Wagonways are the horses, equipment, and tracks used for hauling wagons which preceded steam powered railways. There are two styles of waggonway and two spellings. "Wagonway" tends to relate to examples based on the smaller Shropshire model, and "waggonway" to examples based on the Newcastle area model, used for carrying coal. The terms '
tramway' and in someplaces 'dramway' are also found.
The idea of using "tracked" roads is at least 2000 years old; quarries in
Greece, Malta, and the Roman Empireused cut stone tracks to haul loads pulled by animals. Around 1550 German miners used wooden tubs known as "hunt" running on two wide boards for rails to move orewithin mines. These hunts used a guide pin system for steering utilising the slot between the two board rails. In 1604 Huntingdon Beaumontcompleted a wagonway, (the Wollaton Wagonway) built to transport coalfrom the mines at Strelley to Wollatonjust west of Nottingham, England. Wagonways have been proven to exist in Broseley, Shropshirefrom 1605, although it is widely believed that they were in evidence prior to this. [http://www.stephensonloco.org.uk/time_line.htm]
Wagonways improved coal transport by allowing one horse to deliver between 10 to 13 tons of coal per run - an approximate fourfold increase. Wagonways were usually designed to carry the fully loaded wagons downhill to a
canalor boat dock and then return the empty wagons back to the mine.
At the beginning of the
Industrial Revolutionin the 18th century, the rails were made of wood; were a few inches wide; and were fastened down, end to end, on logs of wood, or "sleepers", placed crosswise at intervals of two or three feet. In time, it became a common practice to cover them with a thin flat sheathing or "plating" of iron, in order to add to their life and reduce friction. This caused more wear on the wooden rollers of the wagons, and, towards the middle of the 18th century, led to the introduction of iron wheels, the use of which is recorded on a wooden railway near Bath in 1734. But the iron sheathing was not strong enough to resist buckling under the passage of the loaded wagons, so rails made wholly of iron were invented.
The first iron rails
In 1767, the
CoalbrookdaleIron Works began to cast ironrails. These were probably 6 foot (1829 mm) long, with four projecting ears or lugs (3 inches by 3.75 inches or 76 mm x 96 mm) to enable them to be fixed to the sleepers. The rails were 3.75 inches (96 mm) wide and 1.25 inches (32 mm) thick. Later descriptions also refer to rails 3 foot (915 mm) long and only 2 inches (51 mm) wide. [M. J. T. Lewis. "Early Wooden Railways" (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1970), 160-165. ]
A later system involved "L" shaped iron rails or plates, each 3 ft (915 mm) long and 4 in (102 mm) wide, having on the inner side an upright ledge or flange, 3 in (76 mm) high at the centre and tapering to a height of 2 in (51 mm) at the ends, for the purpose of keeping the flat wheels on the track. Subsequently, to increase the strength, a similar flange was added below the rail. Wooden sleepers continued to be used – the rails being secured by spikes passing through the extremities – but, circa 1793, stone blocks also began to be used, an innovation associated with the name of
Benjamin Outram, who, however, was not the first to make it. This type of rail was known as the plate-rail, tramway-plate or way-plate, names which are preserved in the modern term "platelayer" applied to the men who lay and maintain the permanent wayof a railway.
Edgeway, edge rails
Another form of rail, the edge rail, was first used by
William Jessopon a line which was opened as part of the Charnwood Forest Canalbetween Loughboroughand Nanpantanin Leicestershirein 1789. This line was originally designed as a platewayon the Outram system, but objections were raised to rails with upstanding ledges or flanges being laid on the turnpike road, this difficulty was overcome by paving, or "causewaying", the road up to the level of the top of the flanges. In 1790 Jessop and his partner Outram began to manufacture edge-rails. Another example of the edge rail application was the Lake Lock Rail Roadused primarily for coal transport. This was a public railway (charging a toll) and opened for traffic in 1798. The route started at Lake Lock, Stanley, on the Aire & Calder Navigation, near Wakefield, UK, and ran to Outwood, a distance of approximately 3 miles (4.8 km). Edge-rails were also used on the near by Middleton Railway.
These two systems of constructing iron railways, the "L" plate-rail and the smooth edge-rail, continued to exist side by side until well on into the 19th century. In most parts of England the plate-rail was preferred, and it was used on the
Surrey Iron Railway, from Wandsworthto West Croydon, which, sanctioned by parliament in 1801, was finished in 1803, and like the Lake Lock Rail Roadwas available to the public on payment of tolls, previous lines having all been private and reserved exclusively for the use of their owners. Since it was used by individual operators, vehicles would vary greatly in wheel spacing (gauge) and the plate rail coped better.
