This Week in Animal History: August 29

This Week in Animal History is trying to track down Matt as he tours America without his co-hosts. We’ve followed him as far as Ellicott City, Maryland. When we heard that he was visiting the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, we hopped on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. Then we noticed that it was no longer in operation.

This Week in Animal History

On August 28, 1830, the B&O’s experimental steam locomotive Tom Thumb raced against a horse-drawn cart, proving to the world that steam engines are better than animals. That is, until they break down. Which is exactly what the Tom Thumb did.

While testing the Tom Thumb on the rails between Ellicott City and Baltimore, the engineer was challenged to the impromptu race by the driver of a horse-drawn passenger car. The steam engine got off to a commanding lead before throwing a belt or something and losing power. With the Tom Thumb stranded the horses casually strolled to victory. This shallow victory marked the end of the horse’s monopoly on transportation. Wikipedia informs us that in subsequent horse v. locomotive races “horse victories were extremely rare, if there were any at all.” Although there is no evidence to suggest that the horses from this race became horse folk-heroes à la John Henry, they probably should have.


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