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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index R > Category: Railroad

Railroad Quotes (27 quotes)
Railway Quotes

A railroad may have to be carried over a gorge or arroya. Obviously it does not need an Engineer to point out that this may be done by filling the chasm with earth, but only a Bridge Engineer is competent to determine whether it is cheaper to do this or to bridge it, and to design the bridge which will safely and most cheaply serve.
From Address on 'Industrial Engineering' at Purdue University (24 Feb 1905). Reprinted by Yale & Towne Mfg Co of New York and Stamford, Conn. for the use of students in its works.
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As regards railways, it is certain that nothing is so profitable, because nothing is so cheaply transported, as passenger traffic. Goods traffic, of whatsoever description, must be more or less costly. Every article conveyed by railway requires handling and conveyance beyond the limit of the railway stations; but passengers take care of themselves, and find their own way.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 520.
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At the end of 1854 … the aggregate length of railways opened in Great Britain and Ireland at that time measured about 8,054 miles,—about the diameter of the globe, and nearly 500 miles more than the united lengths of the Thames, the Seine, the Rhone, the Ebro, the Tagus, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Vistula, the Dnieper, and the Danube, or the ten chief rivers of Europe. … the work of only twenty-five years.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 511-512.
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Electricity is doing for the distribution of energy what the railroads have done for the distribution of materials.
As quoted in 'C.P. Steinmetz Dies In Sudden Relapse', New York Times (27 Oct 1923), 1.
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Every improvement that is put upon the real estate is the result of an idea in somebody's head. The skyscraper is another idea; the railroad is another; the telephone and all those things are merely symbols which represent ideas. An andiron, a wash-tub, is the result of an idea that did not exist before.
Speaking to a committee considering a new Copyright Bill (6 Dec 1906). In Mark Twain and William Dean Howells (ed.), Mark Twain’s Speeches? (1910), 320. An andiron is a metal bar, used in a pair, as a stand for logs in a fireplace. The Copyright Bill proposed to give authors, artists and musicians copyright for the term of his life and for 50 years thereafter. John Philip Sousa spoke for the musicians.
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Going by railroad I do not consider as travelling at all; it is merely “being sent” to a place, and very little different from becoming a parcel.
In Modern Painters (1856, 1872), Vol. 3, 300. James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 128:25.

Here we come to a new and peculiar street railway … There is no steam on board. You ask how is this train propelled? Between the track and under ground is a cable running upon rollers for the length of the road…
In Travels with Jottings: From Midland to the Pacific (1880), 33.
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Houses were knocked down... enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were undermined and shaking, propped up by great beams of wood... The yet unfinished and unopened Railway was in progress.
In Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation (1847), Vol. 1, 78.
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It is computed, that no less than 80,000,000 miles are annually traversed on our railways. Now, to run 80,000,000 miles per annum, 2½ miles of railway, at least, must be covered by trains, during every second of time, throughout the entire year.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 512.
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It is very difficult to say nowadays where the suburbs of London come to an end and where the country begins. The railways, instead of enabling Londoners to live in the country have turned the countryside into a city.
In The Three Clerks (1857, 1904), 30-31.
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It is well known that theoretical physicists cannot handle experimental equipment; it breaks whenever they touch it. Pauli was such a good theoretical physicist that something usually broke in the lab whenever he merely stepped across the threshold. A mysterious event that did not seem at first to be connected with Pauli's presence once occurred in Professor J. Franck's laboratory in Göttingen. Early one afternoon, without apparent cause, a complicated apparatus for the study of atomic phenomena collapsed. Franck wrote humorously about this to Pauli at his Zürich address and, after some delay, received an answer in an envelope with a Danish stamp. Pauli wrote that he had gone to visit Bohr and at the time of the mishap in Franck's laboratory his train was stopped for a few minutes at the Göttingen railroad station. You may believe this anecdote or not, but there are many other observations concerning the reality of the Pauli Effect!
From Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory (1966), 64. Note the so-called Pauli Effect is merely anecdotal to provide humor about supposed parapsychology phenomena in coincidences involving Pauli; it should not be confused with scientifically significant Pauli Exclusion Principle.
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Lay down your rails, ye nations, near and far—
Yoke your full trains to Steam’s triumphal car;
Link town to town; unite in iron bands
The long-estranged and oft-embattled lands.
From poem, 'Railways' (1846), collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 214.
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Old King Coal was a merry old soul:
“I’ll move the world,” quoth he;
“My England’s high, and rich, and great,
But greater she shall be !”
And he call’d for the pick, and he call’d for the spade,
And he call’d for his miners bold;
“ And it’s dig,” he said, “in the deep, deep earth;
You’ll find my treasures better worth
Than mines of Indian gold!”

