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“Apart from three designed by Trevithick, only 25 other locomotives had been built by 1823 and not one of them was decisively superior to horse traction.  The slow progress in achieving a decisive breakthrough in the performance of the locomotive resulted in the Stockton and Darlington Railway using a mixture of stationary engines, locomotives and horse traction for working the regular traffic . . . . After the superiority of the locomotive had been demonstrated on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 the promoters of new lines had little difficulty in raising the necessary capital.”

The Transport Revolution from 1770, Philip S. Bagwell (1974).

Birmingham Gazette, Monday, 4th May 1829.

. . . . thus was announced the £500-prize that gave birth to the Rainhill Trials, one of the most influential events in the history of transport.  The “certain stipulations and conditions” the advertisement referred to were:

 From A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads, Nicholas Wood (1838).

As the Liverpool and Manchester Railway neared completion, its directors were faced with the decision on how the line was to be worked:

“At that time the prospects of the locomotive were most discouraging.  The speed of five or six miles per hour attained on the Killingworth and Darlington lines by no means justified an enthusiastic support of the travelling engines.  It was true that they had not been built with a view to speed, but for the purpose of obtaining cheap carriage for coals.  Indeed, not many years before, the problem had been to make them move at all.  But progression having been accomplished, the next thing was to increase their powers.”

The Life of Robert Stephenson, F.R.S., J. C. Jeaffreson (1864).

Steam locomotives had indeed acquired a poor reputation for performance and reliability, added to which the highly inefficient boilers of the time wasted large amounts of fuel.  On a relatively short colliery wagonway, where coal was cheap and plentiful, a heavy fuel consumption was of little consequence, but elsewhere the fuel bill had to be taken seriously.  When considered together, these factors meant that locomotives were unlikely to be a practical proposition for the immediate future, whereas both horse traction and stationary steam engines operating cable haulage were well-known quantities.  Faced with this conundrum, a party of the line’s directors set out to visit the railways in the North-East to assess the situation for themselves.  What they saw merely demonstrated that for the volume of traffic that they anticipated horse traction was out of the question, but they remained undecided on whether to adopt locomotives or cable-haulage.


The ‘Royal George’ (1827), Stockton and Darlington Railway.  Generally considered to be the first adequate locomotive adapted to the rigours of everyday use, and the first to incorporate a correctly aligned steam blastpipe.

In view of their continuing indecision the Board decided to obtain a professional opinion independent of their own advisors (principally the Stephensons, who were both keen advocates of steam locomotives).  To provide it they engaged two eminent civil engineers, John Rastrick and James Walker. [1]  In January 1829, the pair set out on a second tour of the North-East, their primary object being to establish . . . . The comparative expense of conveying goods upon a Railway by locomotive and by fixed Engines. [2]  During their tour, they gathered much information, included in which was an interesting summary of the loads that locomotives were then capable of hauling, Hackworth’s Royal George (above) being well ahead of the field:

 A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads, Nicholas Wood (1838).

Rastrick and Walker submitted their findings to the Liverpool and Manchester Board in March 1829.  In their report they provided their principals with a considerable weight of data and calculations, which demonstrated that, in terms of the cost of conveying each ton of goods per mile, a system of fixed engines would be cheaper to operate than locomotives.  However, they did acknowledge that the choice between the two forms of motive power was finely balanced.

In his summary of the study, Henry Booth, Secretary to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company, had this to say:

“The advantages and disadvantages of each system, as far as deduced from their own immediate observation, were fully and fairly stated, and in the opinion of the engineers themselves, were pretty equally balanced.  The cost of an establishment of fixed engines between Liverpool and Manchester, they were of opinion, would be something greater than of locomotives to do the same work; but the annual charge, including interest on capital, they computed would be less on a system of fixed engines than with locomotives.  The cost of moving a ton of goods thirty miles, that is from Liverpool to Manchester, by fixed engines, they estimated at 6.40d., and by locomotives at 8.36d., supposing in each case a profitable traffic both ways.”

The Life of Robert Stephenson, F.R.S., J. C. Jeaffreson (1864).

Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Report to the Directors, James Walker (1829).

In arriving at their costings, Rastrick and Walker worked on the basis of the following scheme of stationary engines:

Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Report to the Directors, James Walker (1829).

When it came to dealing with the likely fuel cost for operating the line with locomotives, the consultants experienced a difficulty:

As to the consumption of fuel by locomotive Engines: This article is so cheap in most places where locomotive Engines are in use, that it is not customary to keep any accurate accounts of it . . . .”

Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Report to the Directors, James Walker (1829).

. . . . added to which was the effect of the significant difference in the efficiency of locomotive boilers then in use, and hence their fuel consumption.  What figures could be obtained ranged between 1.6 and 3 pounds weight of coal per ton per mile.

However, the pair discovered that engine drivers on the Stockton and Darlington Railway were required to pay for the coal they used, which they assumed, not unreasonably, would encourage them to exercise some economy in its use.  The railway company kept a record of the amount of coal they sold as well as the ton miles their locomotives ran, which, taken together, suggested a fuel consumption of 2.8 pounds per ton per mile.  In their calculations, Rastrick and Walker reduced this to 2.5 pounds to take account of known improvements that were then being made in boiler efficiency, which produced an estimated annual fuel bill of £13,653 for a fleet locomotives, compared with £3,784 for fixed engines and cable haulage. [3]

In their response to the Rastrick/Walker report, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke conceded that fixed engines were inherently more efficient than locomotives:

It is probable that the consumption of fuel by Locomotive Engines will always be greater than by Fixed Engines.  In the latter the heat may, without inconvenience, be applied in the best possible manner, and care taken to prevent loss of heat by radiation; but lightness, compactness, and simplicity being absolutely necessary in Locomotives, we are compelled to adopt less economical methods of applying the fuel.”

Observations on the comparative merits of locomotive & fixed engines, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke (1830).

A further point raised by Rastrick and Walker was that even if locomotives were to be used, they would be unable to cope with the two 1:96 gradients at Rainhill and Sutton, which would at any rate require cable haulage.  Subsequently, however, the Rainhill Trials demonstrated that locomotives were capable of handling such gradients unassisted, although cable haulage was inevitable on the 1:48 gradient to the dockside at Liverpool.

Despite its apparent cost advantage, some points of interest emerged from the report that underlined the weaknesses of the cable system.  The first concerned the initial capital outlay, where the ready ability to increase the number of locomotives by incremental steps, in line with traffic growth, gave locomotives a distinct advantage over the inflexible alternative:

If the quantity of goods be small or uncertain, it would require no calculation to determine that the locomotive system is the cheaper, because by it you increase the power by an increase of the number of Engines, and can therefore always proportion the power to the demand, while upon the stationary system it is necessary first to form an estimate of the probable trade, and then at once to establish a line of Engines, Ropes, &c. from end to end, that shall be complete and fully equal to it.  There is therefore in the locomotive system an advantage in this respect, that the outlay of capital may at the first be much less than by the other system.”

Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Report to the Directors, James Walker (1829).

Another factor against cable was the higher impact on traffic flow, compared with locomotives, resulting from a failure in any of the sections of the line of either the cable ― the most likely cause ― or the power plant:

The probability of accident upon any particular part of the system is, I think, less with the stationary than with the locomotive; but in the former the effects of an accident extend to the whole line, whereas in the latter they are confined to the particular Engine and its train, unless they happen to obstruct the way and prevent others from passing.  The one system is like a number of short unconnected chains, the other resembles a chain extending from Liverpool to Manchester, the failure of one link of which would derange the whole.”

Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Report to the Directors, James Walker (1829).

