Industrial Revolution Research

Industrial Revolution - Transportation

Robert Fulton portrait

The growth of the Industrial Revolution depended on the ability to transport raw materials and finished goods over long distances. There were three main types of transportation that increased during the Industrial Revolution: waterways, roads, and railroads. Transportation was important because people were starting to live in the West. During this time period, transportation via water was the cheapest way to move heavy products (such as coal and iron). As a result, canals were widened and deepened to allow more boats to pass. Robert Fulton made the first steam-powered engine to power a steamboat, and in 1807 he demonstrated its use by going from New York City to Albany via the Hudson River. His steamboat was able to carry raw materials across the Atlantic Ocean by the mid 1800's. The roads also improved immensely during this time period. Previously, people traveled using animals or by foot, but there were many problems with the conditions of the roads. In 1751, turnpikes were created for easier transportation, especially for the horse-drawn wagons. John Loudon McAdam made "macadam" road surfaces which consisted of crushed rock in thin layers. Thomas Telford made new foundations in roads with large flat stones. Soon after, roads across America were improved based on these techniques. The closest to trains were horses, commonly used to pull freight cars along rails. In 1801, Richard Trevithick made the first steam locomotive. These improvements on waterways, roads, and railroads all made traveling safer, and it allowed goods to be moved more efficiently.