- Oldest railroads in North America
Several railroads have been called the oldest in North America.
Early experimental railroads
- 1720: A railroad is reportedly used in the construction of the French fortress at Louisburg, Nova Scotia.
- 1764: Between 1762 and 1764 a gravity railroad (Montresor's Tramway) is built by British military engineers at the Niagara Portage in Lewiston, New York.
- 1795: A wooden railway on Beacon Hill in Boston carries excavations down the hill to clear the land for the State House.
- 1799: Boston developers begin to reduce the height of Mount Vernon, prior to building streets and homes. Silas Whitney constructs a gravity railroad to move excavated material down the hill to fill marshy areas to create new land from the Back Bay.
- 1809: In September an experimental railroad is built next to a Philadelphia tavern by a millwright named Somerville. The track, built for Thomas Leiper, has a grade of 1-1/2 inch to the yard (1 : 24 or about 4 %) over its total length of 60 yards (54.9 m) and proves satisfactory when tested with a loaded car.
- Leiper Railroad, designed and built by merchant Thomas Leiper, connecting Crum Creek to Ridley Creek, Pennsylvania opens. It is used until 1829 when it is replaced by the Leiper Canal, but replaces the canal again in 1852. This became the Crum Creek Branch of the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad (part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) in 1887. This is the first railroad meant to be permanent, and the first to evolve into a common carrier after an intervening closure. See the 1826 Granite Railway (pictured) for comparison.
- 1811: George Magers designs and builds a 1-mile (1.6 km) wooden gravity railroad between a gunpowder mill and its powder storage bunker at Falling's Creek, Virginia.
- 1815: New Jersey grants a charter on February 6, 1815 for a company to "erect a rail-road from the river Delaware near Trenton, to the river Raritan, at or near New Brunswick", as proposed by John Stevens (1749-1838). This is the New Jersey Railroad Company and is the first railroad chartered in the United States, however it is never built due to an inability to attract financial investors.
- 1816: A railroad is reportedly used at Kiskiminetas Creek, Pennsylvania.
- 1818: An iron-smelting furnace at Bear Creek, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania reportedly has a wooden railroad in operation.
The Granite, Coal and Cotton Railroads
- 1826 Mar 4: The Granite Railway in Massachusetts was incorporated by Thomas Handasyd Perkins and Gridley Bryant. Construction began on April 1, and operations began on October 7. It later became a branch of the Old Colony and Newport Railway, which was later absorbed into the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. This is often called the first commercial railroad in the U.S., as it was the first to evolve into a common carrier without an intervening closure. See the 1810 Leiper Railroad for comparison.
- 1826 Apr 9: The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad was incorporated as the first railroad chartered in New York State (marker pictured), and the first railroad in the United States designed to be powered by a locomotive engine as opposed to horse-drawn or gravity railroads. It opened on August 9, 1831 using steam locomotive deWitt Clinton.
- 1827: The Mauch Chunk Railroad, a gravity railroad, is built between Summit Hill and Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, (now Jim Thorpe, PA). It was built to haul anthracite coal from the mines to the Lehigh River and was the first railroad of this type.
- 1829 Aug 8: The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company's gravity railroad in northeast Pennsylvania opened using Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to run on rails in the United States. It was also a coal railroad. The canal company, chartered in 1823, called itself "America's oldest continually operated transportation company".
- 1829: The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company was chartered December 19, 1827 and was also known as the Charleston & Hamburg Road. An experimental track was installed in February, 1829 to haul bales of cotton in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. On April 1, 1830 a double tracked 3,800-foot (1,200 m) long railroad was in full operation. By 1833, this railroad had been completed to Hamburg, South Carolina for a total length of 137 miles (220 km). At that time, it was the longest railroad in the world. This was the first railroad to use steam locomotives regularly. It later became part of the Southern Railway, now part of Norfolk Southern.
- 1829: The Mill Creek & Mine Hill Navigation & Railroad Company was chartered on February 7, 1828. The 4.09-mile (6.58 km) main line from Palo Alto, Pennsylvania to Wolf Creek was completed in 1829 with branches added in 1829 and 1830 for a total of 8.29 miles (13.34 km). It was another coal hauling railroad.
- 1830: The Schuylkill Valley Railroad & Navigation Company was chartered on April 14, 1828. It ran 9.23 miles (14.85 km) from Port Carbon, Pennsylvania to Tuscarora and was completed in 1830. It was built to carry coal from mines to Port Carbon.