But perhaps the most telling blow against cable was the recognition that, after many years of development, principally under Watt, the stationary steam engine had reached a relative plateau of refinement compared with the steam locomotive, where there lay much unexploited potential:

I have reasoned upon the Engines generally in their present state, but it is proper to say that improvements have, since my survey in 1824, been made in them, and that the attention at present bestowed upon the subject will in all probability still do much for them.  The Engine made by Mr. Rastrick is different from that by Mr. Hackworth in the form of the flue and otherwise; Mr. Stephenson’s is different from both, and every new Engine he makes, differs in some respects from the one preceding it.― Since 1824 the diameter of the wheels has been increased, wrought iron tire substituted for cast, spring safety-valves have been introduced, and the Engine itself is supported upon a spring carriage.  I think all these decided and great improvements, and in estimating the question generally it is fair to anticipate others.  It is true that improvements in the stationary system may also be expected, but not, I should say, to the same extent.”

Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Report to the Directors, James Walker (1829).

No doubt influenced by these last three arguments and, despite their consultants’ overall recommendation, the Board remained undecided on what motive power to adopt, although by now the steam locomotive had gained a majority of supporters providing it could be shown to be up to the job.  Thus, the decision was taken to hold a competition.



“Considering the very important conclusions, which have resulted from the competition, induced by the offer above noticed, the very rapid improvement which it produced in these engines, forming not only a new era in their history, but in the importance of railway communication in general; we shall make no apology, in giving a brief outline of the proceedings, and of the various improvements effected by this competition of talent.”

A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads, and Interior Communication, Nicholas Wood (1838).

The trials were to take place on a section of level track, about 1¾-miles long, at Rainhill, a few miles to the east of Liverpool.  News of the event caused much excitement.  Supporters of the steam locomotive hailed it as an opportunity to create a great change in internal communications, the Company’s shareholders saw it as a scheme from which profit (or loss, depending on point-of-view) would emerge, the canal companies saw it as a threat to the wellbeing of their businesses ― in this they were correct ― and the public looked on in anticipation of great entertainment and spectacle:

“On the morning of the 6th the ground at Rainhill exhibited a very lively appearance; several thousand persons were collected from all parts of the country, amongst whom were several of the first Engineers of the day.  A commodious tent had been erected for the accommodation of the ladies, which was graced by the beauty and fashion of the surrounding neighbourhood; the sides of the race ground were lined with carriages of all descriptions;― in short, the tout ensemble exhibited as much bustle and excitement as if the great St. Leger had been about to be contested.”

Observations on the comparative merits of locomotive & fixed engines, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke (1830).

The competition was set to commence on the 6th October 1829.  The three judges were to be John Rastrick (civil engineer), Nicholas Wood (viewer at Killingworth Colliery and writer on locomotive engineering) and John Kennedy (a Manchester industrialist).  Their first task was to refine the competition rules:

The original stipulations of the Directors containing no regulations as to the mode of trying the powers of the different engines, the judges determined, that in order to ascertain the comparative merit of each they should be subjected to the following practical test.  And in consequence, a card, containing the following regulations, was distributed to the different competitors.”

A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads, and Interior Communication, Nicholas Wood (1838).

Much of what then took place during the Rainhill Trials is beyond the scope of this chapter (some press reporting of the event is reproduced at Appendix I).  Suffice it to say that of the six competition entries, three did not compete or failed to meet the entry requirements; these were the Manumotive, a type of rail carriage operated by two men, entered by Ross Winan; Thomas Brandeth’s Cycloped, which was powered by two horses walking an endless belt; and Timothy Burstall’s Perseverance, which looked similar to Ericson’s Novelty, but there the comparison ends, for it failed to reach the stipulated minimum speed of 10 m.p.h.

The Cycloped


Of the remaining three entries, each being steam powered, only the Stephensons’ Rocket completed the trials successfully.  Timothy Hackworth’s Sans Pareil [4] suffered boiler failure and the Novelty, entered by Messrs. Ericsson and Braithwaite, was withdrawn following a burst steam joint.  Although Sans Pareil and Novelty [5] represented cul-de-sacs in the evolution of mainstream steam locomotives, it worth saying something about them.

Timothy Hackworths San Pareil and its return-flue boiler.
'C' marks the chimney, the parallel lines represent the grate for the furnace.

A replica of Timothy Hackworth’s Sans Pareil on display at the
National Railway Museum, Shildon.

Sans Pareil (“without equal”) was a scaled-down version of Hackworth’s Royal GeorgeFitted with wooden-spoked wheels (4 feet 6 inches diameter) to save weight, the locomotive was powered by vertical cylinders (7 inches diameter by 18 inches) that gave it the uncomfortable rolling motion typical of its type.  This instability would have limited its in-service speed for passenger traffic (on the fifth trip of the Trials the locomotive averaged 22.7 m.p.h., its best run) and its vertical cylinders would probably have resulted in significant hammer-blow to the track.  Steam was produced in a return-flue boiler (4 feet 2 inches diameter by 6 feet), the blast being so fierce that it ejected a great deal of partly burned fuel from the chimney resulting in heavy fuel consumption.  Whereas the Rocket required 11.7 pounds of coke to convert a cubic foot of water into steam, Sans Pareil required 28.8 pounds:

The Engineer’s and Mechanic’s Encyclopædia, Luke Hebert (1836).


During Sans Pareil’s second appearance in the competition, her boiler feed pump failed, the level of water in the boiler fell below the safe limit and the consequent increase in temperature melted the fusible plug.  Hackworth’s appeal to the judges for further time for repairs was declined on the grounds of exceeding the stipulated weight, which, together with the heavy fuel consumption, precluded the judges from recommending the locomotive to the Company.  Nevertheless, Sans Pareil  had a long life.  After the trails she was bought by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and later sold to the Bolton and Leigh Railway.  In 1837, larger cylinders were fitted and her wooden-spoked wheels replaced with cast-iron.  In 1844, she was moved to the Coppull Colliery near Chorley, turned into a stationary engine and used to drive pumping and winding equipment.  Finally, in 1863, Sans Pareil was presented to the Patent Office Museum (now the Science Museum), and later transferred to the care of the National Railway Museum at Shilden where she is now on display.

Overall, Sans Pareil was outmoded; whereas the Rocket lay at the start of the evolutionary line that led to the mature steam locomotive, San Pareil lay at the end of the first era of locomotive development reaching back to Trevithick’s Catch-me-who-can, to which she bore some resemblance.

Braithwaite and Ericson’s Novelty.

The Novelty represented what might best be described as an interesting prototype, at a time when the form and layout of the railway locomotive’s basic components had yet to be settled:

“Messrs. Braithwaite and Erickson’s engine, the ‘Novelty,’ is of a different principle, the air being driven or forced through the fire by means of a bellows.  The accompanying drawings will shew the general construction of this engine, and more particularly the generator, or mode of raising the steam, which constitutes its prominent peculiarity.”

A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads, Nicholas Wood (1836).

The storage of fuel on the footplate and water in a well between the wheels (viz. letter ‘T’ above) placed Novelty in the category of what were later classed as ‘tank’ engines ― as, indeed, was Burstall’s Perseverance.  Judging from contemporary reports there can be little doubt that Novelty was the decided favourite among the crowd:

“The great lightness of this engine, (it is about one half lighter than Mr. Stephenson’s) its compactness, and its beautiful workmanship, excited universal admiration; a sentiment speedily changed into perfect wonder, by its truly marvellous performances.  It was resolved to try first its speed merely; that is at what rate it would go, carrying only its compliment of cote and water, with Messrs Braithwaite and Erickson to manage it.  Almost at once, it darted off at the amazing velocity of twenty-eight miles an hour, and it actually did one mile in the incredibly short space of one minute and 53 seconds.  Neither did we observe any appreciable falling off in the rate of speed; it was uniform, steady, and continuous.”

Mechanics’ Magazine, Vol. 12 (1830).


Bell cranks being used to convert vertical to horizontal thrust.

In common with Sans Pareil, the drive in Novelty was from vertically mounted cylinders.  However, unlike Sans Pareil, in which the vertical cylinders were connected directly to the crankpins, the drive on Novelty was via bell-cranks.  These worked horizontal rods connected to the cranked front axle, an arrangement that enabled a leaf-spring suspension to be provided despite the locomotives’ cylinders being vertically aligned.  Only the front axle was connected to the cylinders, but the design did provide for both axles to be coupled using chain drive.

