10 Cool Facts About Rail


Graphical image connecting the words ‘10 Cool Facts About Rail’ to a train.

1. The railroad was first developed in Great Britain. George Stephenson successfully used steam technology to create the world’s first successful locomotive. The first engines used in the United States were purchased from Stephenson Works in England.

Source: Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium, U.S. History

2. On April 27, 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which enforces rail safety regulations, published the Final Rule on the Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings. Effective June 24, 2005, the Final Rule requires that locomotive horns be sounded at all public grade crossings 15-20 seconds before entering a crossing, but not more than one-quarter mile in advance.

Source: Locomotive Horn Signals, Union Pacific

3. The big difference between a maglev train and a conventional train is that maglev trains do not have an engine, at least not the kind of engine used to pull typical train cars along steel tracks. The engine for maglev trains is rather inconspicuous. Instead of using fossil fuels, the magnetic field created by the electrified coils in the guideway walls and the track propels the train.

Source: How Maglev Trains Work, How Stuff Works

4. Railroad track in the United States had reached almost 3,000 miles by 1840, 9,000 miles by 1850, and 30,000 miles by 1860.

Source: Railroads, Encyclopedia.com

5. A freight train can move a ton of freight 473 miles on one gallon of fuel.

Source: Eight Unbelievable Facts About America’s Freight Railroads, Freight Trail Works

6. All of the steel used in the United States’ railways could be used to build 6,667 Eiffel Towers.

Source: Eight Unbelievable Facts About America’s Freight Railroads, Freight Trail Works

7. America’s first steam locomotive lost a race to a horse. The steam engine quickly roared into the lead, but when a belt broke loose, it was forced to retire and the horse crossed the finish line first.

Source: 8 Things You May Not Know About Trains, History

8. There is an abandoned subway station underneath the New York City Hall building. It was opened in 1904 as the southern terminal of the Manhattan Main Line. Located beneath the public area in front of City Hall, the station has always been considered the most beautiful in the city. Now, you can only see it from the number 6 train because nothing stops there.

Source: Subterranean History: Beautiful Abandoned NYC Subway Station, Web Urbanist

9. Because of the huge size of a locomotive (17 feet high and 10 feet wide), it appears to be travelling much slower than we think when viewed from a slight angle at the railroad crossing. The combination of the size and angle create this illusion. The railroad tracks also add to the illusion. The parallel lines of the rails converge toward the horizon and fool our minds into thinking the train is farther away than it actually is. It is virtually impossible to accurately judge the speed of a train when this combination of illusions is present.

Source: Rail Safety Tips and Facts, Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission

10. Grand Central Station in New York City has 44 platforms.

Source: Interesting and Fun Facts about Trains, Train History


Erin Skoog
Fast Forward: Volume 3 Issue 6 – Maritime & Rail