An iron plate railway, the kind most early ones were, is built from wooden rails with cast iron placed on top; the picturesque hammer swinging massive nails into the ground should come to mind. The practice of casting iron began in the mid-18th century, and led to the development of railroads, among them the Surrey Iron Railway.
On this day July 26th, in 1803, the Surrey Iron Railway opened. This has been argued as the first public railway, where all citizens were able to use the system. The Railway however was not even intended for steam engines, but was used by horse drawn carriages with the wheels extending just over the 4 foot 2 inch width of the railway. The entire railway was 9 miles long.
The primary engineer of the Surrey Iron Railway was William Jessop, a civil engineer he designed canals and bridges in England. Jessop was known for encouraging up and coming engineers instead of squashing their dreams. He also often used his son Josias to help him on projects. When the steam engine came around, it was the end of the Surrey Iron Railway, as Jessop realized that the rails could never support the weight of the trains.