As Wood observed, the boiler was the locomotive’s “prominent peculiarity”, having the appearance at first sight of a vertical boiler.  In fact the greater part of the boiler barrel extended horizontally under the locomotive.  This contained an S-shaped flue, which carried the combustion gases from the furnace to the chimney at letter ‘G’.  Fuel was fed into the furnace (letter ‘F’ below) down a tube (letter ‘C’), which passed through the boiler barrel (letter ‘A’), a method later adopted by Sentinel in their steam wagons and shunting engines.  In his design, Ericson bypassed the need for a blast pipe by using forced draught, provided by axle-driven bellows, which entered underneath the fire at letter ‘E’.  Spent steam was exhausted directly into the atmosphere.

The Novelty’s boiler.

Although withdrawn from the trials due to boiler failure, Novelty performed more successfully than San Pareil.  The first day of the trials was taken up with some demonstration runs.  According to the Morning Post (9th October 1829), “the speed of all the other locomotive steam-carriages on the course was far exceeded by that of Messrs. Braithwaite and Co.’s beautiful engine from London.  It shot along the line at the amazing rate of thirty miles in the hour.”  On the second day of the Trial, the locomotive ran under test conditions:

“‘The Novelty’ engine of Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericsson was this day tried with a load of three times its weight attached to it, or 11 tons 5 cwt.; and it drew this with ease at the rate of 20¾ miles per hour; thus proving itself to be equally good for speed as for power.  We took particular notice to day of its power of consuming its own smoke, and did not any time observe the emission of the smallest particle from the chimney.”

Mechanics’ Magazine, Vol. 12 (1830).

Novelty next appeared on the fifth day of the trials, but did not run under test conditions.  During the morning the failure of some pipework required repair, but the locomotive reappeared in the afternoon, at the conclusion of which:

“Another carriage with seats for the accommodation of passengers, was now substituted for the loaded waggons attached to ‘The Novelty,’ and about forty-five ladies and gentlemen ascended to enjoy the great novelty of a ride by steam.  We can say for ourselves that we never enjoyed any thing in the way of travelling more.  We flew along at the rate of a mile and a half in three minutes; and though the velocity was such, that we could scarcely distinguish objects as we passed by them, the motion was so steady and equable, that we could manage not only to read but write . . . .”

“. . . . A fresh pipe had, it appeared, been substituted for the one which failed on the preceding trial; one or two other parts of the machinery that were in a faulty state, had also been renovated; but the engine, with the exception of some of the flanges of the boiler being as Mr. Ericsson expressed it, rather green, was pronounced in a working state . . . . The engine now started to do the 70 miles for a continuance; but just as it had completed its second trip of three miles, when it was working at the rate of 15 miles an hour, the new cement of some of the flanges of the boiler, yielded to the high temperature to which it was exposed, and the spectators had again the mortification to hear it announced that it was, under these circumstances, impossible the trial could go on.”

Mechanics’ Magazine, Vol. 12 (1830).

And that concluded the Novelty’s appearance at the Rainhill Trials.  In their account of the event, Messrs. Stephenson and Locke give a more detailed analysis of the boiler failure:

“The first trip of 3 miles was performed in 16’ 43” which is at the rate of 10¾ miles an hour.  In the second trip the pipe which conveys the heated air from the furnace through the horizontal boiler collapsed, and the steam, forcing its way into the fire place, was evolved from the bottom of the furnace into the atmosphere.  This failure was at the time attributed to the yielding of a ‘green joint,’ and was considered as such by the Judges; but having seen the pipe when it was taken out, we feel convinced that its failure alone was sufficient to account for the accident, without the addition of any joint giving way.

The ‘Novelty’ was then withdrawn and Mr. Hackworth requested that he might be allowed another trial.  The Judges refused, on the ground that his Engine was not only above weight, but that it was on such a construction as they could not recommend to the Directors of the Company.”

An Account of the Competition of Locomotive Engines at Rainhill, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke (1830).

A replica of Novelty.

Although in some ways an ingenious design, a locomotive of Novelty’s design could not have been scaled up sufficiently to meet the more demanding loads that locomotives would shortly be called upon to haul, and over greater distances.  Furthermore, the double-return boiler flue would have been impossible to clean unless it had been constructed in sections to permit dismantling, and only then with difficulty.

Following the Rainhill Trails, the locomotive ran experimentally on the line before being transferred to the St. Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway, where in 1833 she received a new boiler and cylinders.  In 1838, Novelty is known to have been used on the construction of the North Union Railway, after which she disappears from history.

Having met the competition criteria, the £500 prize was shared between Henry Booth, on account of his contribution to the Rocket’s boiler design, and the locomotive’s designers and builders, the Stephensons.  Had the Novelty not suffered boiler failure, the outcome of the competition might have been different, despite that locomotive’s unsuitability as a platform for future development. 

The Rocket, together with a cross section of her firebox.
See also Appendix II.


Built to compete in the Rainhill Trials, under test Rocket beat its competitors with its top speed of 29 mph and better reliability, thereby confirming its designer, Robert Stephenson, as one of the premier mechanical engineers of his age.

“The furnace at A is a square box, about 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep.  This furnace has an external casing, between which and the fireplace there is a space of 3 inches filled with water, and communicating by a lateral pipe with the boiler.  The heated air, &c. from the furnace passes through twenty-five copper tubes, 3 inches in diameter, arranged longitudinally on the lower half of the boiler, and then enters the chimney C. D represents one of the two steam cylinders, which are placed in an inclined position on each side of the boiler, and then enters the chimney CD represents one of the two steam cylinders which are placed in an inclined position on each side of the boiler, and communicating by their piston rods, through the media of connecting rods E, motion to the running wheels.  P G are safety valves; E is one of two pipes on each side of the boiler, by which the eduction steam from the cylinders is thrown into the chimney, and by the exhaustion thus caused in the latter, producing a rapid draft of air through the furnace.  At M is exhibited part of the tender, which carries the fuel and water for the supply of the engine.”

A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads and Locomotive Engines, Luke Hebert (1837).

The Rocket was built by Robert Stephenson & Co. at the firm’s Newcastle-upon-Tyne works (see Appendix II. for technical details).  Although lack of hard evidence makes it impossible to say who designed the locomotive, it was probably a collaborative effort.  The locomotive brought together a number of engineering features ― some new, some existing ― which, taken together, represented a step change in locomotive design, on the back of which further important developments were soon to follow.

The reasons for the Rocket’s high performance during the Rainhill Trials can be attributed to a separate firebox, multiple fire-tube boiler and blastpipe, which, acting together effectively, resulted in material improvements to the locomotive’s steam-raising ability and thermal efficiency, while moving the connecting rods towards the horizontal improved its suspension:

The principle of the fire-tube locomotive boiler.
Combustion takes place in the firebox, the hot gases then passing through the boiler to the smoke box
along numerous fire-tubes.


The Rocket showing (top right) firebox,
water jacket and fire tubes.

Separate firebox.  In locomotive designs predating Rocket, the furnace was located at one end of the boiler flue.  Early attempts to use a blast pipe to intensify the fire when the locomotive was under load often created such a strong current of air through the fire, that it was torn, causing large amounts of incompletely burnt fuel to be expelled along the flue and up the chimney.  Such was the experience with the Sans Pareil during the Rainhill Trials, which in part accounted for her very heavy fuel consumption.  The introduction of the external firebox in the Rocket, provided a separate combustion chamber of larger volume and grate area that had been possible when the fire was confined within the boiler flue.  The result was more complete combustion, which was further improved following the invention of the firebrick arch (attrib. Griggs ca. 1856) shown in the drawing above [6].  Furthermore, because the firebox was shrouded in a water-jacket (except at its base where the grate bars were located), some 20 square feet of water was exposed to the most intense heat:

The area of surface of water, exposed to the radiant heat of the fire, was 20 square feet, being that surrounding the fire-box or furnace; and the surface exposed to the heated air or flame from the furnace, or what we shall call communicative heat, 117.8 square feet; the area of the grate bars being 6 square feet.  The end view [adjacent drawing], will shew the disposition of the tubes in the end of the boiler, with the fire box surrounding the end.”

