Economic changes

Impact on towns and cities

Towns and cities close to railways (particularly places where engines and carriages were built or repaired) grew in size such as:

  • Glasgow
  • Kilmarnock
  • Perth

At one time, Glasgow built 25% of the world's steam locomotives.

Industry and employment

Coal could be transported across the country, quickly and cheaply to be used as either:

  • a domestic fuel
  • an industrial power source
  • to be converted into coal gas in most towns and cities

The coal, iron and steel industries received a tremendous boost from the railway building boom or mania, and contributed to coal mining becoming one of Scotland's largest employers.

Factories were built close to railways as they could be used to transport raw materials and finished goods.

More than 100,000 people were employed by railway companies, by 1860.

Farms and fishing ports could send fresh food almost anywhere in the country, cheaply.

Improved transport led to the development of company brands that were known nationally e.g:

  • cleaning and dry cleaning such as Pullars of Perth
  • various sweet manufacturers such as Rowntree, Cadbury and Fry
  • beer brewers such as Guinness and Bass


Railways encouraged the development of a quicker and more reliable postal service, improving private and business communications. People living in large cities had access to a communications system as cheap, convenient and almost as quick as email (with three mail deliveries a day). In emergencies, telegrams could be sent, using telegraph wires built alongside the railway lines.