Journey of the Technologies that shaped today’s world : Steam Engine

Ever since the discovery of steam engine which set off the industrial revolution in 18th century, the science and technology has advanced life consistently. The first technological revolution was brought by steam engines. They revolutionized how people and things moved around.

Till then people depended on manual labour by humans or animals. Such method was heavily dependent on the availability and condition of the roads. Often uncomfortable and it would take a daring man or woman to make arduous journeys. For carrying the things around it would take days. The medium available were unreliable and a patch of bad weather could have totally “derailed” the plans- if that word was even available in dictionary then. 😊

One of the earliest applications of the steam engines was removing of water from the mines. Mines in that period were highly unsafe due to undetected poisonous or combustible gases like Methane and sudden flooding of mines by ground water. Flooding claimed lives and forced mines to shut down. As mines were thousands of feet deep, manually removing the water was next to impossible. Steam engines came as a godsend for the industry.

The steam engines also changed the way people travelled and worked. The ubiquitous coal and water became the resources to do works that would have required hundreds of humans or animals. In fact, the earlies unit to measure the power of machine was “horsepower”. To make people understand how efficiently the machines worked, the inventor of steam engine- James Watt used the term Horsepower to express the power of the machine. 1 horsepower which is equal to 745.7 Watts in SI unit, was an estimate of how much power an adult horse puts in. Even today, many automobiles express the rating of their engines in terms of horsepower.

The potential of the steam engine was soon realised by other sectors as well. Governments and businesses invested in building tracks to connect remotest of areas to ensure smooth movement of people and goods. In fact, India was one of earliest country to get a railway track and a train. This was despite having the oppressing British rulers who probably never had anything good in their hearts for India to see the rays of development. Sole purpose of the track was to facilitate movement of goods especially the raw materials for the British industries from the remote parts of India to the ports to be carried out in ships. The tracks must have speeded the depletion of the resources of India, but the sunshine in the cloud was the railway tracks.

In fact, to this date Indian Railways is one of the most efficient and largest travel organization in the world. Before pandemic brought the wheels to a halt, Indian Railways stopped work on only two days in their history of 167 years. Ferrying hundreds of thousands of passengers and thousands of tonnes of raw materials and finished goods on a daily basis, Indian Railways is truly a lifeline for the Indians.

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