Old King Coal was a merry old soul,
Yet not content was he;
And he said, “I’ve found what I’ve desired,
Though ’tis but one of three.”
And he call’d for water, he call’d for fire,
For smiths and workmen true:
“Come, build me engines great and strong ;
We’ll have,” quoth he, “a change ere long;
We’ll try what Steam can do.”

Old King Coal was a merry old soul:
“’Tis fairly done,” quoth he,
When he saw the myriad wheels at work
O’er all the land and sea.
They spared the bones and strength of men,
They hammer’d, wove, and spun;
There was nought too great, too mean, or small,
The giant Steam had power for all;—
His task was never done.
From song, 'Old King Coal' (1846), collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 565. To the melody of 'Old King Cole'.
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RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  273.
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Suppose the results of a line of study are negative. It might save a lot of otherwise wasted money to know a thing won’t work. But how do you accurately evaluate negative results? ... The power plant in [the recently developed streamline trains] is a Diesel engine of a type which was tried out many [around 25] years ago and found to be a failure. … We didn’t know how to build them. The principle upon which it operated was sound. [Since then much has been] learned in metallurgy [and] the accuracy with which parts can be manufactured
When this type of engine was given another chance it was an immediate success [because now] an accuracy of a quarter of a tenth of a thousandth of an inch [prevents high-pressure oil leaks]. … If we had taken the results of past experience without questioning the reason for the first failure, we would never have had the present light-weight, high-speed Diesel engine which appears to be the spark that will revitalize the railroad business.
'Industrial Prospecting', an address to the Founder Societies of Engineers (20 May 1935). In National Research Council, Reprint and Circular Series of the National Research Council (1933), No. 107, 2-3.
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The expenditure [on building railways] of £286,000,000 by the people has secured to us the advantages of internal communication all but perfect,—of progress in science and arts unexampled at any period of the history of the world,—of national progress almost unchecked, and of prosperity and happiness increased beyond all precedent.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 512.
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The magnitude of the railway works undertaken in this country will be still more clearly exhibited, if you consider the extent of the Earth-Works. Taking them at an average of 70,000 cubic yards to a mile, they will measure 550,000,000 cubic yards. What does this represent? We are accustomed to regard St. Paul’s as a test for height and space; but by the side of the pyramid of earth these works would rear, St. Paul’s would be but as a pigmy by a giant. Imagine a mountain half a mile in diameter at its base, and soaring into the clouds one mile and a half in height;—that would be the size of the mountain of earth which these earth-works would form.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 512.
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The number of travellers by gigs, the outside of coaches, and on horseback, have, since the introduction of railways, been prodigiously diminished; and as, in addition, the members of the medical faculty having lent their aid to run down the use of water-proof (apparently having found it decided enemy against their best friends colds and catarrhs), the use of the article [the Macintosh] in the form of cloaks, etc., has of late become comparatively extinct.
A Biographical Memoir of the late Charles Macintosh Esq FRS (1847), 89.
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The operating management, providing as it does for the care of near thirty thousand miles of railway, is far more important than that for construction in which there is comparatively little doing.
In Railway Property: A Treatise on the Construction and Management of Railways (1866), iii.
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The Patent-Office Commissioner knows that all machines in use have been invented and re-invented over and over; that the mariner’s compass, the boat, the pendulum, glass, movable types, the kaleidoscope, the railway, the power-loom, etc., have been many times found and lost, from Egypt, China and Pompeii down; and if we have arts which Rome wanted, so also Rome had arts which we have lost; that the invention of yesterday of making wood indestructible by means of vapor of coal-oil or paraffine was suggested by the Egyptian method which has preserved its mummy-cases four thousand years.
