The changes in transport between the 17th and 18th centuries.
In the 1800s road travel was mainly made up of horse and cart, the journeys were long and very uncomfortable. In some places, business people and local residents joined together to form what was called a “Turnpike Trust”. They were given by parliament a section of road to look after and maintain.
They set up toll gates which charged people to use their roads so they could afford to uphold them. The number of “Turnpike Trusts” grew rapidly from 520 in 1770 to almost 1000 in 1830. But unfortunately they still only controlled 22000 miles out of the 105000 miles of important roads. Some organizations employed surveyors who studied the road and thought about how they could make them better and withstand heavier traffic.
They realized they needed strong foundations and good drainage. After these roads were “upgraded” the carriages could travel faster enabling travelers to keep a regular timetable and the mail service to deliver mail on-time
In 1750 transport in Britain was so bad that each region was largely self-contained. Factories were built where the raw materials were and then the finished product was sold locally.
Bulky goods could only be moved by sea and rivers. What manufacturers wanted was an easy way to get their goods around the country, so their trade opportunities could increase and they could make a larger profit. If all the great rivers could be connected up it would be possible for traders to travel up and down the country with little effort.
The Bridgewater Canal was one of the first canals to be built and it was built between Manchester and Liverpool. It was opened in 1776 and was very convenient for traders in that area. It brought the cost of coal in Manchester down by 50%! It also helped Britain’s economy a great deal. Liverpool grew massively as a port and was great for trade between Britain and America.
By 1820 traders could transport their goods in many ways. But by that time a lot of raw materials were being sent all over the country and the drivers of the boats were starting to complain about the number of barges on the canal. It was overcrowded and there was a lot of queuing every time you reached a lock; even thought the British waterways did their best to improve them.
After the success of the Liverpool and Manchester railway in 1822 (built to replace the Bridgewater Canal) a period of “Railway Mania” followed. Between 1844 and 1848 hundreds of companies were set up and thousand of miles of track were laid. Everyone thought there was easy money to be made by investing in the railway.
Merchants and traders wanted their goods and fast and the railway was significantly faster. However, many of the railway companies were small scale and local. It was difficult for their track to join up to another company’s line because their track was a different width. A standard width was introduced in the 1860s and the main-line network was largely complete.
By 1900 all the main-lines were tied up with branch lines to create a massive network all over the country.