Evolution of the World Railway Network, 1850-1913

Evolution of the Railway Network (in km), 1850-1913

Source: Rioux, J-P (1989) La revolution industrielle 1780-1880, Paris: Editions du Seuil.

From 1830, when the first commercial service between Liverpool and Manchester was established, the size of railway networks grew rapidly, namely through phases of boom and bust. The railroad enabled the exploitation of the resources of vast territories, notably by linking ports to their hinterland. Before the development of railways, the port hinterland was accessible only through the fluvial system, which limited options and incited costly canal development projects. The 1870-1900 period saw the acceleration of rail projects in Europe and North America. For less developed parts of the world, such as Africa and South America, the railway system was often a tool of access to inland resources by European colonial powers.