- 1830: The Union Canal Company Railroad was a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) railroad constructed by the Union Canal (Pennsylvania) Company and was chartered on March 3, 1826. The company was in the canal business, but due to the topography, they could not extend their canal to the coal fields north of Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. Their solution was to build this short coal hauling railroad which was completed in 1830.
- 1830: The Tuscumbia Railway was chartered on January 16, 1830 and proceeded to build a 2.1-mile (3.4 km) railroad from downtown Tuscumbia, Alabama to the docks on the Tennessee River west of Sheffield. This was the first railroad chartered/constructed west of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1832, this railroad was renamed the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad, and was extended 41.9 miles (67.4 km) to connect the two Alabama cities of Tuscumbia and Decatur.
- 1831: The Mount Carbon Railroad was completed in 1831 running from Mount Carbon, Pennsylvania through Pottsville where it split into two branches, one going to what is now Seltzer and the other to the current Wadesville. This was a coal hauling railroad, 6.26 miles (10.07 km) in length.
- 1831: The Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad completed the first part of its railroad from Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania to Minersville with a branch line up the West Branch of the Schuylkill River, a distance of 13.5 miles (21.7 km).
- 1831: The Room Run Railroad was completed running a distance 5.26 miles (8.47 km) from Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania to Nesquehoning.
- 1831: The Chesterfield Railroad (sometimes called the Manchester Railroad) began operations by September 1831 in Chesterfield County, Virginia.
- 1839: Albion Railway serving coal mines around Stellarton, Nova Scotia, first railway in Canada is use iron rails and run year-round, home of Samson, the oldest surviving locomotive in Canada.
Name Chartered State Opened Notes Union Canal Company of Pennsylvania March 3, 1826 Pennsylvania 1830 Chartered on May 30, 1811 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on March 3, 1826 Granite Railway March 4, 1826 Massachusetts October 7, 1826 Only authorized to carry freight until April 16, 1846 Delaware and Hudson Canal Company April 5, 1826 Pennsylvania October 9, 1829 Chartered on March 13, 1823 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on April 5, 1826 Danville and Pottsville Railroad April 8, 1826 Pennsylvania September 24, 1834 Mohawk and Hudson Railroad April 17, 1826 New York September 24, 1831 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad February 28, 1827 Maryland January 7, 1830 Carried passengers from opening South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company December 19, 1827 South Carolina December 1830 Carried passengers from opening Ithaca and Owego Railroad January 28, 1828 New York April 1, 1834 Mill Creek and Mine Hill Navigation and Railroad Company February 7, 1828 Pennsylvania November 3, 1829 Tioga Navigation Company February 7, 1828 Pennsylvania 1839 Chartered on February 20, 1826 to build a canal or slack-water navigation; authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1828 Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad February 13, 1828 Maryland July 4, 1831 Chesterfield Railroad February 27, 1828 Virginia July 1831 New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike and Railroad Company March 14, 1828 Maryland February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 6, 1810 as the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on March 14, 1828 Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad March 24, 1828 Pennsylvania October 18, 1832 Part of the state-owned Main Line of Public Works Schuylkill Valley Navigation Company April 14, 1828 Pennsylvania 1830 Chartered on March 20, 1827 to build a canal; authorized to build a railroad on April 14, 1828; renamed Schuylkill Valley Navigation and Railroad Company on January 15, 1829 Schuylkill East Branch Navigation Company April 14, 1828 Pennsylvania November 18, 1831 Chartered on February 20, 1826 to build a lock navigation; authorized to build a railroad on April 14, 1828; renamed Little Schuylkill Navigation, Railroad and Coal Company on April 23, 1829 New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike and Railroad Company February 7, 1829 Delaware February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 24, 1809 as the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1829 New Castle Turnpike and Railroad Company February 7, 1829 Delaware February 28, 1832 Chartered on January 30, 1811 as the New Castle Turnpike Company to build a turnpike; renamed and authorized to build a railroad on February 7, 1829; merged into the New Castle Turnpike and Railroad Company on March 31, 1830 Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad April 15, 1829 Pennsylvania April 1831 Northern Liberties and Penn Township Railroad April 23, 1829 Pennsylvania April 1834 Mount Carbon Railroad July 15, 1829 Pennsylvania 1831 Tuscumbia Railway January 15, 1830 Alabama June 12, 1832 Pontchartrain Railroad January 20, 1830 Louisiana April 23, 1831 Lexington and Ohio Railroad January 27, 1830 Kentucky August 15, 1832 Camden and Amboy Railroad and Transportation Company February 4, 1830 New Jersey October 