As early as 1556 Georgius Agricola, in his book on minerals, De re metallica, mentioned a mining railway running on wooden poles. The replacement of wooden poles by cast-iron rails in the late 18th cent. and the development by Richard Trevithick in 1804 of a locomotive capable of heavy haulage (20 tons) prepared the railroad for uses other than mining. But it was not until 1825 that steam-powered freight and passenger service started on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in England.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.