The Trent and Mersey Canal was part of a national canal network linking the Potteries with London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Hull and Manchester.
After the canal was constructed, tileries and brickworks were opened in the Fowlea Brook Valley between Chatterley and Stoke. Josiah Wedgwood closed his Burslem factories and built Etruria. A few canalside factories were erected at Longport but most manufacturers stayed in the pottery villages on the hills overlooking the valley.
Horse drawn tramways with wooden rails were constructed to link Tunstall, Burslem and Hanley with the canal.
By the beginning of the 19th century iron rails had replaced wooden ones. In 1803, the first public tramway, the Surrey Iron Railway, was constructed to carry freight between Croydon and Wandsworth. Four years later, in 1807 a passenger carrying line, the Swansea and Oystermouth Railway, opened in South Wales where there was already a 150 miles of track running from collieries, iron furnaces and copper works to canalside wharfs.
North Staffordshire industry was served by a comprehensive tramway network. Lines radiated from Kidsgrove to Talke, Birchenwood and the Rookery. Tramways carried coal from Harriseahead to Congleton. At Harecastle Hill underground rail roads ran from collieries and ironstone mines to wharfs on branch canals that joined the main canal in the legging tunnel which took it through the hill.
Experimental steam locomotives were used to haul wagons in South Wales and on Tyneside. When it opened in 1825, trains on the Stockton and Darlington Railway were pulled along level stretches of track by horses or steam locomotives and hauled up steep gradients by stationary steam engines. The railway age began five years later in 1830 when the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, opened the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which was entirely dependent on locomotive power to pull its trains.