1, 1832 When the Camden and Amboy imported, assembled, and placed into service the locomotive John Bull, it was the first time that a steam locomotive had ever run on a North American railroad (earlier railroads used animal traction). Petersburg Railroad February 10, 1830 Virginia October 1832 Lykens Valley Railroad and Coal Company April 7, 1830 Pennsylvania April 1834 Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company April 7, 1830 Pennsylvania November 5, 1836 Canajoharie and Catskill Railroad April 19, 1830 New York 1839 Boston and Lowell Railroad June 5, 1830 Massachusetts June 24, 1835 Petersburg Railroad January 1, 1831 North Carolina 1833 Paterson and Hudson River Railroad January 31, 1831 New Jersey 1834 Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad February 9, 1831 New Jersey August 13, 1836 Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad February 16, 1831 New York July 12, 1832 West Chester Railroad February 18, 1831 Pennsylvania October 1, 1832 West Feliciana Railroad March 5, 1831 Louisiana January 1835 Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad March 21, 1831 Pennsylvania March 18, 1834 Part of the state-owned Main Line of Public Works Southwark Railroad April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania 1835 Cumberland Valley Railroad April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania August 16, 1837 Philadelphia and Delaware County Railroad April 2, 1831 Pennsylvania January 17, 1838 Renamed Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad on March 14, 1836 Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad April 5, 1831 Pennsylvania June 6, 1832 Winchester and Potomac Railroad April 8, 1831 Virginia (now partially West Virginia) March 1836 New York and Harlem Railroad April 25, 1831 New York November 26, 1832 Boston and Providence Railroad July 22, 1831 Massachusetts July 28, 1835 Boston and Worcester Railroad June 23, 1831 Massachusetts April 16, 1834 Clinton and Vicksburg Railroad December 19, 1831 Mississippi 1838 Reorganized as the Commercial and Railroad Bank of Vicksburg on December 25, 1833 Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad January 5, 1832 Ohio 1838 Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad January 13, 1832 Alabama August 20, 1833 Wilmington and Susquehanna Railroad January 18, 1832 Delaware July 14, 1837 Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis Railroad February 2, 1832 Indiana July 4, 1834 Ohio and Indianapolis Railroad February 3, 1832 Indiana 1851 Renamed Jeffersonville Railroad on February 3, 1849 Calais Railway February 17, 1832 Maine 1832 Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad February 23, 1832 Pennsylvania November 14, 1833 Baltimore and Port Deposit Railroad March 5, 1832 Maryland July 6, 1837 New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company March 7, 1832 New Jersey September 15, 1834 Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad March 8, 1832 Virginia July 27, 1834 New Jersey, Hudson and Delaware Railroad March 8, 1832 New Jersey 1872 Merged into the New Jersey Midland Railway on April 26, 1870 Franklin Railroad March 12, 1832 Pennsylvania September 10, 1839 Delaware and Maryland Railroad March 14, 1832 Maryland July 14, 1837 Merged into the Wilmington and Susquehanna Railroad on April 18, 1836 York and Maryland Line Railroad March 14, 1832 Pennsylvania August 23, 1838 Liggett's Gap Railroad April 7, 1832 Pennsylvania October 20, 1851 Renamed Lackawanna and Western Railroad on April 14, 1851 Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad April 14, 1832 New York April 19, 1836 Saratoga and Fort Edward Railroad April 17, 1832 New York October 15, 1848 Reorganized as the Saratoga and Washington Railroad on May 2, 1834 New York and Albany Railroad April 17, 1832 New York December 31, 1848 Sold to the New York and Harlem Railroad on March 9, 1846 Watertown and Rome Railroad April 17, 1832 New York October 1849 Tonawanda Railroad April 24, 1832 New York May 1837 New York and Erie Railroad April 24, 1832 New York September 23, 1841 Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad April 25, 1832 New York April 18, 1836 Leased by the Long Island Rail Road from opening Hudson and Berkshire Railroad April 26, 1832 New York September 26, 1838 Boston, Norwich and New London Railroad May 1, 1832 Connecticut 1840 Merged into the Norwich and Worcester Railroad on June 22, 1836 New York and Stonington Railroad May 14, 1832 Connecticut November 17, 1837 Merged into the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad on July 1, 1833 Portsmouth and Lancaster Railroad June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania September 16, 1836 Renamed Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mountjoy and Lancaster Railroad on March 11, 1835 Williamsport and Elmira Railroad June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania January 12, 1837 Strasburg Railroad June 9, 1832 Pennsylvania 1837 New York, Providence and Boston Railroad June 23, 1832 Rhode Island November 17, 1837 Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad June 29, 1832 Michigan February 3, 1838 Sold to the Central Railroad of Michigan on April 22, 1837
Selected railroads chartered since 1832:
- 1835: The New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad begins operation after 4 years of work; rail route still in operation as the St. Charles Streetcar Line in New Orleans.
