Tag Archives: automotive

OTD in 1830 – the First Passenger Steam Train Begins a Rigorous Schedule!

By Margueritte Peterson
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On this day, May 3rd, in 1830, the first steam train regular passenger service began! Though trains had been in use in the early 1800s, they had not been used for the transportation of people – only the transportation of goods! The incredible discovery that these trains could be used as a way to deliver people from one place to another was going to be the hottest thing since sliced bread – and the gateway to mass transportation – the first of its kind!

Trains gave human beings the ability to develop civilizations quickly. Even the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt used tracks that horses would draw buggies on, minimizing the amount of force needed to be done by the horse. It was only a matter of time before the ingeniousness of this mode of transport would be understood. Trains, as they were in the early 19th century, made movement easy and quick – distant lands became easily, and instantly, accessible. A trip from New York to California, which previously would have taken a group with a wagon and horses months, now took only a few days. In regards to transporting both goods and people, it became apparent that there was a need of implementing standardized time zones across the world – in order to more efficiently set up schedules – arrivals and departures of both passengers and industry.

Today, despite the many optional modes of transportation (cars, airplanes, boats… teleportation – just kidding), trains are used in a variety of ways. Subway systems and electric trains are used for short travel distances, and longer trains, though used less and less often due to the abundance of air travel available (in the United States, at least – we are happy to report that trains are still used frequently in other parts of the world), are still available and equipped with all the luxuries you might expect. Freight trains continue to move much industry on all continents (and are the bulk amount of the trains in the US at this time). Bullet trains, high speed modes of transportation, can now reach speeds around 200 mph and are becoming more widespread. It is plain to see how the automotive industry shaped the ability to travel and transport goods, and how it has continued for over 150 years to grow and evolve to suit the needs of passengers!

Now, speaking of trains – we’d like to highlight a few of our most interesting automotive items!

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 7.53.57 AMThis first item is, to me, one of the most interesting as pertaining to this article. Despite us not knowing precisely when it was printed, this schematic of an early Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road Company steam train car is a blueprint to some of the early days of passenger transport! The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, one of the oldest railroads in the United States, was the country’s first “common carrier” and the first to offer scheduled freight and passenger service to the public between the years of 1828 and 1927. See it here>

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This spec sheet from Baldwin Locomotive Works is a bit more scientific in nature. Printed in 1926 it is not a spec sheet for early passenger travel, but for one intrigued by the automotive industry it is certainly a good source of information on the development of trains over time! Check it out here>

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Last but not least, a more local item! This collection of Bay Area transport items is a wonderful fount of information of the rapid Bay Area transit from 1923 to 1957 – contained within the collection are some blueprints, photographs, advertisements, tickets, charts/timetables, booklets and certificates. The Key System Transit Company (as it was then known) went through several transformations until it has developed into the very system we now use today! See it here>


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

Summer is officially underway, and the season is synonymous with family vacation, road trips, and carefree adventures. Though the ways we travel have evolved over time, the thrill of the journey endures.


Since the beginning of time, humans have been obsessed with flight. At first, their attempts were based on the way birds flew. Next the hot air and hydrogen balloons gave us a means of navigating the skies. But it was two bicycle manufacturers from Dayton, Ohio who would introduce the airplane. The Wright brothers revolutionized travel, war, and commerce with their invention.

The Call of the Clouds

CAll-Clouds-GallaudetEdson Gallaudet formed the first aircraft engineering office in 1908. Two years later, Gallaudet Engineering Office had begun building planes under contract. The company was reorganized as the Gallaudet Aircraft Corporation in 1917 and offered its first product, the Curtis floatplane, the following year. This rare trade catalogue, The Call of the Clouds, presents the Gallaudet Chummy Flyabout Sport Model–which sold for the low price of $3,500. We’ve found no evidence that this plane was ever actually produced, making the catalogue a fascinating record of a machine that could have been.

Pilot’s Flight Operating Instructions

Pilots-Flight-ManualsOur collection includes three pilot’s’ flight operating instructions for Army planes, published in 1945. These flight manuals address both American and British planes used during the World War II era, such as the P-51 and B-29. They incorporate numerous charts and graphs for pilots, along with a few annotations from the original owner. For those interested in aviation or military history, this collection of documents are quite fascinating.


