The railway has played an incredibly important part in the lives of billions of people over the years. The first public railway which used only steam locomotives all the time, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, designed and built by George Stephenson, was opened in 1830 in the United Kingdom. Great Britain produced a lovely portrayal of the railway over a set of five stamps to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first journey on that line.
The first Italian railway was the Napoli – Portici line. Running for a grand total of 7.25 km, it was inaugurated on the 3rd of October 1839 by the Borbonic king Ferdinando II. At that time Napoli was the capital of the Regno delle Due Sicilie, and the Italian Peninsula was still divided into several different countries. Only twenty two years later, when Italy was finally unified in 1861, there were a total of 2,370 kilometres of railway throughout the country, the majority of which were in the north-western region of Piedmont. These stamps were issued in 1939 to celebrate 100 years of the railway in Italy.
By 1842 Britain had 3,058 kilometres of railways in operation but in comparison France had only 482. By 1871, due to rapid expansion of the railway, France had over 23,000 kilometres of track in operation. The 1943 stamp shown above celebrated the centenary of what was at one time the longest railway line in France (114 kilometres), from Paris to Orleans.
The Great Indian Peninsula Railway operated the first passenger train in India on April 16, 1853. The train, with three locomotives, 14 carriages and 400 passengers, travelled the approximately 40-kilometre journey from Mumbai to Thane in an hour-and-fifteen-minutes.
Although the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened in 1830, in the United Kingdom other engineer/inventors had in previous years been busy in the development of steam locomotion. In 2015 Posta Shqiptare (Albania Post) produced a 4-stamp set commemorating 190 years since the invention of the steam locomotive. The set shows two of George Stephenson’s machines, Rocket (1829) and Locomotion (1825, the first steam locomotive to haul a passenger-carrying train on a public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway). The other stamps show the New Castle, built by Richard Trevithick in 1803 and Salamanca built by Matthew Murray. Salamanca was the world’s first commercially successful steam locomotive. It was built for the Middletown Railway, to haul coal into the city of Leeds in the north of England.
The first railway in Jamaica, the Western Jamaica Connecting Railway, was built in 1845 from Kingston to Angels (23.3 kilometres) near Spanish Town. The railway was proposed and started by Englishman William Smith. The stamp on the left shows The Projector (1845) – one of two locomotives used on the line, the other being Patriot. The middle stamp has Engine 54 from 1944 and on the right is diesel-engine 102 from 1967. The stamps from 1970 celebrate the 125th anniversary of the introduction of the railway in Jamaica.
Argentina’s first railway was inaugurated on August 30th, 1857. The line ran through the streets of Buenos Aires westwards, to the village of Floresta, a total distance of 10 kilometres. “La Porteña” – the locomotive on the 40c. stamp – was the vehicle that made the inaugural trip.
The first railway line in Uruguay ran 18 kilometres northwards from the Uruguayan capital Montevideo to Las Piedras, and was inaugurated on 1 January 1869.