The history of railways in Great Britain began in the second part of the 18th century. The first railways were horse-powered and were used for transporting coal, timber and ore. Later on, horse-powered railways appeared in large cities and were used as passenger transport. But they did not last long.

In 1763 James Watt invented the stationary steam engine and George Stephenson was one of the first who put a steam engine on wheels. He made a design of a locomotive but couldn’t build it as he had no money. Some businessmen decided to construct a railway between Stockton and Darlington to see how Stephenson’s locomotive worked. On the day when it was opened, a man on a horse went in front of the engine and shouted that the train was coming. Stephenson, who was running his locomotive, asked the horseman to go away. He put steam on and ran his locomotive at a speed of 12 miles an hour. It was the beginning of steam-powered railways.

In 1829 the Liverpool-Manchester Railway was built, and the railway company offered a prize of £500 for the best steam train. The prize was won by G. Stephenson with his famous train “The Rocket”. This locomotive was faster and stronger than the first one; it could pull 13 tons and achieved an “unheard-of speed” of 29 miles (46 km) an hour.

At first lots people were afraid of the railways. But in 1842 the steam-powered railways were already in wide use in Britain. It should be said (следует сказать) that the gauge was not the same on all the railways. The famous English engineer Brunel considered that the (чем) broader the gauge, the (тем) easily would the trains run. Following his advice the Great Western Company had constructed the railway network with a gauge of 7 feet. That is why for many years there were 2 gauges in England: the 7 feet suggested by Brunel and 4 feet 8½ inches, offered by Stephenson. It was inconvenient because where there was a break of gauges, and time was wasted. Angry people wrote to the newspapers and demanded to change the broad gauge. And at last in the House of Commons* the broad gauge was described as a “national evil”. It was very difficult to alter the gauge as the engines, carriages, wagons were made for the broad gauge. “The Battle of the Gauges” lasted more than 30 years. Only in 1892 the Great Western Railways was converted to the standard gauge.

Notes: *the House of Commons – Палата Общин


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1. The first horse-powered railways in Great Britain were used for transporting passengers in large cities. 2. The stationary steam engine was invented by James Watt. 3. The speed of the first Stephenson’s locomotive was 29 miles an hour. 4. The first Stephenson’s locomotive was tested on the Liverpool-Manchester Railway. 5. Stephenson received a prize of £500 for his locomotive “The Rocket”. 6. At first lots of people were afraid of the railways. 7. At the 19th century the gauge of all railways was 4 feet 8½ inches. 8. Brunel suggested constructing railways with narrow gauge. 9. “The Battle of Gauges” lasted more than 35 years. 10. Now most railways in Britain have the standard gauge.


*trains were delayed


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