In Lecture, second in a series given at Freeman Place Chapel, Boston (Mar 1859), 'Quotation and Originality', Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1917), 178-179.
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The Post Office Committee of the House has referred to a sub-committee all the bills authorizing the building or buying of telegraph lines for the purpose of establishing a postal telegraph—that is, of sending mails by electricity … All is done by contract … with the carriage of mails by steam power [railroads] … It does not appear why there should be any difference of principle because of the substitution of electricity for steam.
[Foreshadowing email.]
In 'Mails by Electricity', New York Times (26 Apr 1884), 4. A previous proposal for U.S. Government ownership of a test postal telegraph received an adverse Report of the House Post Office Committee, reported in 'Postal Telegraph', New York Times (25 Feb 1869).
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The rage for railroads is so great that many will be laid in parts where they will not pay.
Letter to Mr. Sanders, one of the founders of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (12 Dec 1824). As quoted in 'Beginnings of Railway Enterprise', The Railway News (8 Dec 1866), 6, 579.
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There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.
repr. In The Works of H.G. Wells, vol. 9 (1925). A Modern Utopia, ch. 3, sct. 8 (1905).
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To have a railroad, there must have been first the discoverers, who found out the properties of wood and iron, fire and water, and their latent power to carry men over the earth; next the organizers, who put these elements together, surveyed the route, planned the structure, set men to grade the hill, to fill the valley, and pave the road with iron bars; and then the administrators, who after all that is done, procure the engines, engineers, conductors, ticket-distributors, and the rest of the “hands;” they buy the coal and see it is not wasted, fix the rates of fare, calculate the savings, and distribute the dividends. The discoverers and organizers often fare hard in the world, lean men, ill-clad and suspected, often laughed at, while the administrator is thought the greater man, because he rides over their graves and pays the dividends, where the organizer only called for the assessments, and the discoverer told what men called a dream. What happens in a railroad happens also in a Church, or a State.
Address at the Melodeon, Boston (5 Mar 1848), 'A Discourse occasioned by the Death of John Quincy Adams'. Collected in Discourses of Politics: The Collected Works of Theodore Parker: Part 4 (1863), 139. Note: Ralph Waldo Emerson earlier used the phrase “pave the road with iron bars,” in Nature (1836), 17.
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To work our railways, even to their present extent, there must be at least 5,000 locomotive engines; and supposing an engine with its tender to measure only 35 feet, it will be seen, that the whole number required to work our railway system would extend, in one straight line, over 30 miles, or the whole distance from London to Chatham.
From 'Railway System and its Results' (Jan 1856) read to the Institution of Civil Engineers, reprinted in Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson (1857), 512.
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While electric railroading is perhaps the most important branch of electrical engineering, at least as regards commercial importance, considering the amount capital invested therein, nevertheless it is a remarkable fact that while most other branches of electrical engineering had been developed to a very high degree of perfection, even a few years ago theoretical investigation of electric railroading was still conspicuous by its almost entire absence.
All the work was done by some kind of empirical experimenting, that is, some kind of motor was fitted up with some gearing or some sort of railway car, and then run, and if the motor burned out frequently it was replaced with a larger motor, and if it did not burn out, a trailer was put on the car, and perhaps a second trailer, until the increase of the expense account in burn-outs of the motors balanced the increased carrying capacity of the train.
'The Electric Railway', Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (1902), 125.
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~~[Attributed]~~ A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.
As quoted, without citation, in William Joseph Grace, Art of Communicating Ideas (1952), 389. Sadly, much searching produces no primary source. Can you help?
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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