Spinners and weavers now came each day to work in these first factories, which brought together workers and machines to produce large quantities of goods. Early observers were awed at the size and output of these establishments. One onlooker noted: “The same [amount] of labor is now performed in one of these structures which formerly occupied the industry of an entire district.”
What technology brought about advances in the British textile industry?
As production increased, entrepreneurs needed faster and cheaper methods of moving goods from place to place. Some capitalists invested in turnpikes, private roads built by entrepreneurs who charged travelers a toll, or fee, to use them. Goods traveled faster as a result, and turnpikes soon linked every part of Britain. Other entrepreneurs had canals dug to connect rivers together or to connect inland towns with coastal ports. Engineers also built stronger bridges and upgraded harbors to help the expanding overseas trade.
Workers and machines filled the early factories of the Industrial Revolution. Machines dramatically increased the quantity of goods that could be produced.
During the late 1700s and early 1800s, British factories needed an efficient, inexpensive way to receive coal and raw materials and then to ship finished goods to market. In 1763, when the Bridgewater Canal opened, it not only made a profit from tolls, but it shortened the trip enough to cut in half the price of coal in Manchester.
The success of this canal set off a canal-building frenzy. Entrepreneurs formed companies to construct canals for profit. Not all the canals that were built had enough traffic to support them, however, and bankruptcy often resulted. Then, beginning in the 1830s, canals lost their importance as steam locomotives made railroads the new preferred form of transportation.
It was the invention of the steam locomotive that made the growth of railroads possible. In the early 1800s, pioneers like George Stephenson developed steam-powered locomotives to pull carriages along iron rails. The railroad did not have to follow the course of a river. This meant that tracks could go places where rivers did not, allowing factory owners and merchants to ship goods swiftly and cheaply over land. The world's first major rail line, from Liverpool to Manchester, opened in England in 1830.
Steam locomotives made travel faster than ever before. The locomotives burned coal to produce steam and traveled overland routes on iron rails.