- 1836: The Lake Wimico and St. Joseph Canal and Railroad Company was the first steam railroad in Florida, opening on September 5.
- 1836: The Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad opens in Quebec, Canada.
Tunnels and Bridges
- 1829: Carrollton Viaduct built of stone for Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 312 ft (95 m) over Gwynns Falls River in Baltimore MD
- 1833 (June): The Staple Bend Tunnel, the first railroad tunnel in the U.S., completed in June 1833 as part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad which opened in March 1834. Trains stopped running through the Staple Bend Tunnel in 1857, and it is now part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site.
- 1833 (December): Wadesville Tunnel, built by Danville and Pottsville Railroad at Wadesville, Pennsylvania.
- 1835: Thomas Viaduct built of stone for Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 614 ft (187 m) over Patapsco River in Relay, MD
- 1835: Canton Viaduct built of stone for Boston & Providence Railroad, 615 ft (187 m) over Canton River in Canton, MA
- 1837: The Yorkville Tunnel opened on October 26, for the New York and Harlem Railroad. It was absorbed in the 1870s by the longer and wider Park Avenue Tunnel, and is used by all Metro-North Railroad commuter trains. The old tunnel carries the two center tracks, and two new tunnels carry outer tracks.
- 1837: The Taft Tunnel opened in 1837 for Norwich and Worcester Railroad in Lisbon, Connecticut, north of Norwich, Connecticut. This is the oldest tunnel still in use in its original form in the U.S.
- 1837: The Howard Tunnel in York County, Pennsylvania. Considered the second oldest tunnel still in use in its original form in the U.S.
- 1842: The Potomac Creek Bridge 400 ft (120 m) long was built across the Potomac Creek in Stafford County, Virginia.
- 1848: Starrucca Viaduct built of stone for Erie Railroad, 1,040 ft (320 m) over Starrucca Creek in Lanesboro, PA
- 1850: The Henryton Tunnel on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
- 1850: The Chetoogeta Mountain Tunnel on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, Tunnel Hill, GA. 1,477 feet long and the first major railroad tunnel in the south.
West of the Mississippi River
- 1841: The Red River Railroad between Alexandria and Cheneyville in Louisiana was operational by 1841.
- 1852: The first section of the Pacific Railroad, later part of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, opened near St. Louis, Missouri.
- ^ Brown, Robert R. (October 1949). Canada's Earliest Railway Lines. Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin #78.
- ^ Whitehill, Walter Muir (1959). Boston - A Topographical History. Harvard University Press. p. 62.
- ^ Dunbar, Seymour. A History of Travel in America. pp. 876–7.
- ^ Dunbar. quoting Thomas McKibben of Baltimore in the American Engineer, 1886. pp. 878–9.
- ^ a b Dunbar. p. 880.
- ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 85
- ^ American Railroading Began Here cited 15 October 2009.
- ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), pages 415,537 
- ^ a b Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 415
- ^ in The Transfer of Pioneering British Railroad Technology to North America by Frederick C. Gamst, University of Massachusetts, Boston
- ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 459
- ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 501
- ^ Welcome to Tuscumbia, Alabama - You Should See Us Now!!
- ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 462
- ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 460
- ^ a b Development of Early Transportation Systems in the United States by J.L. Ringwalt (Philadelphia: Railway World Office, 1888), (RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION FROM 1830 TO 1840)
- ^ ExplorePAHistory.com Historical Marker Allegheny Portage Railroad
- ^ ExplorePAHistory.com Historical Marker Service began on wooden rails.
- ^ Red River Railroad
- First Railway (Tramway) Built in America, Lewiston, NY, 1764
- American Railroads; Their Growth and Development by Association of American Railroads (Washington DC, 1956)
- Library of Congress - History of Railroads and Maps
- Railroad History Database
-  National Railway Historical Society (NRHS): Historical Almanac of American Railroads - US, Canada, Mexico
- William D. Middleton, Where is America's oldest railroad tunnel?, Trains May 2002
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