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Timeline of Transportation Technology

Transportation or transport is moving of goods, animals, and people between locations. Transportation modes include road, water, rail, air, pipeline, cable, and space. It's divided into operations, vehicles, and infrastructure. Transportation is important because it allows trade between individuals and this establishes civilizations. Transportation infrastructure includes fixed installations that are necessary to transport people or things such as waterways, pipelines, airways, roads, etc. Transportation vehicles include buses, trucks, trains, bicycles, automobiles, aircraft, and people. Transportation technology was very basic in the beginning as people simply traveled by foot, however, over the years transport technology has seen great improvement.


The very first means of transportation was by foot. Eventually people learned how to use animals for transportation. Horses and donkeys were the most domesticated at first but the exact dates are not known. Camels became the domesticated animals used for transportation later. In about 3,500 BC, the wheel came to be in Iraq although it was not known as Iraq at the time. In the beginning, wheels formed a circle using pieces of wood that were lashed together and completely solid. Later, spokes were used. Dugout canoes were the earliest boats and Egyptians invented sail boats in about 3,100 BC. These were made using papyrus reeds that were bundled and tied together. The Romans built roads across the Roman Empire so the army could march quickly.

Middle Ages

Transport became primitive after Rome fell. European roads were once again dirt tracks that became mud in winter months. Those who were rich used covered wagons for transportation. During this time period, several methods of sea travel were invented. Compass centuries were created by the Chinese before being used in Europe. The rudder was invented by the Europeans in the 12th century and they made it easier to steer ships. By the 15th century, shipbuilding was more advanced and they were being made to have three masts.

17th Century

In the 17th century communications and transportation seen great improvement. Royal posts carried correspondence for kings in 1600 and in 1635 King Charles I allowed the public to pay the messengers to carry their letters. This was when the royal mail started. Stagecoaches began to run regularly by the middle of the century but it was expensive, uncomfortable, and dangerous. Turnpike roads were opened in 1663 and a person had to pay in order to use them. The wealthy were being carried in what was called sedan chairs.

18th Century

Turnpike trusts were formed by rich men in the 18th century. They were given rights to maintain and improve certain roads by Acts of Parliament. The first were created as early as 1663 but during this time frame they became more common. Canals were dug which made transporting goods easier as well. Early on, packhorse transported goods and heavy goods were costly. In 1759 a canal was built which allowed for the Duke of Bridgewater to have coal delivered from Worsley to Manchester. By the end of the 18th century and into the 19th century, many more canals were dug. This made transporting goods much cheaper and played a huge role in the industrial revolution.

19th Century

Railways revolutionized transportation by the middle of the 19th century. Travel was faster and dangers of highwaymen were also removed. In 1825 the Stockton and Darlington railway was opened but the very first of the major railways went from Liverpool to Manchester. By the 1840s building railways exploded and almost all of Britain's towns were connected. In London, omnibuses pulled by horses started running in 1829 and were later used in other towns soon after. In 1868 London installed the very first traffic lights that were worked by gas. The first cars were made in 1886 and 1885 by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz. In 1885 there was a patent for the first motorbike. The safety bicycle was also invented in the 1880s and soon after cycling grew to be a popular hobby.

20th Century

Cars became more common and cheaper after World War I. Out of every ten families, only one earned a car in 1940. The number increased after World War II and 32% of families owned cars by 1959. By the 1970s, most families owned vehicles. A 20 Mile per Hour speed limit was introduced in 1903 and areas that were more built-up increased to 30 miles per hour in 1934. The United States invented electric traffic lights at this time as well. London installed them in 1926. In 1931 motorists had to have insurance and driving tests were introduced in 1934.

21st Century

Transportation technologies continue to see improvements. Vehicles are being made that are more eco-friendly and now come with a lot of different amenities such as power windows, keyless locks, alarm systems, and CD players. In 2002, Dean Kamen launched a personal transport that was self-balancing called the Segway PT. Shanghai starts operating a high-speed commercial train to the airport in 2004. Also in 2004 the very first privately funded spaceflight was created.

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Written By Ambrose Williams