Rail transport  

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 L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station is an 1895 French short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by Auguste and Louis Lumière. It was first screened on December 28 1895 in Paris, France, and was shown to a paying audience January 6 1896.
L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station is an 1895 French short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by Auguste and Louis Lumière. It was first screened on December 28 1895 in Paris, France, and was shown to a paying audience January 6 1896.

Train, train, comin' 'round, 'round the bend
Train, train, comin' 'round the bend

--"Mystery Train" (1953) by Junior Parker

"The Europeans (2019) interweaves rail transport, the diffusion of cultural products, the histories of copyright, mechanical reproduction, tourism, 19th century literature, art and music with the personal lives of operatic star Pauline Viardot, her husband Louis Viardot and her lover Ivan Turgenev to sketch a remarkably lively portrait of 19th century Europe."--Sholem Stein

"By the railway space is annihilated, and only time remains. [...] In three hours and a half one can now go to Orleans, in the same time to Rouen. What will it be when the lines to Belgium and Germany shall be finished and connected with the railways of those countries? I seem to see the mountains and forests of every country coming to Paris. I smell the perfume of German lime-trees; the billows of the North Sea are bounding and roaring before my door."--French affairs – Letters from Paris. In: Two Volumes. Vol. II. Lutetia () by Heinrich Heine

"The terms ‘railway-spine’ and ‘railway-brain,’ which the English and American pathologists have given to certain states of these organs, show that they recognise them as due partly to the effects of railway accidents, partly to the constant vibrations undergone in railway travelling."--Degeneration (1892) by Max Nordau

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Related e



Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transport that transfers passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, which are located on tracks. In contrast to road transport, where the vehicles run on a prepared flat surface, rail vehicles (rolling stock) are directionally guided by the tracks on which they run. Tracks usually consist of steel rails, installed on sleepers (ties) set in ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves. Other variations are also possible, such as "slab track", in which the rails are fastened to a concrete foundation resting on a prepared subsurface.

Rolling stock in a rail transport system generally encounters lower frictional resistance than rubber-tyred road vehicles, so passenger and freight cars (carriages and wagons) can be coupled into longer trains. The operation is carried out by a railway company, providing transport between train stations or freight customer facilities. Power is provided by locomotives which either draw electric power from a railway electrification system or produce their own power, usually by diesel engines or, historically, steam engines. Most tracks are accompanied by a signalling system. Railways are a safe land transport system when compared to other forms of transport. Railway transport is capable of high levels of passenger and cargo utilisation and energy efficiency, but is often less flexible and more capital-intensive than road transport, when lower traffic levels are considered.

The oldest known, man/animal-hauled railways date back to the 6th century BC in Corinth, Greece. Rail transport then commenced in mid 16th century in Germany in the form of horse-powered funiculars and wagonways. Modern rail transport commenced with the British development of the steam locomotive in Merthyr Tydfil when Richard Trevithick ran a steam locomotive and loaded wagons between Penydarren Ironworks and Abercynon in 1802. Thus the railway system in Great Britain is the oldest in the world. Built by George Stephenson and his son Robert's company Robert Stephenson and Company, the Locomotion No. 1 is the first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public rail line, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. George Stephenson also built the first public inter-city railway line in the world to use only the steam locomotives, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which opened in 1830. With steam engines, one could construct mainline railways, which were a key component of the Industrial Revolution. Also, railways reduced the costs of shipping, and allowed for fewer lost goods, compared with water transport, which faced occasional sinking of ships. The change from canals to railways allowed for "national markets" in which prices varied very little from city to city. The spread of the railway network and the use of railway timetables, led to the standardisation of time (railway time) in Britain based on Greenwich Mean Time. Prior to this, major towns and cities varied their local time relative to GMT. The invention and development of the railway in the United Kingdom was one of the most important technological inventions of the 19th century. The world's first underground railway, the Metropolitan Railway (part of the London Underground), opened in 1863.

In the 1880s, electrified trains were introduced, leading to electrification of tramways and rapid transit systems. Starting during the 1940s, the non-electrified railways in most countries had their steam locomotives replaced by diesel-electric locomotives, with the process being almost complete by the 2000s. During the 1960s, electrified high-speed railway systems were introduced in Japan and later in some other countries. Many countries are in the process of replacing diesel locomotives with electric locomotives, mainly due to environmental concerns, a notable example being Switzerland, which has completely electrified its network. Other forms of guided ground transport outside the traditional railway definitions, such as monorail or maglev, have been tried but have seen limited use.

Following a decline after World War II due to competition from cars and aeroplanes, rail transport has had a revival in recent decades due to road congestion and rising fuel prices, as well as governments investing in rail as a means of reducing CO2 emissions in the context of concerns about global warming.


