When the first railroads were built in the United States during the Victorian Era, there were a number of considerations for positioning rail lines.
Farms and industrial buildings closer to ports had more of an advantage to make money. The ease of transporting their products gave them advantages over others situated inland.
Transporting products by carts and wagons took time, and limited the amount of things you could move.
Once steam power was developed and transformed into various modes of transportation, it made the length of time needed for travel shorter… and transporting merchandise more efficient.
Then again, it also made transportation that much more dangerous. A broken wheel on a wagon could stall transportation, but an exploding furnace in a train engine could cause mass panic and gruesome injuries.
The same could be said for the road and tracks. A cart broken in the road can be easily moved to the side, or other vehicles can go around. A train broken on the tracks stalls transportation in both directions. Or, if the tracks are damaged, the delays in service would be nearly insurmountable.
If you’re incorporating rail travel in your Steampunk stories there are a few things to consider:
Whether you’re using an existing railway or creating your own and plunking it down in a location…
What is the purpose of the railway? Passenger, Cargo [live or merchandise]
What kinds of cars travel on your railway? Sleeper, Economy, Cargo, Baggage
What are some of the location considerations? Hills, Rivers, Mountains, Valleys, Desert, Plains
What are some of the outside elements that could affect travel on the railway? Civil Unrest, Military presence, Outlaws, Town
Who works on the railway? Engineer, Porter, Servants in Private Cars, Cooks, ??
So, bring on the Steam travel!!!