January 31st, 1822: The dawn of the modern railroad and a global transportation revolution. 195 years ago today, George Stephenson (1781–1848) submitted his original patent application for the engine that powered the first locomotive railway in history.
Document signed, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, January 31, 1822 — click the image below to enlarge it. It reads:
To the Kings most Excellent Majesty, The humble petition of George Stephenson…Sheweth that your petitioner hath invented certain improvements in steam engines which invention he believes will be of general benefit and advantage; That your petitioner is the true and first inventor thereof, and that the same hath not been made or used by any other person or persons whatsoever to his knowledge or belief; Your petitioner therefore most humbly prays your Majesty will be graciously pleased to grant unto your petitioner, his executors, administrators and assigns, your Majesty's Royal Letters Patent under the great seal of Great Britain for the sole use, benefit and advantage of his said invention within England, Wales and the town of Berwick upon Tweed, for the term of 14 years, according to the statute in that case made and provided. And your petitioner will ever pray etc. George Stephenson.
As British historian and broadcaster Peter Snow summarized:
Seven years later, the ‘Rocket’ locomotive Stephenson designed with his son Robert began carrying passengers on the world’s first inter-city line between Liverpool and Manchester.... There was not a mile of passenger railway in the world before Stephenson, and yet by the end of the 19th century there were half a million miles of track.
The Wikipedia entry on Stephenson notes: "His rail gauge of 4 feet 8 1⁄2 inches (1,435 mm), sometimes called 'Stephenson gauge', is the standard gauge by name and by convention for most of the world's railways."
Image from the The Raab Collection, LLC.