Potential of the Industry

The global economy opened up to most of steel production’s contribution and it has substantially risen over the years. From its humble beginning during the 1800’s, the industry accounts for one of the largest impacts it can give to the economy. In the Philippines, steel secures the future of the country’s industries and the steel industry is projected to be a major producer of high-quality and safe steel products for a large scale of domestic users by 2030.

Utilized by both commercial and industrial enterprises such as electronics, appliance manufacturing, and shipbuilding, steel has gone a long way from being a prime building material for transportation alone. Steel companies have seen more encouragement in the investment in the industry and this is because of the sustainable benefits that steel can give to various other industries employing its structural capabilities.



Key Takeaway

The history of steel in transportation is a great way to look back and see the potential of steel. Knowing the role it played in the industrial revolution, steel will still go a long way in proving its structural integrity for the global economy and to our country as well.