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Thursday, 11 February 2016


Built by Cornish inventor Richard Trevithick, the first self-propelling steam locomotive made its debut outing on February 21, 1804. Trevithick took the world into the railway age when his seven-tonne locomotive hauled 10 tonnes of iron, 70 passengers, and five wagons from the Pen-y-darren ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil, to Abercynon in South Wales., reaching a top speed of almost 5mph during its nine-mile journey.

Trevithick's 1804 locomotive. This full-scale reconstruction is in the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.. By chris55. 

The first commercially successful steam locomotive was Matthew Murray's rack locomotive, Salamanca, built for the narrow gauge Middleton Railway in 1812.

Thee Puffing Billy built by Christopher Blackett and William Hedley for the Wylam Colliery Railway in 1813 was the first successful locomotive running by adhesion only. Puffing Billy is now on display in the Science Museum in London, the oldest locomotive in existence.

In 1814 the engineer George Stephenson, inspired by the early locomotives of Trevithick and Hedley, persuaded the manager of the Killingworth colliery where he worked to allow him to build a steam-powered machine. He built the Blücher, one of the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotives.

In 1825 Stephenson built the No. 1 Engine for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in north east England, the first public railway to use steam locomotives. The Stockton and Darlington Railway was ceremonially opened on September 27, 1825.

Stephenson's steam locomotive raced along at 15 mph. At that time most people believed nobody could survive speeds above 16 mph so there was a lot of alarm.

The No. 1 engine, called Locomotion, for the Stockton & Darlington Railway

In 1829 Stephenson built the eight ton The Rocket which entered  and won the Rainhill Trials, the competition to see which engine would be used on the Liverpool and Manchester railway. This success led to Stephenson establishing his company as the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives used on railways in the United Kingdom, the United States and much of Europe.

The first passenger railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, in England.

Tom Thumb, the first railway locomotive built in America, raced a horse-drawn railroad car over a nine-mile course on August 28, 1830. Tom Thumb lost because it had mechanical difficulties.

The first American built locomotive for revenue services, The Best Friend of Charleston, was built for the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company by the West Point Foundry of New York. Its first run was on December 25, 1830.

On June 17, 1831, the Best Friend of Charleston became the first locomotive in the US to suffer a boiler explosion, seriously injuring the engine's crew. The blast is said to have been caused by the fireman tying down the steam pressure release valve; he had tired of listening to it whistle, so to stop the noise he closed the valve permanently.

Line drawing of the Best Friend of Charleston

John Bull, the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world, ran for the first time in New Jersey on the Camden and Amboy Railroad on September 15, 1831. It became the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world when the Smithsonian Institution operated it in 1981

John Bull, c. 1895
Germany pioneered steam railways in Europe in 1835, using Der dler, a locomotive built by Stephenson.

The Scotsman Robert Fairlie patented a locomotive with pivoting driving bogies, allowing tight curves in the track in 1863.

The inaugural run of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Royal Blue from Washington, D.C., to New York, New York, took place in 1890. The B&O's use of electrification instead of steam power in a Baltimore tunnel on the Royal Blue Line, begun in 1895, marked the first use of electric locomotives by an American railroad and presaged the dawn of practical alternatives to steam power in the 20th century.

An early design of electric locomotive showing the steeplecab arrangement: North Eastern Railway No.1, England from 1905

The Great Western Railways' City of Truro became on May 9, 1904 the first steam engine in Europe to exceed 100 mph (160 km/h). City of Truro was timed at 8.8 seconds between two quarter-mile posts whilst hauling the "Ocean Mails" special from Plymouth to London Paddington.

GWR 3440 City of Truro

The first diesel locomotive took to the rails in Germany in 1912.

The first streamlined locomotive, nicknamed the Commodore Vanderbilt, was introduced by the New York Central Railroad was introduced on December 14, 1934. Despite its elite status and opulent accommodation the Commodore saw a short life in the postwar years. Following a series of cutbacks the Commodore was removed from the timetable in 1960.

The all-time speed record for steam trains is held by an LNER Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive of the LNER in the United Kingdom, number 4468 Mallard, which pulling six carriages (plus a dynamometer car) reached 126 mph (203 km/h) on a slight downhill gradient near Grantham, Lincolnshire on July 3, 1938.

Mallard at the National Railway Museum in York

The Swiss Federal Railways introduced a gas-turbine locomotive in 1941.

The last run of the famous Pines Express over the UK Somerset and Dorset Railway line in 1962, fittingly used the last steam locomotive built by British Railways, 9F locomotive 92220 Evening Star.

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