America’s first steam locomotive lost a race to a horse.

Early steam engines couldn’t travel over rough terrain and relied on horse-drawn rail carriages to haul freight and passengers. In 1830, an industrialist, Peter Cooper designed a more efficient steam engine called the “Tom Thumb” capable of a whopping 18 mph. (That was fast compared to a horse.) While undergoing tests near the B&O railroad tracks one of the horse-drawn trains pulled alongside and challenged the new engine to a race.  The Tom Thumb quickly took the lead, but broke a belt allowing horse-drawn train to cross the finish line first!  An improved steam locomotive reached 30 mph the following year. B&O executives were highly impressed with the power and speed of the new engine and converted the rest of the railroad to steam. 

To celebrate the marvels of 19thcentury train technology, you can explore many operating train museums throughout the country. For a great vacation for a train enthusiast, read more: