c. 600 BC:8–19 (11) - A basic form of the railway, the rutway,:8–19 (8 & 15) - existed in ancient Greek and Roman times, the most important being the ship trackway Diolkos across the Isthmus of Corinth. Measuring between 6 and 8.5 km,:8–19 (10) remaining in regular and frequent service for at least 650 years, and being open to all on payment, it constituted even a public railway, a concept which according to Lewis did not recur until around 1800.:15 The Diolkos was reportedly used until at least the middle of the 1st century AD, after which no more written references appear.:8–19 (11)
1550 - Hand propelled tubs known as "hunds" undoubtedly existed in the provinces surrounding/forming modern day Germany by the mid-16th century having been in proven use since the mid-15th century and possibly earlier. This technology was brought to the UK by German miners working in the Mines Royal at various sites in the English Lake District near Keswick (Now in Cumbria).
1758 - The Middleton Railway, the first railway to be granted powers by Act of Parliament, carried coal cheaply from the Middleton pits to Leeds. The line was privately financed and operated, initially as a waggonway using horse-drawn waggons. Around 1799 the wooden tracks began to be replaced with superior iron edge rails to a gauge of 4 ft 1 in (1,245 mm). In 1812 the Middleton Railway became the first commercial railway to successfully use steam locomotives : the Salamanca of John Blenkinsop.
1789 - The Charnwood Forest Canal, sometimes known as the "Forest Line of the Leicester Navigation" has a railways to supplement the canal between Nanpantan and Loughborough, Leicestershire. William Jessop had realised a horse-drawn railway for coal wagons. He used successfully an iron edge-rail, in contrast to his partner Benjamin Outram, who, for other such lines, preferred the traditional iron "L" shaped flange-rail plateway.
1798 - the Lake Lock Rail Road, arguably the world's first public railway, opened in 1798 to carry coal from the Outwood area to the Aire and Calder navigation at Lake Lock near Wakefield, West Yorkshire,on a distance of approximately 3 miles. The load of three waggons was hauled by one horse. The track used edge rails to a gauge of 3 ft 4 3⁄4 in (1,035 mm.). The line gradually declined and was closed in 1836.
1804 - First steam locomotive railway known as Penydarren or "Pen-y-Darren" locomotive was built by Richard Trevithick, used to haul iron from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon, Wales. The first train carry a load of 10 tons of iron. In one occasion it was successfully tried hauling 25 tons. But the weight of the locomotive was about 5 tons and broke many of the cast iron plate rails.
1807 - First fare-paying, passenger railway service in the world was established on the Oystermouth Railway in Swansea, Wales. Later this became known as the Swansea and Mumbles Railway although the railway was more affectionately known as "The Mumbles Train" (Welsh: Tren Bach I'r Mwmbwls). The railway was laid in the form of a plateway, with the rails being approximately 4 ft (1,219 mm) and used a horse-drawn vehicles. At the beginning the railway survived using various forms of traction until 1960.
1808 - The Kilmarnock and Troon Railway was the first railway in Scotland authorised by Act of Parliament. It was a plateway, using L-shaped iron plates as rails. In 1817 It was also the first in Scotland to use a steam locomotive. It was the Blücher from George Stephenson used at Killingworth Colliery. This locomotive could haul 30 tons of coal up a hill at 4 mph (6.4 km/h). It was used to tow coal wagons along the wagonway from Killingworth to Wallsend. It was withdrawn from service because of damage to the cast iron rails.
1808 - Richard Trevithick sets up a "steam circus" (a circular steam railway with locomotive Catch Me Who Can) in London for some months, for the public to experience for 1 shilling each.
1814 - George Stephenson constructs his first locomotive, Blücher for the Killingworth wagonway. The locomotive was modelled on Matthew Murray’s. It could haul 30 tons of coal up a hill at 4 mph (6.4 km/h) but was too heavy to run on wooden rails or iron rails who existed in that time.
1827 June 30 - The first railway in continental Europe opens in France between Saint-Etienne and Andrézieux (horse-drawn carriage). Some tests had been run since May 1, 1827. The official opening ceremony on October 1, 1828 never really took place, this date being in fact the first fiscal year of the railway company.
1830 - The first railway in the United States[which?] opens with 23 miles of track, with mostly hardwood rail topped with iron. Over one hundred railroads are incorporated in New York alone. The Tom Thumb (locomotive) was designed and built by Peter Cooper for the B&O—the first American-built steam locomotive.
1830 - The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opens, and the first steam passenger service, primarily locomotive hauled, is started. The line proves the viability of rail transport, and large scale railway construction begins in Britain, and then spreads throughout the world. The Railway Age begins.
1830 - The first portion of the Saint-Étienne–Lyon railway is open between Givors and Rive-de-Gier on 1 July 1830. The rest of the line was opened on 1 October 1832 for passenger use only, freight being accepted a few months later. It use iron rails on dice stones. The line had 58 km long and an 375 meters elevation. There are 112 bridges and three tunels. The locomotives are based on George StephensonLocomotion but with a tubular boiler which produces six times more power.
1835 - In Belgium a railway was opened on May 5 between Brussels and Mechelen : The line 25. In 1836 a second section between Mechelen and Antwerp was open. The line still exists. It is used by the high-speed train Paris - Amsterdam.
1837 - The first line in Paris (Paris-Saint Germain Line)opened between Le Pecq near the former royal town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Embarcadère des Bâtignoles (later to become Gare Saint-Lazare). It is the first railway from Paris, but also the first of France designed solely for the carriage of passengers and operated with steam locomotives. It's still open to this day.
1845 - The first railway line built in Jamaica opened on November 21. The line ran 15 miles from Kingston to Spanish Town. It was also the first rail line to be built in any of Britain's West Indies colonies. The Earl of Elgin, Jamaica's Governor presided over the opening ceremonies, by the late 1860s the line extended 105 miles to Montego Bay.
1848 - First railway in South America, British Guyana. The railway was designed, surveyed and built by the British-American architect and artist Frederick Catherwood. All the railway stations, bridges, stores and other facilities were constructed by John Bradshaw Sharples. Financing was provided by the Demerera Sugar Company who wished to transport their product to the dock of Georgetown. Construction was in sections with the first, from Georgetown to Plaisance, opening on 3 November 1848. The opening day's festivities featured the death of one of the railway's directors by being run over by the locomotive.
1851 - First train in Chile from Caldera to Copiapó (80 km).
1851 - First train in British India, built by British invention and administration.
1863 - First underground railway, the 4-mile (6.4 km) Metropolitan Railway opened in London. It was powered by adapted steam engines (which condensed the steam to be let out only at particular places with air vents). Gave rise to entire new mode of subterranean urban transit: the Subway/U-Bahn/Metro.
1863 - Scotsman Robert Francis Fairlie invents the Fairlie locomotive with pivoted driving bogies, allowing trains to negotiate tighter curves in the track. This innovation proves rare for steam locomotives but is the model for most future diesel and electric locomotives.
1885 - The Canadian Pacific Railway is completed 5 years ahead of schedule, the longest single railway of its time, which links the eastern and western provinces of Canada.
1888 - Frank Sprague installs the "trolleypole" trolley system in Richmond, Virginia, making it the first large scale electric street railway in the US, though the first commercial installation of an electric streetcar in the United States was built in 1884 in Cleveland, Ohio and operated for a period of one year by the East Cleveland Street Railway Company.
1890 - First electric London Underground railway (subway) opened in London—all other subway systems soon followed suit.
1963, March 27 - Publication of The Reshaping of Britain's Railways (the Beeching Report). Generally known as the "Beeching axe", it led to the mass closure of 25% of route miles and 50% of stations during the decade following.
1964 - Bullet Train service introduced in Japan, between Tokyo and Osaka. Trains average speeds of 160 km/h (100 mph) due to congested shared urban tracks, with top speeds of 210 km/h.
1968 - British Rail ran its last final steam-driven mainline train, named the Fifteen Guinea Special, after of a programmed withdrawal of steam during 1962-68. It marked the end of 143 years of its public railway use. Thailand's tram line was stop serviced.
1970, June 21 - Penn Central, the dominant railroad in the northeastern United States, became bankrupt (the largest US corporate bankruptcy up to that time). Created only two years earlier in 1968 from a merger of several other railroads, it marked the end of long-haul private-sector US passenger train services, and forced the creation of the government-owned Amtrak on May 1, 1971.
1975, August 10 - British Rail's experimental tilting train, the Advanced Passenger Train (APT) achieved a new British speed record, the APT-E reaching 245 km/h (152.3 mph). The prototype APT-P pushed the speed record further to 261 km/h (162.2 mph) in December 1979, but when put into service on 7 December 1981, it failed and was withdrawn days later, resuming only from 1980 to 1986 on the West Coast Main Line.
1979 - High speed TGV trains introduced in France, TGV trains travelling at an average speed of 213 km/h (132 mph). and with a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).
1987 - World speed record for a diesel locomotive set by British Rail's High Speed Train (HST), which reached a speed of 238 km/h (148 mph).
1989 Cairo Underground Metro Line 1 is the first line of underground in Africa and Middle East Line length 44 kilometres (27 mi) with 34 stations Daily ridership 1 million passenger Operating speed 100 km/h (62 mph).
1990 - World speed record for an electric train is set in France by a TGV, reaching a speed of 515 km/h (320 mph).
1994-1997 - Privatisation of British Rail. Ownership of track and infrastructure passed to Railtrack on 1 April 1994 (replaced by Network Rail in 2002), with passenger operations franchised afterwards to 25 individual private-sector operators and freight services sold outright.
^Raepsaet, G. & Tolley, M.: "Le Diolkos de l’Isthme à Corinthe: son tracé, son fonctionnement", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, Vol. 117 (1993), pp. 233–261 (246)
^Werner, Walter: "The largest ship trackway in ancient times: the Diolkos of the Isthmus of Corinth, Greece, and early attempts to build a canal", The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Vol. 26, No. 2 (1997), pp. 98–119 (109)
^An excellent and definitive, but currently out of print book by Michael Lewis Early Wooden Railways should be consulted about pre-17th century railways, etc.