Walesagain, where in 1811 the railways were connected with canals, collieries, iron and copper works, and had a total length of nearly 150 miles, the plateway was almost universal. But in the North of England and in Scotland the edge-rail was held in greater favor, and by the third decade of the century its superiority was generally established. Wheels tended to bind against the flange of the plate rail and mud and stones would build up.
The manufacture of the rails themselves was gradually improved. By making them in longer lengths a reduction was effected in the number of joints, always the weakest part of the line; and another advance consisted in the substitution of wrought iron for cast iron, though that material did not gain wide adoption until after the patent for an improved method of rolling rails granted in 1820 to
John Birkinshaw, of the Bedlington Ironworks, Northumberland. His rails were wedge-shaped in section, much wider at the top than at the bottom, with the intermediate portion or web thinner still, and he recommended that they should be made 18 ft (5.5 m) long, even suggesting that several of them might be welded together end to end to form considerable lengths. They were supported on sleepers by chairs at intervals of 3 ft (915 mm), and were fish-bellied between the points of support. As used by George Stephensonon the Stockton & Darlington and Canterbury & Whitstable lines they weighed 28 lb/yd (14 kg/m). On the Liverpool and Manchester Railwaythey were usually 12 or 15 ft (3.66 or 4.6 m) long and weighed 35 lb/yd (17 kg/m), and they were fastened by iron wedges to chairs weighing 15 or 17 lb (6.8 or 7.7 kg) each. The chairs were in turn fixed to the sleepers by two iron spikes, half-round wooden cross sleepers being employed on embankments and stone blocks 20 in (508 mm) square by 10 in (254 mm) deep in cuttings. The fishbellied rails, however, were found to break near the chairs, and from 1834 they began to be replaced with parallel rails weighing 50 lb/yd (25 kg/m).
The wagonway had come into considerable use in connection with collieries and quarries before it was realized that for the carriage of general merchandise it might prove a serious competitor to the canals, of which a large distance had been constructed in
Great Britainduring that period. In the article on "Railways" in the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1824, it is said: "It will appear that this species of inland carriage is principally applicable where trade is considerable and the length of conveyance short; and is chiefly useful, therefore, in transporting the mineralproduce of the kingdom from the mines to the nearest land or water communication, whether sea, river or canal. Attempts have been made to bring it into more general use, but without success; and it is only in particular circumstances that navigation, with the aid either of locks or inclined planes to surmount the elevations, will not present a more convenient medium for an extended trade." It must be remembered, however, that at this time the railways were nearly all worked by horse-traction, and that the use of steam had made but little progress.
Richard Trevithick, in 1804, in the first recorded use of self propelled steam power on a railway, ran a high-pressure steam locomotivewith smooth wheels, on an 'L' section plateway near Merthyr Tydfil, but it was found more expensive than horses. He made three trips from the iron mines at Penydarren to the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal and each time broke the rails that were designed for horse wagon loads. In 1812 the Middleton Railway(edgeway, rack rail) successfully used twin cylinder steam locomotives made by Matthew Murrayof Holbeck, Leeds. In 1821 a wagonway was proposed that would connect the mines at West Durham, Darlingtonand the River Teesat Stockton, George Stephensonsuccessfully argued that horse drawn wagonways were obsolete and a steam powered railway could carry 50 times as much coal. Shortly after the completion of the Stockton and Darlington railwayin 1825 coal transport prices began falling rapidly.
Stationary steam engines for mining were generally available around the middle of the 18th century, wagonways and steam powered railways that had steep uphill sections would employ a cable powered by a stationary steam engine to work the inclined sections. British troops in Lewiston New York used a cable wagonway to move supplies to base before the
American Revolutionary War. The Stockton and Darlington had two inclined sections powered by cable.
The transition from a wagonway to a fully steam powered railway was a gradual evolution. Railways up to 1835 that were steam powered often made runs with horses when the steam locomotive were unavailable. The
Baltimore and Ohio Railroadinitially opened in 1830 with 13 miles (21 km) of track was horse powered. Railroads powered by stationary engines and cables ( San Francisco cable cars) and horse-drawn trams (Isle of Man, Manx Tramway) are still in use today.
Beamish Museumin North East Englandreplicated a steam-operated railway of 1825, the "Pockerley Waggonway", going on to recreate a wooden waggonway alongside.
* Lewis, M.J.T. (1970) "Early Wooden Railways", London : Routledge & Kegan, ISBN 0-7100-6674-0
* Westwood, J. (1988) "The Pictorial History of Railways", London : Bison Books, ISBN 0-86124-446-X
* Smiles S, Stephenson G. (1857) "The life of George Stephenson, railway engineer", London: John Murray, No ISBN
* http://sine.ncl.ac.uk/view_structure_information.asp?struct_id=1747 Description and photographs of the archaeological excavation of a wooden waggonway on the site of Lambton Coke Works in
North East England.
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Look at other dictionaries:
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