North America's first fatal railway accident on a steam-operated railway was on June 17th, 1831, when the boiler exploded on America's first passenger locomotive and the first American locomotive in regular revenue service, the Best Friend of Charleston (whose first revenue run had been on January 15th of that year), killing the fireman. The response by the West Point Foundry, which had built the locomotive, to the boiler failure was by building their next locomotive, the West Point, with a "barrier car", a car loaded with bales of cotton to protect passengers.
The Best Friend of Charleston
One of the deadliest train disasters ever was not caused by a collision, derailment, bridge collapse, or fire. On the night of March 2nd, 1944, Italian freight train number 8017 left Salerno, headed south through the Apennine mountains. Over 650 people had stolen a ride on the 47-car train, intending to barter cigarettes and other items with farmers in exchange for milk, eggs, and other rationed foods. The train passed through Balvano, which lies between two tunnels. In the first tunnel, the train waited nearly an hour for a downhill train with locomotive trouble. In the second, the mile-long Galleria delle Armi, the overloaded train stalled fighting the steep grade, leaving all but the last three cars trapped inside the tunnel. The tunnels trapped the carbon monoxide produced by the locomotives burning their low-grade coal, causing 526 people to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. (source)
One of the earliest monorails was the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway, which spanned nine miles in County Kerry, Ireland. It ran between 1888 and 1924. Its twin-boilered locomotives and cars straddled the rail, which was supported on trestles. All loads had to be balanced. Once, when a piano was shipped it was balanced by putting a cow on the other side of the car. The cow was shipped back with two calves on the other half of the car to balance it, and the calves were returned one on each side of the car.
Kenya Railways requires that all trains stop for several minutes before crossing the Mwatate Dam in the southern part of the country. The practice was adopted on the advice of local residents after several mysterious derailments on the dam were blamed on the evil spirits that inhabit the reservoir. Townsfolk claimed that the spirits were angered when the trains moved across the dam without first appeasing them by stopping in tribute.
The first railway that came to St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada was in 1856 with the opening of the London and Port Stanley Railway. Since then, 26 different railways have passed through St. Thomas.
In America, rail passenger traffic peaked in 1921; volume has declined more or less steadily since then.
In 1950, the Illinois Central Railroad operated 1,166 steam locomotives and 89 diesel locomotives. It had replaced all its steam locomotives with diesel locomotives by 1960. Despite the fact that it would take two or three diesels to replace a heavy steam locomotive, the Illinois Central was operating its railway in 1960 with only 600 diesels. This was possible because diesels could be utilized more heavily.
Railway passengers in Great Britain wasted the equivalent of 4,632 years in 2001 as a result of late trains. (source)
The longest train ever was a BHP Iron Ore train of 682 ore cars that travelled 447 miles (719 kilometres) from the company's mines to Port Hedland, Western Australia on June 21, 2001. The train was 7.53 kilometres (4.57 miles) long and required eight locomotives—two at the front, another two after the first 168 cars, another two after 168 more cars, another locomotive after 168 more cars, and another at the end of the train. Prior to that, the longest train was a Norfolk & Western train of 500 coal cars that travelled 253 kilometres between Iaeger, West Virginia, U.S.A and Portsmouth, Ohio, on November 15th, 1967. It weighed 42,000 tonnes and was 6.5 kilometres long. (source)
In late March 1844, placards throughout Dublin advertised that a free round-trip train ride between Dublin and Drogheda would be offered on April 1 of that year. Early on the first of April a large crowd gathered at the station, only to find that there was in fact no free ride being offered, and a riot ensued. The identity of the hoaxer who posted the placards remains unknown.
Perhaps the runaway train that ran for the greatest length did so on March 27, 1884. On that day in Akron, Colorado, eight loaded boxcars standing on a siding were blown by a strong wind over a switch and began to run away. They were finally caught in Benkelman, Nebraska, 96 miles away and around 1,700 feet closer to sea level. (source)
During the building of the Central Pacific part of the American transcontinental railway over the Sierra Mountains, three locomotives and forty railway cars were dismantled and hauled over the mountains on sledges and logs.