Ten Cool Facts About Rail

Graphical image of a train with the words 'Ten Cool Facts About Rail' worked into the image.

1. Today 40% of world’s freight cargo is transported via trains, and that number continues to grow each year.

Source: Interesting and Fun Facts About Trains, Train History

2. Today’s bullet trains can top 300 mph.

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

3. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.

Source: Little-known, But Interesting, Railroad Information, Nebraska Railroad

4. By the mid-1940s, the diesel locomotive began to replace the steam locomotive used on trains for over 100 years. Diesels were much cheaper to use than steamers. By 1960, diesels had replaced over 99% of the steam locomotives in the United States.

Source: Train Facts, Mr. Holt’s Train Facts

5. First commercial steam train (Stephenson’s “Rocket”) managed to reach the speed of 96 kilometers per hour in 1830.

Source: Interesting and Fun Facts About Trains, Train History

6. On April 28, 1869, ten miles and fifty-six feet of track was laid in one day. The accomplishment was in response to a $10,000 wager Charles Crocker made with Thomas Durant of the Union Pacific. A squad of eight Irish rail-handlers and a small army of 4,000 workers, mostly Chinese, accomplished the feat, working between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Source: FAQ: Chinese Railroad Workers in North America, Stanford University

7. America’s first steam locomotive lost a race to a horse.

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

8. Railroads were responsible for the first time zones in the United States.

Source: Railroads Create the First Time Zones, This Day in History, History

9. America’s first steam locomotive made its debut in 1830, and over the next two decades railroad tracks linked many cities on the east coast. By 1850, some 9,000 miles of track had been laid east of the Missouri River.

Source: Transcontinental Railroad, History

10. The largest steam engines were built in the 1940s. The Union Pacific Big Boy locomotives, for example, were massive and could haul 100 full wagons, reaching speeds of 70 mph.

Source: Train Facts for Kids, Primary Facts

Erin Skoog
Fast Forward: Volume 2 Issue 6 – Rail