A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads, Nicholas Wood (1838).

Cool water entered the firebox jacket from the bottom of the boiler through pipes on either side, while hot water left the top of the jacket through a further pipe to the top of the boiler, thus allowing thermal circulation between the two.

Multiple fire-tube boiler.  Twenty-five 3-inch diameter tubes conveyed the combustion gases from the furnace through the boiler.  This arrangement replaced the single or return flue (or in the case of the Lancashire Witch, parallel flues) of earlier locomotive boiler designs, and greatly increased the heating area to which the water in the boiler was exposed.  Multiple fire-tubes gave the boiler a far greater steam-raising capacity ― thus avoiding a problem suffered by early locomotives, which often ran out of steam and had to halt until boiler pressure was restored ― and by utilising more of the heat to produce steam, rather than wasting it up the chimney, less fuel was used per cubic foot of water evaporated:

“In the Rocket the surface exposed to the radiant heat of the fire compared with the area of the fire grate is as 3⅓:1, while in the Sans Pareil [return-flue boiler] it is only 1½:1, the same proportion as in the old engines.  In the Rocket, the surface exposed to the heated air and flame, compared with the area of the fire-grate, is as 19⅔:1; while in the Sans Pareil, the proportion is only 7½:1.

The bulk of air passing through the tube of the Sans Pareil, at its exit into the chimney, is 176.7 square inches, the exposed surface being 47.12, or 3.8:1 nearly; while, as before stated, the bulk of air passing through the tubes of the Rocket is 176.7 inches, or precisely that of the Sans Pareil, while the surface exposed is 235.6 inches or 1⅓:1.  These will sufficiently account for the great difference in the evaporating powers of the two engines, and also in the economy of fuel; the Rocket requiring only 11.7 lbs to convert a cubic foot of water into steam, while the Sans Pareil required 28.8 lbs.”

A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads, Nicholas Wood (1838).

The multiple fire-tube boiler became a standard feature in locomotive boiler design, but who can claim credit for its invention is uncertain.  Although Henry Booth is credited with suggesting its use to George Stephenson, the French Engineer Marc Seguin (1786-1875) patented the idea in 1827 and in 1829 built a locomotive that utilised it.  The English inventor James Neville is another claimant, while in the U.S.A. John C. Stevens patented a water-tube boiler in 1803.

Blastpipe.  In early locomotives back to the time of Trevithick, it had been observed that by turning the exhaust steam from the locomotive’s cylinders up the chimney, a partial vacuum was created in the base of the chimney that air rushed in to fill through the furnace grate and the boiler flue.  This inrush of air fed more oxygen to the fire, thereby intensifying it, a beneficial effect and one that increased in proportion to the load on the locomotive.  However, it was not until the introduction of the separate firebox in combination with the multitubular boiler that the blastpipe became really effective, and a standard feature in locomotive design.

Inclined cylinders. Moving the Rocket’s cylinders from the vertical position adopted on most old locomotives ― Trevithick’s early road and rail locomotives being notable exceptions ― to 35º to the horizontal, allowed spring suspension to be installed, which improved the distribution of the locomotive’s weight on the track.  Shortly after Rainhill locomotives appeared with their cylinders installed near to the horizontal, which together with spring suspension became standard practice.



The Northumbrian, Robert Stephenson & Co. 1830.

Following the Rainhill Trials, almost a year elapsed until the official opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway took place on the 15th September, 1830.  In the intervening period, Robert Stephenson & Co. built seven locomotives for the Railway on similar lines to the Rocket, one being the Northumbrian pictured above.  These locomotives [7] differed from the Rocket in several ways.  They were at least 3 tons heavier, but the most significant change was to the water jacket/firebox, which was integrated with the boiler.  With the addition of a separate smoke box, these became standard design features in locomotive boilers for the remainder of the steam traction era.  Other features built in to this ‘improved Rocket class’ were changes to the firetubes (reduced in size from 3 inches in the Rocket to 2 inches and increased in number from 25 to 90) and a reduction in the angle of the cylinders to near the horizontal.  Apparently in the Rocket . . . .

“The steep inclination of the outside cylinders caused the pistons to lift and depress the engine upon the springs at every double stroke, and at moderately high speeds the unsteadiness thus occasioned was very considerable.  Timothy Hackworth appears to have been the first to decide upon the arrangement so widely adopted afterwards, for securing steadiness at high speeds ― to wit, horizontal inside cylinders and a cranked driving axle.”

Locomotive Engineering, and the Mechanism of Railways: Vol. 1, Zerah Colburn, Daniel Kinnear Clark (1871).

Purpose-built tenders also made their first appearance, and both locomotive and tender acquired buffers ― leather stuffed with horse hair.

The Planet represented the next locomotive type to emerge from the works of Robert Stephenson & Co.  Not only did it give its name to the 2-2-0 wheel arrangement, but it became the first design to be built in quantity and to acquire something approaching the outward appearance of the steam locomotive in its maturity.  Although the Planet represented a further step change in locomotive design, in common with the Rocket before it most of its refinements were a bringing together of existing ideas enhanced with suggestions made by others.

Planet-class locomotive, Robert Stephenson & Co., 1830.

“The improvements which had been made in the ‘Planet’ were very conspicuous.  They were, in fact, the combination in one engine of what had previously been known; viz. the blast pipe, the tubular boiler, the horizontal cylinders inside the smoke-box, and the cranked axle, together with a fire-box firmly fixed to the boiler.  The ‘Rocket’s’ fire-box was only screwed against the boiler, allowing a great leakage of air which had not passed through the fire.”

A Practical Treatise on Railways, Peter LeCount (1839).


Since the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line, experience has suggested a great variety of improvements, which have considerably increased the power and speed of the engines;― of these the following are the principal.  The inclosure of the boiler within wood, to prevent the radiation of heat;― the removal of the cylinders from the exterior of the boiler to within a casing or chamber which was kept warm by its proximity to the boiler, and by a current of heated air from the boiler tubes;― the alteration in the situation and motion of the piston rods from the exterior of the wheel to beneath the boiler, and their connexion with two cranks placed at right angles on the axles of the great wheels;― and the production of a powerful draught, by forcing the steam which has worked the pistons through an orifice up the chimney.  By all these improvements the three following important results are obtained. 1st.― The unlimited power of draught in the furnace by projecting the waste steam into the chimney;― 2nd. the unlimited abstraction of heat from the air passing through the furnace;― and 3rd, keeping the cylinders warm, by immersing them in the chamber under the chimney.

Osbornes Guide to the Grand Junction, or Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester Railway, E. C. Osborne (1840).

Rocket-type locomotives had an 0-2-2 wheel arrangement; the smoke box was positioned above the driving wheels, while the heavier firebox sat over the trailing wheels.  In the Planets, the position of the axles was reversed to give a 2-2-0 wheel arrangement. [8]  This resulted in more weight being placed over the driving wheels, which in turn gave more adhesion than in the Rocket-class.  The cylinders, which were almost horizontal, were placed inside the frames where they drove a cranked axle, a layout that was to be followed in many other designs throughout the steam era.  However, the cranked axles of the day were prone to failure due to difficulties in their manufacture; were a fracture to occur, a locomotive could collapse on its broken axle.  Stephenson took this risk into account by providing the Planets with double frames; not only was the engine built around a solid wooden frame reinforced with iron plate ― visible in the drawing above holding the external bearings ― but a sub-frame was provided, the driving wheels being mounted on two sets of bearings between the two.  Thus, were the cranked axle to fail, the driving wheels would remain held in place.
The Planets also incorporated Richard Trevithick’s final contribution to the development of the steam locomotive, his suggestion that heat loss would be reduced by placing the cylinders within the smokebox:

“The first eight engines made by Mr. [Robert] Stephenson on the Liverpool and Manchester railway, viz. the ‘Rocket’, ‘Meteor’, ‘Comet’, ‘Arrow’, ‘Dart’, ‘Phoenix’, ‘North Star’, and ‘Northumbrian’, had the cylinders outside the boiler, and worked by a crank pin on the wheel.  Mr. Bury’s engine the ‘Liverpool’, was then constructed for that railway, and about four months after it had been placed upon the line, Mr. Stephenson adopted the crank axle, [9] and placed the cylinders horizontally, with the improvement of putting them inside the smoke-box.  This was done first to his engine, the ‘Planet’, and it was suggested by a conversation which Mr. Stephenson had with Trevithick, when they were on their passage from South America.  Trevithick stated there was 40 per cent increase in the duty of Watt’s engines (worked expansively) in Cornwall from putting a jacket on the cylinders.”

