A Timeline of Transport

By Tim Lambert

4,000 BC-3,000 BC Horses are domesticated

c 3,500 BC The wheel is invented in Iraq

3,100 BC The sailing boat is invented in Egypt

3,000 BC-2,000 BC Camels are domesticated

c 2,700 BC The Egyptians begin using wooden ships for trade by sea

1st Century AD 

A vast network of roads exists across the Roman Empire. Roman merchant ships carry up to 1,000 tons of cargo.

The 12th Century 

The Compass is invented in Europe. The rudder comes into use in Europe. However, on land roads are just dirt tracks.

1600 Goods are transported by pack horse. Goods are also transported around the coast of Britain by ship.

1635 Charles I allows the public to pay his messengers to carry letters. It is the beginning of the Royal Mail.


The first turnpike roads open. Turnpikes are privately owned and maintained but you have to pay to use them. Their name comes from an old word for a gate, pike. In towns the wealthy are carried by sedan chairs.

Mid 18th Century Many more turnpike roads are created

1761 The Bridgwater Canal opens. Many more canals are dug in the late 18th and early 19th century.

1783 The hot air balloon and the hydrogen balloon are invented.

1785 Two men fly across the English Channel in a hydrogen balloon

1789 The first purpose built lifeboat is built in South Shields, England

1815 Steamships begin crossing the English Channel

1819 The Savannah becomes the first steamship to cross the Atlantic

1825 The first passenger railway opens

1829 Horse drawn omnibuses run in London

1835 The first hansom cab is made in Hinckley

1838 A steamship crosses the Atlantic in only 19 days. The first elevated railway in built (in London).

1840s This is the great age of railway building. A network is built across Britain.

1847 HMS Driver becomes the first steamship to travel round the world

1863 The first underground railway opens in London. On it carriages are pulled by steam trains.

1885 The car is invented

1890 The first electric underground trains run in London.

1900s Electric trams begin running in many towns

1909 Alice Ramsey is the first woman to drive across the USA in a car

1910 Henri Fabre flies the first successful seaplane

1919 Planes begin carrying passengers between London and Paris

1925 The first electric traffic lights in Britain are installed in London

1931 In Britain the first Highway Code is published


In Britain, a driving test is introduced. Cats eyes are invented. A 30 mile an hour speed limit is introduced in built up areas in Britain.

1935 The first traffic meters are installed in the USA

1937 The airship Hindenburg catches fire and burns

1940 About 1 family in 10 in Britain owns a car

1949 The first zebra crossing is made

1953 In Britain lollipop men and women are introduced

1958 The first traffic meters in Britain are installed


About 32% of families in Britain own a car. The first electric underground trains run in London. The three point seat belt is invented.

1963 Dr Beeching closes many branch lines in Britain

1969 The pelican crossing is introduced.

1983 Wearing seat belts is made compulsory in Britain. Wheel clamps are introduced.

1992 Speed cameras are introduced into Britain

1994 The Channel Tunnel opens