The Romance of Transportation

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at

The words locomotion and transportation are closely related.  One of my dictionaries defines locomotion as the “Act or power of moving from place to place.  Walking, swimming, and flying are common forms of locomotion.”  To transport something means to carry it from one place to another; so, in a sense, transportation was already in existence the first time a monkey carried a banana from one tree branch to another.  Yet most of the time we think of transportation as involving some sort of conveyance; however, when a human being trains an animal to carry something, said animal is definitely considered to be a means of transportation.

So, in this sense, what was the first means of transportation we know of?  A donkey?  Some other animal?  Maybe, but more likely a raft.  It was easier to find some fallen logs and tie them together with vines or strips of leather than to train a stubborn donkey to carry a load.  However, the raft was restricted to traveling on water; hence, donkeys, cattle, and camels were, along with rafts, the beginnings of transportation.  It is calculated that this began about 8,000 years ago.

The people of Southwestern Asia were among the first speed freaks to be discontent with the pace of the animals that had thus far been tried for transportation and bravely began getting onto the backs of horses.  And the Laplanders began driving reindeer, having them pull sleighs long before they had ever heard of Santa Claus.

You see how romantic it gets right from the start?

It got even more so after someone living near the eastern end of the Mediterranean invented the wheel about 5,000 years ago.  As a result the speed freaks could eventually sit in chariots behind the thundering hooves of their living engines.  But they probably had a lot of problems because it wasn’t until the 900’s AD that the French invented the basic, sensible, modern harness, which included the collar and traces.

All this improvement in land travel didn’t sidetrack the Vikings from developing rafts into rather sophisticated paddle boats that, around the year 1,000, brought them to America.  Columbus got around to it by 1492, and by that time few people would have even thought about paddling across the ocean; they let the wind push them!

This amazing inventiveness continued on both land and sea:  In 1662 a Frenchman, Blaise Pascal, invented the omnibus which was a large horse-drawn wagon used for public transportation.  In 1769 another Frenchman, Nicolas Cugnot, built a steam-powered car.  But an Englishman, Richard Trevithick, invented the first steam railway locomotive in 1804.  Yet it was hard to get a lead on those clever Frenchmen; in 1860 Jean Ettiene Lenoir invented the first road vehicle with a gas engine.  (Come to think of it, with the price of gas nowadays it might have been better to stick with steam.)  Then, in 1903, the Wright brothers did the impossible, launching mankind into the air.

Those living at the time must have been tempted to think that this was the final frontier and victory that could be gained in the highly adventurous, romantic, incredible history of mankind’s story of locomotion and transportation.  But no.

In 1969 Americans Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, with the help of brainy friends from various countries, flew to the moon, took a good look around, and found their way safely back to Earth.  And, as we all know, since then the leaders in the progress of locomotion and transportation have not decided that we’ve gone far enough.  Orbiting stations are being built and outer space beckons.

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