A Practical Treatise on Railways, Peter Lecount (1839).

Finally, the Planets acquired a feature that was to become standard practice in locomotive boiler design, the ‘steam dome’.   Its purpose was to provide sufficient space to keep the opening of the main steam pipe well above the water level in the boiler, thereby preventing water from being carried over into the cylinders and cause a condition known as ‘priming’.  Were this occurs, priming can damage cylinder lubrication and (because water does not compress) result in split cylinders.

The ‘Planet’, by Messrs. Stephenson, undoubtedly presented the first combination of the horizontal cylinders and cranked axle with the multitubular boiler; and the cylinders were furthermore encased in the smoke box, and thus warmed by the waste heat escaping from the tubes ― an arrangement suggested to the late Mr. Robert Stephenson by Richard Trevithick.  The constructors of the ‘Planet’, from their established position and long practice in engine making, were enabled to turn to good account the plans and suggestions of Messrs. Hackworth and Kennedy, who had formerly occupied responsible positions in the Newcastle factory, and who still maintained a friendly if not intimate intercourse with their old employers.  It must be admitted, to the credit of both the gentlemen just named, as well as to Messrs. Stephenson, that the ‘Planet’ was the prototype of the modern English locomotive and that for many years it was the model from which both British and American locomotive engineers copied, not only freely, but minutely.  The ‘Planet’ was tried for the first time on December 4, 1830, and drew a train of goods and passengers, weighing 76 tons, exclusive of carriages and wagons, from Liverpool to Manchester in 2 hours 39 minutes, the highest speed on a level being 15½ miles an hour.  The engine, with coke and water, weighed 9 tons, the tender weighing 4 tons.  The cylinders were 11 inches in diameter; the stroke of pistons was 16 inches; the driving wheels were 5 feet in diameter, and the leading wheels 3 feet.  The boiler was 3 feet in diameter, and 6½ feet long, the fire box presenting 37¼ square feet, and the tubes 370 square feet of heating surface.  The tubes were 129 in number, and 1⅝ inches in diameter.

In the ‘Planet,’ then, the Locomotive Engine had assumed a definite and permanent form compatible with a fair degree of speed and tolerable economy in working.  This single engine embodied the results of numberless efforts at locomotive improvement, ― for Trevithick’s machine of 1804, crude as it was, was nevertheless a locomotive engine, needing only improvement, and in the direction indicated with tolerable distinctness by the inventor himself.”

Locomotive Engineering, and the Mechanism of Railways: Vol. 1, Colburn and Clark (1871).

Although a fine design, the Planet type was soon to be superseded by the Patentee, the first ever 2-2-2 locomotive design [10] that in its essentials became the epitome of the express passenger locomotive for many years.

The Planets suffered three particular problems that the Patentee was designed to solve.  At speed, the Planet’s short wheelbase gave a very uneven ride added to which the greater weight placed over the driving wheels, while providing better adhesion, resulted in a axle load [11] that was as much as the lightly built permanent way of the age could withstand.  But increasingly heavy trains required greater motive power; thus, the choice was to continue building small 4-wheel engines and double (or triple) heading heavy trains ― a practice later followed on the London and Birmingham Railway ― or build more powerful locomotives and spread the increased weight over a third axle.  [12]  Adding a third axle to the Planet type not only solved the problems of stability and axle weight, but provided space for a larger boiler and more power.

Robert Stephenson’s patent 2-2-2 locomotive.

Locomotive engines, constructed according to the description of the foregoing, Mr. Stephenson says, have the effect of preventing the boilers being burnt out so soon as usual, by allowing them to be made of greater magnitude and strength; the additional wheels supporting the extra weight.  The bearing springs are used for the extra small wheels, the same as is now done for other wheels in ordinary engines; the six springs used causing all the six wheels to apply and bear fairly on the rails, and ease all jolts and concussions; the relative weights, or portions of the whole weight of the engine, which is to be borne by each of the six wheels, being regulated by the strength and setting of their respective bearing springs.  The main wheels, which are impelled by the power of the engine, are in all cases, left loaded with as much of the weight of the engine as will cause sufficient adhesion of those wheels to the rails, to avoid slipping thereon.  The larger the entire capacity of a boiler is, the more metallic heating surface it will contain; and consequently, render unnecessary that extreme heat which is so prejudicial to the metal.  And that diminution of the intensity of the combustion the patentee considers to be advantageous in another point of view; because the jet of waste steam (which is thrown into the chimney to produce a rapid draught therein for exciting the combustion of the fuel) may be greatly diminished in its velocity, which will permit the waste steam to escape from the working cylinders with greater freedom than could be permitted with smaller boilers, wherein a greater heat and a more rapid generation of steam are indispensable to furnish the requisite power.”

A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads and Locomotive Engines, Luke Hebert (1837).

However, the addition of a third axle inevitably lengthened the locomotive’s rigid wheelbase, which in turn increased the stress on its (central) cranked axle when negotiating tight curves, such as in sidings; and as mentioned earlier, the cranked axles of the age had at any rate a tendency to facture.  Stephenson’s solution was to remove the flanges from the driving wheels.  This gave them the ability to move laterally on sharp curves, thereby relieving the stress on the cranked axle, while the flanged wheels on the front and rear axles kept the locomotive on the track: [13]

“So considerable is the movement of the driving wheels in such cases towards the inside of the curve, that the flange of the inner wheel is often forced violently against the rail.  To this strain the frequent breaking of crank axles was formerly attributed; and the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, in his six wheel engine patent, based his claim upon the making of the driving wheels with plain tyres, or tyres without flanges.”

Locomotive Engineering, and the Mechanism of Railways: Colburn and Clark (1871).

A further innovation that Stephenson introduced was the steam-powered brake.  This was not a train braking system, but applied only to the locomotive’s driving and trailing wheels (see side elevation above ― the steam brake cylinder is at letter ‘a’).  But the steam brake did not catch on and it was to be some decades before steam braking was adopted.

The flangeless wheel and steam brake, together with other improvements, became the subjects of a patent granted to Stephenson in October 1833 ― hence the name given to the class locomotive, Patentee:

A.D. 1833, October 7. ― No. 6484.

STEPHENSON, ROBERT. ― Improvement, applying to that kind of locomotive carriage used on the Manchester and Liverpool Railway (the first of which was called the Planet), having the two main wheels fixed on a double-cranked axle turned by the engine, to advance the carriage along the edge rail. Makes the tyres of these main wheels without any projecting flanges, and runs them plain upon the edge rails, and places beneath the hinder end of the engine two small wheels with flanges on their tires, to keep them straight on the rails.

2. A “brake or clog,” which is caused to press on the tires, by means of a piston working in a small cylinder, supplied with steam from the boiler.

3. Describes a locomotive engine carriage in present use (1833), with the improvements added.

Patents for inventions. Abridgments of specifications: Patent Office (1871).

