Since the beginning of our race, we humans have distinguished ourselves by our ability to think
and survive, to reason, and to build and fashion tools that help make our life easier. Technology in the
first 70 years of our nations history started off very rapidly. One of the most important developments of
this time was our transportation methods, this started off with the steam engine.
The first practical steam engine (one that could not only run itself but actually run another
machine as well) was invented by James E. Watt, a middle aged, Scottish engineer. Watt studied earlier
machines and made numerous changes including adding insulation around the boiler to prevent heat loss
and converting the power of the steam piston to the circular motion of a drive shaft. His first steam
engine, completed in 1769 was much more efficient than any previous effort, but it was not until 1774 that
he was able to call his invention a practical success.
Their were two major developments that were born from the steam engine: the locomotive and
the steam boat. Before the steamboat, boats were driven either by manpower or windpower. Then Robert
Fulton showed up and changed everything. In 1807 Fulton imported a steam engine from England, put it
on his boat that he later named the Clermont, and astonished Americans. Fulton was very mechanically
inclined. He was an expert gunsmith during the American Revolution, and he had even designed
underwater torpedoes and made what was the beginning of a submarine. How he steamed upstream from
New York to Albany in 32 hours. This proved to Americans that the steamboat could be used successfully
for commerce. Four years later the first steamboat was launched west of the mountains on the Ohio River.
The first mass-produced locomotives were introduced in...