The development of the science of geology and the growth of the railroad industry: How geology played a significant role in railroads of the Pacific Northwest

  • 22 Nov 2022
  • 7:00 PM
  • Online and in-person at Bridge 99 Brewery

Bill Burgel


Click HERE to watch the recorded presentation






James Watt invented the steam engine in 1769, greatly increasing the need for coal. Mutually beneficial, the fledgling science of geology found the coal for an ever-increasing industrial society. Steam engines powered pumps to enable coal mining to even greater depths as water removal was improved. But how to transport this coal to population centers where workers lived? In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson secured, for the newly born United States of America, the entire northwest portion of our country. A year later, Richard Trevithick attached a steam engine to wheels and voila, the steam locomotive was born! Not only was coal needed to power these labor savings machines, it was also a means to transport this energy source to the locations where it was needed. Geology experienced a second growth spurt as railroads needed nearly level routes to transport goods and people. Throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s, these two disciplines would work closely together to the mutual benefit of both.

In this talk we will explore how, time and time again, these two efforts, one of science and the other of industry, would be called upon to decide how the demand for coal would incentivize the nations first railroad, which route across the United States would be best for the nation, and how the newly formed USGS would be involved. Answering these and other questions employed many geologists, while the building of railroad grades offered geologists a glimpse into massive embankments and excavations, exposing rocks and minerals previously unseen.


We have returned to in-person presentations!

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the speaker will give this talk through Zoom. Everyone else is welcome to join us at Bridge 99 Brewery for social hour and to watch the Zoom talk together on the big screen.

Please join us at Bridge 99 Brewery:

63063 Layton Avenue, Bend

5:30 pm social hour

7:00 pm presentation

COGS talk are free and open to the public -- all are welcome! Please join us for the social hour before the presentation.

All presentations are also live-streamed through Zoom. Click on the registration link at the top of this page to register for the Zoom meeting.

Central Oregon Geoscience Society

Email: COGeoSoc@gmail.com
P.O. Box 2154,  Bend, Oregon 97709

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