In fiction

Examples of railways in fiction include:



  • 4.50 from Paddington (book; film and TV adaptations) – a Miss Marple story. A passenger on one train is witness to a murder being committed on another train.
  • The Adventure of the Lost Locomotive - a Solar Pons story about a disappearing train on the Great Northern Railway.
  • Anna Karenina (book) – by Leo Tolstoy. Train travel is arguably the most prominent motif of the story.
  • "The Celestial Railroad" – Short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Choo Choo: The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran Away (book, episode adaptation in Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories) - A children's book by Virginia Lee Burton The adventures of a beautiful little locomotive who decided to run away from her humdrum duties.
  • The Dark Tower (book series) by Stephen King – The main character Roland of Gilead travels through a series of caves which were once part of an underground railroad system. The characters also ride on a monorail with artificial intelligence.
  • The Devil's Horse, The Poison Tree and The Abyss in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' The Morland Dynasty series feature the development of steam power and the first railways in Britain.
  • Galaxy Express 999 – From the manga and anime of the same name by Leiji Matsumoto, this train travels the galaxy from planet to planet.
  • Iron Council (book) by China Mieville) – a fantasy novel about the building of a cross-continental railway line.
  • Railsea (book) by China Mieville - a fantasy novel that features railway tracks that represent oceans and sea called "Railsea" and features giant moles ("moldywarpes") that represent whales and boat-like trains. It parodies Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.
  • Jim Stringer: Steam Detective - series of mystery novels by Andrew Martin set on various British railway lines.
  • La Bête humaine – (novel) by Émile Zola, filmed 5 times, e.g. as Cruel Train
  • The Engine Woman’s Light (Laurel Anne Hill) – a spirits-meet-steampunk novel about the heroic journey of a young Latina in an alternate 19th Century California, where trains are used to transport undesirables to a dreaded asylum.
  • The Little Engine That Could – children's book. Also adapted as an animated film in 1991 (see The Little Engine That Could (film)).
  • The Locomotive – dynamic poem for children by Julian Tuwim, filmed by Zbigniew Rybczyński
  • The Lost Special - short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, about the investigation of a special train mysteriously disappearing.
  • Making Tracks (23 Classic Railroad Stories) (2013), ed. by Jon Schlenker and Charles G. Waugh.
  • The Moosepath Saga by Van Reid – All six books in this series feature travel by rail, entailing adventure, comedy, mystery, and romance in late 19th century Maine.
  • The Motion Demon – 1919 (book) horror stories by Stefan Grabiński- Engine Driver Grot; The Wandering Train; The Motion Demon; The Sloven; The Perpetual Passenger; In the Compartment; Signals; The Siding; Ultima Thule.
  • Murder on the Orient Express (book by Agatha Christie, 1934; film) – describes a train journey from Istanbul to Paris aboard the Orient Express during which a murder takes place. Hercule Poirot, riding on the train solves the mystery and justice is served.
  • The Mystery of the Blue Train (book, TV adaptation) – earlier Poirot story in which a murder takes place on a train.
  • The Network (book) – by Laurence Staig. An ancient prophecy is realised one Christmas Eve in the London Underground, a dramatic race against time as 3 people are thrown together to prevent a terrifying catastrophe.
  • Night on the Galactic Railroad (novel, film) - two boys travel on a magical train across the night sky - but there is a deeper meaning to the journey.
  • The Railway Series, British stories about a fictional railway by Rev. W. Awdry, which would later be adapted into the children's show Thomas and Friends.
  • Silver on the Tree, the last book in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising cycle - approaching the climax of the story, the main characters travel on a mystical train to the final battle between the Light and the Dark
  • Strangers on a Train (novel, film) – tells the story of how two strangers meet on a train and decide to exchange murders so they can't be tied to each other.
  • Taggart Comet (Atlas Shrugged)
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps – (book by John Buchan, films, one by Alfred Hitchcock) features a sequence where the character Richard Hannay escapes from the Police by jumping from a train on the Forth Bridge in Scotland.
  • Via Bodenbach, an experimental novel about a train journey to Berlin by Hungarian novelist Ferenc Körmendi, published in 1932 and widely translated.
  • The Wind in the Willows - an episode in the novel involves the flight of Mr. Toad by rail and a chase-scene with another train full of policemen.
  • Grim Tuesday - The second book in The Keys to the Kingdom series feature a train with SPIKES all over it.
  • Greatwinter Trilogy - A book series featuring trains powered by wind turbines and trains powered by pedaling done by it passengers. Passengers are ranked according to how much they pedal, and those who pedal most get credits towards their fare and priority use of the railside facilities.
  • Red Mars - The first book in the Mars Trilogy feature a train that went around the circumference of the moon and travel fast enough to generate rotatinal gravity, relieving the difficulties of living in microgravity and allowing colonists to acclimate before moving down to the Martian surface colonies.
  • Inverted World - A novel about a large city run on rails.
  • Commonwealth Saga - A novel series feature huge, nuclear-powered trains for interstellar travel (through artificial wormholes).
  • Wheelworld - The second novel in the To the Stars (trilogy) set in an agricultural colony on a planet with very extreme seasons causing the entire colony to escape the brutal summers twice per year by turning into a mobile colony. They did this by jacking up the colony's main buildings on wheels, forming them up behind the colony's nuclear power plants (which now transformed into an enormous locomotive) into a train-like vehicle that run on roads rather than tracks. This make the 12,000 mile trek to the other side of the planet.
  • Dreadnought - The third novel in Cherie Priest Clockwork Century novel, where the main character ride on a Union war locomotive called the Dreadnought. It is used by the Union to terrorize Confederate rail traffic. It's a warship on rails, with a heavily armored engine, plenty of automated guns, and a complement of troops on board.
  • Nightside (book series) - A book series feature subway trains that don't require drivers, it travel through various other dimensions as shortcuts, and heal themselves when damaged.
  • Raising Steam - The 40th Discworld novel feature the first steam locomotive on Discworld called Iron Girder.
  • The Boundless - A novel by Kenneth Oppel set in a train called The Boundless.
  • The Half-Made World - A novel featuring The 38 Engines of the Line which are sentient trains. Nobody knows their exact origin.
  • Freedom Express - The seventh novel in the Wingman series by Mack Maloney feature a ten-mile-long super-train that is heavily armored, heavily armed and is manned by members of the heroic Post-Apocalyptic Badass Army that protects what remains of America.
  • Starcross (novel) - The second novel in the Larklight series feature a space railway in the Asteroid Belt made by the same company that built the Crystal Palace.
  • Quadrail series - A novel series feature an interplanetary metro system, with light-years-long tunnels that snake around the galaxy and connect many interplanetary systems together.
  • The Yellow Arrow - the allegorical story by Victor Pelevin written in 1993.



