The steam engine was invented in England in 1825 and a year later it arrived in America. By the 1850s trains were chuffing along at 25 mph. Since the times of the Romans people had only been able to travel as speeds of 4 mph. Those steam locomotive were real water guzzlers. They took a thousand gallons just to go fifteen miles and they burned 134 lbs. of coal to go a mile. They burned six to nine tons an hour. A fireman was kept busy shoveling coal into the boiler.
Originally, they were wood burning but eventually a softer coal was being mined and by the 1870s it began to replace wood and the transition was completed by the 1890s.
Those little locomotives moved at a snail’s pace. Folks called them “coffee pots” and “peanut roasters” and it was said a reasonably sober fat lady could outrun one in a downhill race but they fueled America’s expansion hauling, people, cattle, freight, ore and agricultural products from supply points to the far reaches of the nation.