In Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland, President Andrew Jackson boards a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad train for a pleasure trip to Baltimore. Jackson, who had never been on a train before, was the first president to take a ride on the “Iron Horse,” as locomotives were known then.
The steam locomotive was first pioneered in England at the beginning of the 19th century by Richard Trevithick and George Stephenson. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began operation in 1828 with horse-drawn cars, but after the successful run of the Tom Thumb, a steam train that nearly outraced a horse in a public demonstration in 1830, steam power was added. By 1831, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had completed a line from Baltimore to Frederick, Maryland. Two years later, Andrew Jackson gave railroad travel its presidential christening.
The acceptance of railroads came quickly in the 1830s, and by 1840 the nation had almost 3,000 miles of railway, greater than the combined European total of only 1,800 miles. The railroad network expanded quickly in the years before the Civil War, and by 1860 the American railroad system had become a national network of some 30,000 miles. Nine years later, transcontinental railroad service became possible for the first time.