AeroplanesA rare early aviation trade catalogue, Aeroplanes presents models manufactured by Aug. C. Gomes & Cie, with specifications, illustrations, and performance records for Henry Farman, Sommer, Bleriot, Tellier, Voisin, Antoinette, Maurice Farman, REP, and Hanriot models. A powerplant section follows, and the catalogue concludes with a variety of other aircraft accessories and components. The company even offers hangar facilities for some airplane models. We’ve found no listing for this particular catalogue in either OCLC or KVK.


As early as 1550, roads with wooden rails were built in Germany to make it easier for horse-drawn carriages to move. These wagonways, as they were called, were the precursor to the modern railroad. Two centuries later, iron had replaced wood. But the railroad truly became an efficient means of transportation with the introduction of the steam locomotive. Today, trains evoke the romance and nostalgia of leisurely travel.

Baldwin Locomotive Works Photographs

This photo album apparently belonged to SM Vauclain, locomotive designer and eventual president of Baldwin Locomotive. It’s possibly unique, with 18 pasted-in albumen prints of various Baldwin locomotives. Identified models include “Nacional Mexicano,” “Northern Pacific,” “Companhia Paulista,” “EFOM,” “Ramal Dumont,” “WNY & PRR,” and “Estrada de Ferro Central do Brazil.” The photo quality is very good to fine.


War of the Gauges

IWar-Gauges-Railroad-Erie-Pennsylvanian December, 1853, the city of Erie and its neighboring township Harborcreek waged an interesting battle against rail travel. They tore up tracks of the Erie and North-East Railroad, wherever the tracks intersected the public highway or city streets. While their actions were ostensibly promulgated by a debated over track width, it indicated an underlying struggle for economic advantage. For two months, rail travel between New York and the West was interrupted, but the inconveniences lasted a full two years. The War of the Gaugesis the first book publication documenting this exciting time in Erie history, complete with court testimony and individual statements.

The Union Pacific Railroad

Union-Pacific-Railroad-BrochureThis Union Pacific Railroad brochure served as both a progress report and a promotional brochure. Because the railroad fell under the auspices of the federal government, it issued regular updates for Congress. Issued in 1868, this one includes information through December, 1867. It outlines the progress of the railroad west of Omaha, Nebraska, which resulted in an unbroken line from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The report’s frontis features a “Map of the Union Pacific Rail Road and its connections.”


Though Henry Ford is widely credited with inventing the automobile, the machine’s history is actually much more complex. Back in the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci created designs and models for vehicles that foreshadow the modern-day automotive. Many suggest that Karl Benz actually invented the first true automobile, and it was his wife, Bertha, who undertook the first road trip to demonstrate the road-worthiness of her husband’s invention.


LocomobileFounded in 1899, the Locomobile Company manufactured small, affordable steam cars for only four years before offering only internal combustion-powered luxury cars. This brochure, one of the first the company issued, notes the demand for “a self-propelling vehicle that will combine the qualities of lightness, speed, economy, and ease of operation.” It describes the advantages and attributes of the vehicle and includes images of several models. The last, Model 6, is billed as “the Fastest Racing Machine in the World.” OCLC records only three institutional holdings of this item, making it uncommon in the trade.

A Joy Ride of 1911

Joy-Ride-Chalmers_1911Generously illustrated with both photographs and postcards, “A Joy Ride of 1911” is a charming amateur account of one family’s Chalmers automobile trip through New Jersey up through New England. Their objective is to reach the White Mountains. Recorded by the anonymous wife/mother of the family, the vacation is engagingly chronicled.

1936 Report of Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Runs

JB Jenkins Robinson made a typewritten report to HC Bougey, Chief Chemist of General Motors, detailing the results of sponsored speed runs in 1936. Their aim: “To establish Worlds’ speed records with a view of utilizing results for advertising and sales promotion.” Over four testing periods, 19 speed records were set. Seven carbon copies of Robinson’s report exist; this one is bound in a manilla folder along with a facsimile log-sheet for Jenkins’ 24-hour run (Sept 21-23) and 16 captioned black-and-white snapshots.


 As we look back in time at the history of transportation, we wonder what the future holds. What mode of transportation will be next to captivate the world with its promise of adventure?