The Patentee was completed at the workshops of Robert Stephenson & Co. on 25th September 1833 and then delivered to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. [14]  Other locomotives of the Patentee type were constructed with 0-6-0 and 0-4-2 wheel arrangements:

The following cut exhibits another form of Mr. Stephenson’s locomotive engine, such as is now in use, but with the foregoing improvement added thereto.  The foremost wheels, at the chimney end of the boiler, are, in this, however, impelled by means of outside cranks and connecting rods, as well as the two middle wheels K, [above] which are on the cranked axle; in other respects, the improvement is the same as in the other engine.  The brakes, or clogs, are, of course, applicable to this or any other engine, but they are left out in this instance as being unnecessary to our illustration.”

Locomotive Engineering, and the Mechanism of Railways: Colburn and Clark (1871).

A Patentee in 0-4-2 form.



The Harvey Combe on construction work near Berkhamsted, June 1837, by John Cooke Bourne.

The diminutive locomotive pictured above is a Stephenson Patentee, the Harvey Combe.  One might wonder why an express passenger locomotive ― “the best of its day”, to use one commentator’s description [15]  ― was relegated to the task of hauling a train of earth wagons on a construction site.  However, before looking into the background of the Harvey Combe, it is first next necessary to turn to Edward Bury, whose star shone brightly in the railway firmament for some twenty years and who, together with his works foreman, James Kennedy, had an important influence on locomotive development.

Edward Bury F.R.S., M.I.C.E. (1794-1858)

Bury was a talented man with a mechanical aptitude. [16]  In 1826 he set up the Clarence Foundry, an engineering and iron foundry business in Liverpool, where for a number of years railway locomotives were manufactured successfully for both domestic and overseas markets:

“The first locomotive ever used in the United Stales is still in good running order on the Little Schuykill railroad.  It was built in Liverpool, England, by Edward Bury.  At that time it was necessary to send a man from England to put the engine in running order on the road.  It was but twenty years ago that Edward Bury’s engine was placed upon this road.  Since then, the iron track has extended throughout our land; the fierce breathing of the iron horse is heard in almost every valley; the ingenuity of our own Mechanics enables them to supply our own engines; and even furnish them to nations across the ocean.”

Railway Locomotives and Cars, Volume 24 (1851).

Bury’s foreman, James Kennedy, [17] had previously held the position of Manager at the Newcastle factory of Robert Stephenson & Co.   The extent to which Bury and Kennedy collaborated on their locomotive designs remains a matter of conjecture, but the prevailing view is that Kennedy was the principal designer:

The first engine made by Mr. Bury was the ‘Dreadnought,’ which was started on the Liverpool and Manchester railway March 12, 1830.  She had six wheels and was much objected to on that account.  The next was the ‘Liverpool’; this was the original engine made by him with horizontal cylinders and cranked axles.  She was placed on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway on July 22, 1830, and had an 18 inch stroke, two pair of six-feet coupled wheels, and 12inch cylinders.”

A Practical Treatise on Railways, Peter Lecount (1839).

The history of Burys first two locomotives, the Dreadnought and the  Liverpool, is confused, both with regard to their construction and later life.  The Dreadnought was intended to compete in the Rainhill Trials but was not ready in time.  No image of the locomotive is known to exist, but in the biographic sketch she wrote of her husband, Priscilla Bury describes it thus:

“Mr. Bury’s first locomotive was the ‘Dreadnought’, commenced in 1828.  She had the old type of boiler [return flue?] and six wheels, with cylinders ten inches diameter, two feet stroke, and two valves ― one the ordinary, the other the expansion valve ― to allow the steam to be worked expansively.”

Recollection of Edward Bury, by his Widow (published privately, Windermere, 1860).

The expansion valve that Priscilla refers to must have made the Dreadnought one of the earliest ― if not the earliest ― locomotive to have an adjustable cut-off.  Subsequently, the Dreadnought worked as a ballast engine on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which was then under construction, but it was not retained by the Company on account of its excessive weight and, some authors suggest, its rolling motion.  The engine was then sold to the Bolton and Leigh Railway.  That is one account of the Dreadnoughts later life, but there is another ― see fn 18.

A cranked axle.

According to Edward Woods, [19] onetime Locomotive Superintendent of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, Burys second engine, the Liverpool, was equipped with a modified form of return-flue boiler (which accords with Priscillas description of it) that would have left the fireman and driver facing each other from opposite ends of the boiler.  Following a serious derailment while at work on the Bolton and Leigh Railway, the locomotive was rebuilt by Bury with a new multi-tube boiler, and presumably then appeared as shown below.  In this form it had several similarities to Stephensons Planet.  Both locomotives had multi-tube boilers and (nearly) horizontal cylinders placed between the frames driving a cranked rear axle.  Stephenson was adamant in later years that in arriving at this arrangement in the Planet he was not influenced by the Liverpool’s design; [20] the appearance of these significant design changes in both locomotives contemporaneously must therefore have been coincidence.

The Liverpool, by Edward Bury & Co., 1830.

The first permanent type of modern locomotive was that of Mr. Edward Bury of Liverpool.  Mr. Kennedy, by whom this locomotive was designed and constructed, had several years before been the manager of Mr. Stephenson’s works at Newcastle, and had subsequently joined Mr. Bury, by whom the manufacture of locomotives was then begun.  The locomotive ‘Liverpool’ embodying his improvements, was put to work on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway on the 22nd of July 1830 . . . . The cylinders are placed in a horizontal position, and the connecting rods operate upon cranked axles.  The framing is that known as inside framing, and the general arrangements are such as Messrs. Bury, Curtis, and Kennedy subsequently persisted in with so much success.”

A treatise on the steam-engine in its various applications; Artizan Club (1868).

Other than their similarities, there were some significant difference between the Liverpool and the Planet.

The Liverpool’s 0-4-0 wheel arrangement (compared to the Planet’s 2-2-0) was a superficial difference, but its 6 feet diameter wheels (compared to the Planet’s 5 feet) were not; this caused George Stephenson, for no clear reason, to advise the Company not to buy the locomotive.  It is possible that he believed that on the poor quality track of the time, derailment was more likely with large diameter wheels, but he might equally have wished to steal a lead over a competitor.

Bury’s locomotive was equipped with what became known as a Haycock or Gothic Arch boiler of his devising.  It had a prominent upright firebox, the outer shell of which comprised a vertical cylinder capped with a dome, which dispensed with the need for a separate steam dome.  Seen in plan, the inner firebox was D-shaped; although short, it was deep, giving plenty of space for the fuel to burn through before the hot combustion gases entered the firetubes.

Above and below: a locomotive fitted with a Haycock or Gothic Arch boiler.
Lion was built in 1838 by Todd, Kitson and Laird of Leeds for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

But the most notable difference between the two types of locomotive lay in their frames (comparable in function to a road vehicle’s chassis).  The Planet was built on an outside ‘plate frame’;  in essence, this was a box structure built out of vertical planks and/or metal plates (see photograph), and frames of this type later became common in locomotives of European manufacture.  By comparison, the Liverpool was built on a frame comprising iron bars.  Perhaps as a result of the popularity of the locomotives that Bury exported to North America, the ‘bar frame’ later became standard for locomotives manufactured there.

4-wheeled locomotives that had twin inside cylinders, a haycock boiler and bar frames became known as ‘Bury types’.

Plan of the Planet’s frame ― cranked rear axle on the left, inside (horizontal) cylinders on the right.
The cranked axle is supported by 6 bearings, 2 on the main frame and 4 on the sub-frames.

Top, plate frame for a 4-2-6 locomotive; bottom, bar frame for a 2-6-0.

The Rainhill Trials having demonstrated the feasibility of working the line with locomotives, the Company bought a number of the Rocket and (later) Planet types from Robert Stephenson and Co.; indeed, during the first three years of the Railway’s operation the firm supplied almost all its locomotive stock. [21]  George Stephenson, who by then was generally regarded as a guru on railway matters, considered it his prerogative as Chief Engineer to specify the line’s motive power requirement.  Thus, it is hardly surprising that manufacturers competing with the family firm would find difficulty meeting the Railway’s requirement in circumstances where their product differed substantially ― as, for instance, did Edward Bury’s bar frame and haycock boiler construction ― from that specified by Stephenson, which could, of course, be met easily by Robert Stephenson and Co.  And although Stephenson’s specification might be met by other manufacturers, royalty payments would become due on aspects of the design for which Robert Stephenson & Co. held the patent.  It is therefore unsurprising that some board members came to believe that having their Chief Engineer specify how the Railway’s motive power requirement was to be met smacked of nepotism, if not monopoly.

