Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1856, Granville Woods literally learned his skills on the job. Attending school in Columbus until age 10, he served an apprenticeship in a machine shop and learned the trades of machinist and blacksmith. During his youth he also went to night school and took private lessons. Although he had to leave formal school at age ten, Granville Woods realized that learning and education were essential to developing critical skills that would allow him to express his creativity with machinery.
In 1872, he obtained a job as a fireman on the Danville and Southern railroad in Missouri, eventually becoming an engineer. He invested his spare time in studying electronics. In 1874, Woods moved to Springfield, Illinois, and worked in a rolling mill. In 1878, he took a job aboard the Ironsides, a British steamer, and, within two years, became Chief Engineer of the steamer. Finally, his travels and experiences led him to settle in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the person most responsible for modernizing the railroad.
In 1888, Woods developed a system for overhead electric conducting lines for railroads, which aided in the development of the overhead railroad system found in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, and New York City. In his early thirties, he became interested in thermal power and steam-driven engines. And, in 1889, he filed his first patent for an improved steam-boiler furnace. In 1892, a complete Electric Railway System was operated at Coney Island, NY. In 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed communications between train stations from moving trains. Woods' invention made it possible for trains to communicate with the station and with other trains so they knew exactly where they were at all times. This invention made train movements quicker and prevented countless accidents and collisions.