Early civilizations utilized human power to move goods. The ancient Greeks preferred to travel and move goods by sea. But they did have a respectable road system to move heavy loads by cart. The Romans built all-weather roads throughout the Roman Empire. They were an improvement over Etruscan roads. They were to allow the rapid movement of troops and military supplies. It was also important for trade and the transport of goods. Roman roads were well drained, relatively smooth and straight wherever possible. The Romans built bridges to cross water and causeways to cross marshes. They were well built but needed constant maintenance.
By the 16th century roads were used by coaches (public transport) and heavy wagons. Wagon building became an important business. Special horses were bred to pull the heavy loads. For longer distances, teams of horses were changed several times as they became tired. Inns sprang up in countries like England to take care of travelers. But the heavy traffic of large wagons and coaches were making roads difficult to maintain.
The early 18th century saw the use of plateways, trams and horse drawn rail cars. In the 19th century the steam engine in locomotives moved entire trains of rail cars. Rail transport across countries and continents became relatively cheap.
- J. Donald Hughes, Environmental Problems of the Greeks and Romans (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), pp. 179–180
- Kevin Greene, The Archaeology of the Roman Economy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 40
- Christopher Savage; T.C. Barker, Economic History of Transport in Britain (Oxford; New York: Routledge, 2011), pp. 25–30
- Robert Curley, The Complete History of Railroads: Trade, Transport, and Expansion (New York: Britannica Educational Pub.; Rosen Educational Services, 2012), p. xiv