Delawares first railroad, the New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad, began
operating in 1832, providing a land link between the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware
River. The railroads first cars resembled stagecoaches, and until an engine could be
imported from England, horses pulled the cars along the line. Success lasted just a few
years as larger, better financed, and better located railroads soon outpaced the company.
Like canals and turnpikes, railroads brought prosperity to the towns they connected.
One of the nations earliest railroads, the New Castle and Frenchtown (1832) followed
the route of an earlier turnpike, running a short distance between ports on the Delaware
and Chesapeake. Next came the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad (1838). This
railroad connected northern Delaware into a growing regional and national network. In 1855,
the Delaware Railroad began to run rails in a new direction, to the food-producing farms
in southern Delaware. These new tracks, on the western edge of the state, linked inland
communities to Wilmington and larger markets. As the railroads expanded through the 1800s,
their rails and names criss-crossed the state. At the height of the railroad era, Delaware
had over 330 miles of track, held by 14 companies, and 76 individual stations. With the
introduction of new ways to travel in the twentieth century, however, freight and
passenger rail service declined or even died away.