A entirely new development then arose of a type that has resounding echoes in our own age.  Charles Tayleur & Co., an engineering firm [22] based near the Railway at Newton-le-Willows and in which the Stephensons had a financial interest, proposed what today would be described as a service management contract.  Under its terms, Tayleur & Co. offered to supply, operate and maintain the Railway’s motive power needs for an agreed sum.  Although the proposal was declined, this type of contract was to appear on the London and Birmingham Railway, and with interesting consequences.

After much debate [23] and wavering strategy, the Liverpool and Manchester directors decided that their motive power requirements would best be met by open tender.  In 1834, Robert Stephenson & Co. delivered the Patentee, the first ever 2-2-2, which turned out to be the last order that the Liverpool and Manchester Railway placed with the firm.  Charles Tayleur & Co. continued to supply the Railway with locomotives until 1837, but by then the Stephensons had been obliged to severe their connections with Tayleur due to a conflict of interest issues arising with other projects in which they were involved, one such being the London and Birmingham Railway.

While the motive power debate progressed at Liverpool, similar concerns were fermenting in the boardrooms of the London and Birmingham Railway, some of whose directors had interests in both companies.   By now construction of the London and Birmingham line had begun, and the Board’s thoughts were turning to the question of how motive power was to be sourced.  Robert Stephenson drew up a specification for its locomotives that conformed with his 2-2-2 Patentee design, which meant either the Stephensons benefitting directly if they built the engines, or indirectly (through royalties on the patents) if they were sourced elsewhere.

Birmingham Gazette, 9th November 1835.

Towards the end of 1835, the London and Birmingham Railway advertised for tenders to provide motive power, either by selling the Company the locomotives or by providing the motive power on a service management basis.  Charles Tayleur & Co. submitted a service management proposal from which, had it been accepted, the Company’s Chief Engineer (Robert Stephenson) would have benefitted one way or the other.  However, Tayleur’s proposal was rejected, possibly for that reason.  Edward Bury also submitted a tender by which the Company would buy locomotives built to his specification, which he would then operate and maintain for an agreed rate.

While Bury’s  proposal was being considered, Robert Stephenson attempted to influence the Company’s locomotive policy by having W. & L. Cubitt, the building contractor for the Berkhamsted section of the line, accept a Patentee as a works engine.  The locomotive, originally destined for Belgium, was shipped to London, then up the Grand Junction Canal to Bourne End where it was assembled and later depicted at work in Cooke Bourne’s famous drawing.  But Stephenson’s tactic was to no avail and Bury’s tender was duly accepted:

“The Directors have entered into a contract, under the guarantee of two responsible sureties, with Mr. Edward Bury, of Liverpool, an able and experienced builder of locomotive engines, for the conveyance of passengers and goods, on the railway, by locomotive power, to whatever extent may be required, at a fixed rate of remuneration; the Company providing engines of Mr. Bury’s specification, and Mr. Bury on his part maintaining and keeping them in repair; the contract to be in force for three years from the opening of the railway.  The Directors have also contracted for such locomotive engines as will be first wanted, and for a portion of the carriages.”

The Railway Magazine, Vol. 1 (1836).

The contract terms were ¼d per mile per passenger, at a speed not to exceed 22½ mph, and ½d per ton per mile for the conveyance of goods. [24]  The contract was to remain in force for three years following the opening of the Railway, but an interim arrangement must have been agreed to cover the period during which the line was being opened in stages.  However, the arrangement proved unworkable.  In July 1839, the contract was annulled and Bury was appointed Superintendant of the Locomotive Department, for which he received a salary.  He chose Wolverton in Buckinghamshire, midpoint on the 112½ mile-long line, as the location of his headquarters and locomotive workshops, which opened in 1838 and eventually grew into Wolverton Works.

Because Bury was unable to meet the Company’s delivery deadline, the first tranche of locomotives were built by a consortium of suppliers working to a common specification (Appendix III.): indeed, Bury can be said to have been the first “Chief Mechanical Engineer” ― a later designation, but one applicable nevertheless ― to insist on standardization:

“It is to be noted, that although the London and Birmingham engines are made by different persons, they are constructed exactly alike, in all their parts, and to an exact size every where, being entirely made from working drawings given out by Mr. Bury of Liverpool, who contracts to work the line.  This will, eventually, conduce to great economy, as every individual part of an old and disabled engine, which is worth preserving, can be used in the formation of a new one.”

The History of the Railway Connecting London and Birmingham, Lieut. Peter Lecount R.N. (1839).

Above, a Bury 2-2-0 passenger locomotive of the London & Birmingham Railway.  Note the upright cylindrical domed firebox.
Below, a Bury 0-4-0 freight locomotive, built in 1846 by Bury, Curtis & Kennedy of Liverpool for the Furness Railway.

All Bury’s locomotives for the London and Birmingham Railway (both passenger and goods) were 4-wheeled (see also Appendix IV.), the advantages of which Bury set out thus:

“The four-wheeled engine is less costly than that on six wheels; it can be got into less space; is much lighter, and therefore, requires less power to take it up the inclines, and consequently leaves more available power to take up the train; is safer, as it adapts itself better to the rails, not being so likely to run off the lines at curves or crossings; is more economical in the working, there being fewer parts in motion, and less friction; those parts of the machinery which are common to both plans are more easily got at in the four wheeled engine the buildings and turntables are not required to be on so large a scale as there are fewer parts in the four-wheeled engine; fewer tools, as lathes, drills, &c., are required; having fewer parts to be deranged, stoppages are not so likely to take place on the journey.”

A Rudimentary Treatise on the Locomotive Engine in all its Phases: George Drysdale Dempsey (1856).

While Bury might, at first, have had a point on safety ― for he mentions derailments on curves and crossings ― as the standard of track improved, so those particular risks diminished.  In other respects his belief that locomotive size had reached the point at which the law of diminishing returns set in ― that larger engines delivered less value in relation to their overall cost ― was flawed:

“The locomotives on the London and Birmingham were small and light compared with those now in use.  A few used in the goods department were coupled.  The passenger-trains were run by an engine on four wheels, the driving-wheel being about five feet six in diameter.  They were swift, but hardly strong enough for the work, and many of the trains required two engines to draw them, and a pilot engine was always on the station at Wolverton ready to go in search of belated trains, and assist them.”

Railways in 1840 . . . . from Notes of my Life, H. Stowell Brown (1888).

In his History of the Railway connecting London with Birmingham (1839), Peter Lecount lists the following locomotives as being active on the line in August 1838:

Lecount also refers to a Stephenson locomotive, but without identifying it ― if not the Harvey Combe it was probably of that type, and if so, the data that he provides gives some clue as to its tractive power:

“A very superior engine was also made by Robert Stephenson, for carrying the trains up the inclined plane from the Euston Square station to Camden Town, till the fixed engines were completed; and the performance of the whole has been most satisfactory, as may be judged from the following instances.

The average of fourteen trips, of twenty-three miles, up 1 in 440, with the engine No. 16, was twenty-two miles an hour, with a gross weight, including the tender, of seventy-five tons, ― viz., fourteen carriages and one hundred and forty-eight passengers: the consumption of coke was 148 lbs.

The average of fourteen trips, of three-quarters of a mile, up 1 in 90, from Euston Square to Camden Town, with the large engine built by Robert Stephenson and Co., was fifteen miles and hour, with seventy tons, ― viz., fourteen carriages and one hundred and forty-eight passengers.”

The History of the Railway Connecting London and Birmingham, Lieut. Peter Lecount R.N. (1839).

