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STS 3700 Lecture 7 – Technology and the Industrial Revolution IV –
Transportation Technology
- US: water mills, steam boats, trains, steam in mines & factories
- US geography and steam train / boat technology
- New transport technologies and landscape, laws, markets,
- Iron making ancient, small, cumulative improvements
- 1700 UK iron output 300 tons/year, forests for charcoal, pig iron (4%
- Iron for farm implements, tools & nails, wrought iron lower carbon
- Steel 2% carbon content, combination of flexibility and strength
Wood and Coal
- Did England switch to coal because of a wood shortage?:
 Charcoal and young trees, replanting forests
 Urbanization, farmland and forests
 Wood prices, coal prices, market access and transportation
 Railways, explosives & steam engines to pump water
Steam Power
- Water power shortage, coal, tin, iron & copper mining
- Craft production of steam engines, 1725: iron cylinders replaced brass
- Inefficient steam engines at mines, cheap fuel
- James Watt: separate condenser improved efficiency
- Watt’s Cluster of innovations: ability to bore and plane valves, steam
proof valves, tighter component fit & governor to reduce power
- Matthew Boulton, specialized construction, roads & canals for engine
- Motion transfer system patented by Watt in 1780’s
Steam Boats
- Early Watt engines, paddles & water pistons, later Trevithick / Evans
- Robert Fulton: commercial success, engine, hull & paddle
- Transport monopolies in New York state & Mississippi, patents and
- Higher pressures, temperatures & speeds achieved through early
- 1852 Congress regulates boilers, 30% of pre-1850 steam boats lost to
- Mid-19th century, iron bottomed boats, coal fuel, propellers later
- 1830-1860: 727 boats, 170,000 tons on Mississippi, important form of
American Railroads
- Smaller & more powerful engines required by trains arrived after
steam boat
- Railways necessitated: speculative investment & a banking system for
loans (capital intensive), land claims (assisted by state), technical
education for engineers & skilled workers, an industrial base for
equipment & fuel
- UK population, geography, financial & technical resources for rail
- 1841 over 1300 miles of track in UK, 1860 over 30,000 miles in US,
1890 India
- More efficient UK trains imported in early years, needed for
commercial success
- US trains more powerful, steep grades, cow catchers, large
- 1840’s US exporting locomotives, manual signaling in 1830’s,
automatic 1870’s
- Crashes, derailments, explosions & collisions common
- Wood & steel bridges & tunnels (wood plentiful) adopted
- Railroads and innovation, organization, government subsidy, land
- Rail bridge construction and law, state involvement
Influences of Rail Transport
- Settlement & exploitation, transport costs, coal, iron & engineering
- Economic growth, market connections, production scale
- Personal travel & exchange of ideas, raw materials and market access
- Travel time, regional linkages, national identity and cultural diversity
- Business structures surrounding technologies: protective tariffs,
monopolies, congressional regulation, patents, state and private
infrastructure investment, legal resistance to development
- Steam & iron ships, firearms, medicine, railways & telegraphs =
colonial expansion & control
Rosenberg and Vincenti
- Technological failure and technological determinism
- Knowledge from failure, diffusion of knowledge
- Importance of iron as a material in many industries
- Knowledge gains from project:
o New rivetting methods
o Girder bridge design
o Building construction
o Crane design
o Ship construction
o The properties of wrought iron as a building material
- Engineering practice:
o Heterogeneous problems (society and nature)
o Unintended benefits to failure
o Importance of materials
o Conservative problem solving
o Empirical focus to work
o Problem simplification
o Multiple problem solutions
o papyrophobia
o Evidence / Theory cycle
o Knowledge transfer between fields
o Applied science
o Economic Values