Thanks to Ian Bennett for providing the exact date of the Stockton and Darlington Railway's first service. Readers might wish to consult David Fry's Danger Ahead! -- Historic Railway Accidents (UK website) [GPL]


The Line at Peterborough. Source: “Opening of the Great Northern Railway,” Illustrated London News 17 (10 August 1850): 116. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

The first self-propelling steam engine or steam locomotive made its outing on 13 February 1804 at the Pen-y-Darren ironworks. The machine was designed by Richard Trevithick. The engine was able to pull a load of 15 tons at a speed of about 5 mph. However, adhesion was a problem (iron wheels on iron rails = slipping). This was partially solved by Blenkinsop who in 1811 designed an engine for the Middleton Colliery, using cogged wheels engaging in racks on the railway.

The problem of adhesion was finally solved by William Hedley with a design which applied power to the rails through two sets of Driving wheels. The locomotive was called Puffing Billy and operated at the Wylam Colliery near Newcastle. George Stephenson, who lived near this colliery designed his first locomotive -- Blucher in 1814 again, for a colliery.

Puffing Billy. National Science Museum, London. Photographs by George P. Landow 2003, 2014. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The first public railway was the Stockton and Darlington Railway, whose first run took place on Tuesday, September 27, 1825 with Stephenson-designed locos, the first of which was called Locomotion.

The Rocket. National Science Museum, London. Photographs by George P. Landow 2014. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The Rocket's claim to fame was that it competed in and won a competition now known as the Rainhill Trials. This was 1829. The directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway invited designers to submit their locomotives to a test for a 500 pounds prize. Besides the Rocket, two other machines competed -- Sanspareil and Novelty. Rocket won for its all round competence.

Last modified 11 September 2014