Review - Wild West Tech - Shootout Tech
The Wild West Tech series is enjoyable for western history buffs. This particular episode focused on the spreading of the locomotive throughout the west.
Old trains were made mostly of wood which made them easily damaged and highly flammable. Sparks from the coal stove could catch the car on fire.
In San Antonio, a boiler exploded and 26 men were killed. Pieces of the train were found up to a mile away.
Before the railroad came, a trip across country on a wagon took months or a trip around Cape Horn via ship took almost a year. One could travel about a month through the area that would eventually be the Pananama Canal, but the locals demanded heavy payment and the journey was dangerous.
1862 marked the first Transcontinental Railroad.
Early rails were of "strap rail" construction - two planks of wood and a bar of iron strapped on top. This construction tended to come undone or the planks of wood tended to curl ("snakehead") causing trains to derail.
1856, Henry Bessemer of Bessemer Steel made steel tracks which were a lot stronger.
Interestingly, the initial straight smoke stacks allowed floating embers to fly into the passenger cars (igniting the wooden seats) or into nearby farm fields. The shape of the stack became cone shaped so the sparks became trapped inside preventing potential fires.
1869, George Westinghouse invented automatic air breaks. Previously, a brakeman had to run down a narrow cat walk, over cars, and set a handbrake manually. Very dangerous. 1872, an air compressor break was designed to run along a peper.
In 1830, there were 23 miles of tracks.
In 1900, there was over 200,000 miles.