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  • Astrotrain – A Decepticon triple-changer from the Transformers toy line, who transforms into a steam locomotive and a shuttle.
  • The Crazy Locomotive – by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, 1923 expressionistic 45-minutes play ( Obie Award-winning production at the Chelsea Theatre Center in 1977, Classical Theatre of Harlem). Two engineers push the locomotive to ever-greater speeds causing a head-on collision.
  • Dutchman (play) by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) is set in the New York City Subway.
  • The Ghost Train - stageplay by Arnold Ridley about a group of passengers stranded in a haunted railway station. Adapted to film numerous times.
  • Starlight Express (Andrew Lloyd Webber) – Musical about trains competing in a World Championship railway race.
  • "Tons of Steel" – A Grateful Dead song about a man and the train he operates.
  • The Wrecker - stageplay by Arnold Ridley about a steam engine that is allegedly possessed.This later made into the 1929 film The Wrecker however it did not feature the possessed train.
  • Le Transperceneige - A French Graphic novel about a luxury train that went around a post-apocalyptic ice age later inspired the 2013 film Snowpiercer.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - Features the controllable Spirit Train and the Demon Train as an antagonist.
  • Half-Life (series) - Several of the games start or end on trams and trains, and feature themes of rail transportation in-game as usable trams or as obstacles and scenery.
  • Grand Theft Auto - Most of this series of games contains a form of railroading (train, tram etc.).
  • Alice Madness Returns - In game appears the Infernal Train as the main source of destruction in Wonderland, controlled by the Dollmaker. It can be seen throughout numerous parts in the game, and it is used as a final chapter.
  • Mario Kart 8 - One race takes place in a subway station called Golden Bell.
  • Coors Light - One of its ads feature a refrigerated train filled with chilled Coors Light beer. Everytime its passes, its surrounding gets covered in frost.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent - A Finnish-Swedish webcomic feature an armored railcar called Dalahästen that destroys anything that gets on the tracks. It also has a giant buzzsaws mounted on the top.
  • Paranatural - A webcomic feature a living spirit that represents a flying ghost train called Ghost Train.
  • Batman - The character had a subterranean jet-propelled train car called the Batsubway Rocket.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Vol II - A comic book feature a Secret Black Government Train. Its engine number is .007.
  • Assassin's Creed: The Fall - A comic book mini-series feature Alexander III's Imperial Train.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rail transport" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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