On this day in 1812 the worlds first cog railway was unveiled. John Blenkinsop, owner of a coal mine in West Yorkshire, needed a cheap and effective method for hauling coal from the colliery, this was caused by the war Britain was fighting at the time that pushed up the price of horse feed – I find this point interesting given that this was, effectively, a shortage of natural resources (if a bit tenuously so) which drove the search for alternative, and cheaper, sources of power, and this was 200 years ago.
The solution was a steam locomotive that used a third rail down the middle of the track to provide the necessary traction to haul coal wagons, this was in part due to the fear that if the locomotive was too light then it would slip whilst pulling the heavy load. This locomotive solution inspired the world’s first painting that included a locomotive painted by George Walker in 1814.
They probably never imagined that this system would still be in use almost 200 years later hauling trains up the side of mountains.