As America expanded into “the West,” so did Kentucky. In fact, Kentucky was the West from the earliest days of the United States. When new territory was acquired beyond the Mississippi River, Kentuckians felt the need to move as well. With this expansion (and population boom,) came the need for more modes of transportation. Travel by water had quickly taken off, with the invention of the steam ship. In fact, in 1816, Henry Miller Shreve launched his steamboat Washington, which completed the voyage from New Orleans to Louisville, Kentucky in twenty-five days. As technology improved, so did the time of travel, by the 1850s, that same trip would only take four days.
But because Kentucky is by all purposes land-locked, the Commonwealth needed a fast way of moving over the land. Carriages, stagecoaches and wagons were all population methods, but were not very fast. What Kentucky needed was a railroad. Iron rails were made for faster transport and on January 27, 1830 the Lexington & Ohio Railroad was chartered. The charter allowed the L&O to build lines from Lexington to major cities along the Ohio River.Construction began and the L&O Railroad was able to start operating as soon as fifteen miles of track had been laid. A horse-drawn car began operating out of Lexington on August 15, 1832. The iron rails had been imported from Liverpool, England and shipped to Lexington from New Orleans to Louisville. The first locomotive was introduced in 1833 by Barlow and Bruen of Lexington and the track to Frankfort was finally completed in 1834.