|Covid-19|January 17 - Regular train service over the Prince of Wales Bridge on the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway begins.
February 3 - The Seney Syndicate met at Seney's New York bank and organized the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railway Company (which would later become the Nickel Plate Road).
February 17 - The first train operates between Norwood, Ohio, and Lebanon, Ohio, on the Cincinnati Northern Railway.
March 1 - The Mexican Southern Railroad is incorporated with Ulysses S. Grant, former President of the United States, as its president.
March 8 - The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, building southwestward from Kansas, reaches Deming, New Mexico.
April 13 - The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railway Company (later known as the Nickel Plate Road) purchases the Buffalo, Cleveland & Chicago Railway
April 14 - The Oregon Short Line Railroad is established to build a rail connection between Granger, Wyoming, and Huntington, Oregon.
May 16 - The Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway, the world's first electric tramway, is opened in Berlin by Siemens & Halske.
May 19 - Tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad reach El Paso, Texas.
May 28 - A.B. Rogers on his birthday discovers the pass through the Rocky Mountains that will bear his name, Rogers Pass.
June 9 - The Canada Central Railway is merged into the Canadian Pacific Railway.
June 11 - The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad connects to El Paso, Texas.
July 2 - Assassination of James A. Garfield: James A. Garfield, President of the United States, is shot by lawyer Charles J. Guiteau at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C., dying on September 19 of a resultant infection.
July 4 - Darjeeling Himalayan Railway opened throughout to Darjeeling, India.
July 6 - Kate Shelley prevents a train with 200 passengers from going over the Honey Creek Bridge after it was washed out during a flash flood near Des Moines, Iowa.
July 26 - Construction crews on the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad's Alpine Tunnel, in Colorado, break through to connect both ends of the tunnel.
August 22 - The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC) commences operation over a 14.1-mile (2.25-kilometer) run through the Appalachian Mountains.
August 26 - The first train operates over the Red River Bridge into Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
October 17 - First section of Royal Saxon State Railways narrow gauge railway (750 mm (2 ft 5 1⁄2 in) gauge) opened, between Wilkau and Kirchberg in the German Empire.
E.W. Clark & Co., a private banking firm in Philadelphia, purchases the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (a predecessor of the Norfolk & Western) at a foreclosure auction.
The Richmond and Danville Railroad leases the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railway.
Henry Villard becomes president of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
The French Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique purchases a controlling interest in the Panama Railway Company.
John Souther retires from the steam locomotive manufacturing company that he founded, Globe Locomotive Works.
Ephraim Shay takes out the first patent on his Shay locomotive design.
Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway begins.
The first standard gauge railroad in China is opened from Tangshan to Xugezhuang (10 km (6.2 mi)) for coal traffic.
March 22 - Arturo Caprotti, Italian inventor of Caprotti valve gear for steam locomotives (d. 1938).
July 8 - Mantis James Van Sweringen, American financier who, with his brother Oris, controlled the Nickel Plate Road and other eastern railroads (d. 1935).
October 30 - Charles E. Johnston, president of Kansas City Southern Railway 1928-1938 (d. 1951).
Martin W. Clement, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad 1935–1948 (d. 1966).
May 21 - Thomas Alexander Scott, president of Union Pacific Railroad 1871-1872, dies (b. 1823).
William S. Hudson, superintendent of American steam locomotive manufacturing firm Rogers, Ketchum and Grosvenor (b. 1810).
1881 in rail transport Wikipedia
This article lists events related to rail transport that occurred in 1881.