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Peter Cooper's Tom Thumb
Peter Cooper's steam engine, Tom Thumb

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First U.S. Railway Chartered to Transport Freight and Passengers
February 28, 1827

On February 28, 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railway chartered for commercial transport of passengers and freight. There were skeptics who doubted that a steam engine could work along steep, winding grades, but the Tom Thumb, designed by Peter Cooper, put an end to their doubts. Investors hoped a railroad would allow Baltimore, the second largest U.S. city at the time, to successfully compete with New York for western trade.

The first railroad track in the United States was only 13 miles long, but it caused a lot of excitement when it opened in 1830. Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, laid the first stone when construction on the track began at Baltimore harbor on July 4, 1828.

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