George Stephenson (1781-1848) is more or less the inventor of modern railways. He was an autodidact that got in contact with rail based transport through his work as an engineer at a coal mine.
In 1814 he created his first steam locomotive that was used to transport coal from the mine.
In the beginning of the 1820s a new project took shape to create a railroad between Stockton and Darlington. The idea was to have rail based carriages drawn by horses to transport passengers between the two cities. George Stephenson suggested that they should use a steam engine instead and in 1825 his engine Locomotion could transport around 450 people between the two cities for the first time.
The success of this project led to George Stephenson getting the assignment to build a 38 mile long rail road between Manchester and Liverpool, an installation that is now considered the first real railroad in the world. This railroad was officially opened in 1830 with his now famous steam engine Rocket pulling the cars.
George Stephenson continued to improve the British rail network throughout the rest of his life.