By 1845, the Railway’s locomotive stock consisted of one six-wheeled (the Harvey Combe?) and 89 four-wheeled locomotives, but by then experience had demonstrated that for high speeds, heavy loads and severe gradients, larger engines were necessary to handle the traffic effectively.  By the time Bury’s superintendence of the motive power department ended, the six-wheeled locomotive had been adopted on the London and Birmingham Railway, as it had long been on most others;

ACCELERATION OF THE MAIL TO LIVERPOOL: We learn that a desire has been expressed by the Post Office authorities that the London and North-Western Company should run a mail train between London and Liverpool (210 miles) in five hours, and we believe there is little doubt that such an acceleration of the mail will soon take place.  On Friday afternoon the London and Birmingham directors, who, we believe, had to attend, at Manchester, a board meeting of the London and North-Western Company ― of which it will be recollected, the London and Birmingham is now a component portion ― tested the capacity of the ordinary passenger engines for such a rapid journey north.  The train (a special one) consisting of six first class carriages left Euston-square at five minutes before five o’clock in the afternoon, and reached Birmingham at 33 minutes past seven o’clock, having been detained at Wolverton 14 minutes beyond the time necessary for the change of engine . . . . It is necessary to state that the journey over the London and Birmingham line was made with the ordinary four-wheel passenger engines, with five feet nine driving wheels.  They are Mr. Bury’s make, and weigh, we believe, between 10 and 11 tons only.  Within the last fortnight two very powerful six-wheel engines, with six feet driving wheels, and made by the same manufacturer, have been put on the London and Birmingham line. They are stated to be equal to twelve carriages, at an average speed of 50 miles an hour over the unfavourable gradients from Euston to Tring.

The Standard, 15th September 1846.


In the design of his 4-wheeld locomotives Edward Bury erred on the side of caution and reliability.  But with that caveat, during his time in office he delivered what was expected of him (see also Appendix V.):

“The Directors considering it of more importance that passengers should be able to rely on a certain and safe conveyance to and from the stations where the trains stop, than that they should in the first instance travel at the highest attainable speed, have made it their chief aim in the regulation of the trains to ensure a uniform precision of movement on the railway.  In this endeavour they have been ably seconded by their contractor for locomotive power, Mr. Bury, and a degree of punctuality in the arrivals and departures has for some time past been attained at all the stations, which, considering the unavoidable imperfections of a road so recently formed, and the many difficulties to be surmounted in every new undertaking, the Directors could scarcely have anticipated, and which they may add has not been accomplished upon any other railway.”

Herapath's Railway Journal, Vol. 4 (1838).

From 1845 Bury began to build larger six-wheeled locomotives with his usual bar frames; one of these, a 2-2-2 passenger locomotive of 1847 was preserved and is on display at Cork railway station.

This sketch is of a scene outside the Luggage Engine House at Camden (‘The Roundhouse’).
The unidentified 6-wheeled freight locomotive in the foreground appears to be a Bury design.

In March, 1847, Bury resigned his post from what by then had become the London and North Western Railway Company; he later became, for a short time, General Manager of the Great Northern Railway after which he retired from railway business.  His entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography concludes thus:

By his engineering capabilities, his mechanical knowledge, his good judgement, and his tact, he won the complete confidence of the directors and of those who were employed under him.





The Morning Post, 9th October 1829.

In the month of April last the Directors of the Liverpool and Manchester rail-roads offered a prize of £500 for the best locomotive engine, and the trial of the carriages which had been constructed in consequence took place at Liverpool on Tuesday.  The running ground was on the Manchester side of the Rainhill-bridge at a place called Kenrick’s Cross, about nine miles from Liverpool.  At this place the rail-road runs on a dead level, and formed a fine spot for trying the comparative speeds of the carriages.  For the accommodation of the ladies a booth was erected on the south side of the rail-road, equidistant from the extremities of the trial ground.  Here a band of music was stationed, and amused the company during the day.  The Directors, each of whom wore a white riband in his button-hole, arrived on the course shortly after ten o’clock in the forenoon, having come from Huyton on cars drawn by Mr. R. Stephenson’s locomotive steam carriage, which moved up the inclined plane from thence with considerable velocity.  Meanwhile Ladies and Gentlemen, in great numbers, arrived from Liverpool and Warrington, St. Helen’s and Manchester, as well as from the surrounding country.  The pedestrians were extremely numerous.  The spectators lined both sides of the road for the distance of a mile and a half.  It is difficult to form an estimate of the number of individuals who had congregated to behold the experiment; but there could not, at a moderate calculation, be less than 10,000.  Some Gentlemen even went so far as to compute then at 15,000.

Never, perhaps, on any previous occasion, were so many scientific gentlemen and practical engineers collected together on one spot as there were on the rail-road.  The interesting and important nature of the experiments to be tried had drawn them from all parts of the kingdom.

Mr. Burstall, of Edinburgh, did not bring his carriage out, in consequence of its having met with an accident on its road from Liverpool to the Course.  The locomotive carriages ran up and down the road during the forenoon, more for amusement than for experiment, and even startling the unscientific by the amazing velocity with which they moved along the rails.  Mr. Robert Stephenson’s carriage attracted the most attention during the early part of the afternoon.  It ran without any weight attached to it, at the rate of twenty-four miles in the hour, emitting very little smoke, but dropping its red-hot cinders as it proceeded.  Cars containing stones were then attached to it, weighing, together with its own weight, upwards of 17 tons, preparatory to the trial of its speed being made.  This trial occupied, with stoppages, 71 minutes, and proved that the carriage can, drawing three times its own weight, run at the rate of more than ten miles in the hour.

Mr. Hackworth, of Darlington, ran his carriage along the course during the day, but no trial of its speed with weights took place.

Mr. Winan’s machine, worked by two men, and carrying six passengers, was also on the ground.  It moved with no great velocity, compared with the locomotive steam carriages, but with considerable speed considering it was put in motion by human power.  Mr. Brandreth, of Liverpool, has his locomotive carriage on the road.  It was worked by two horses, on the principle of the tread-wheel.  Though its velocity was not more than four miles per hour on this occasion, it is a carriage which will be useful for a variety of purposes on the rail-road.

But the speed of all the other locomotive steam-carriages on the course was far exceeded by that of Messrs. Braithwaite and Co.’s beautiful engine from London.  It shot along the line at the amazing rate of thirty miles in the hour.

The contests were to continue for two or three days.


The Standard, 12th October 1829.

The course was far from being so crowded today as it was yesterday.  The company was more select, however, consisting chiefly of gentlemen and men of science.  Persons who visited the ground for purpose of amusement did not experience the same degree of gratification which those experienced who visited it on the preceding day, in consequence of all the machines which exercised yesterday not having exercised today.  Still the experiments, though limited, were highly interesting to scientific men.

Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericson’s engine (the Novelty) proved itself today to be as good (proportionately) at drawing a load as running without one.  It drew in one hour, three times its weight, a distance of 20¾ miles!  The carriages of Messrs. Stephenson, Hackworth, and Brandreth were also on the course this day, and took several trips, but were merely by way of exercise.  One of the horses engaged in working Mr. Brandreth’s carriage fell, we understand, through the floor but was extricated without much injury.  The weather became wet, and the rail-ways clogged with mud, which made it necessary to suspend the prosecution of the experiments before the day had half elapsed.  The attendance of spectators this morning was by no means so numerous as on the preceding day, but there were few of those absent ― the engineers, men of science, etc. ― whose presence was most wanted.  The Earl of Derby paid the rail-way a visit in the course of the morning, and seemed to take great interest in the proceedings.


Mr. Stephenson’s engine, “The Rocket,” weighing 4 tons 3 cwt., performed, today, the work required by the original conditions.  The following is a correct account of the performance:―

The engine, with its complement of water, weighed 4 tons 5 cwt., and the load attached to it was 12 tons 15 cwt., which, with a few persons who rode, made it about 18 tons.  The journey was 1½ miles each way, with an additional length of 220 yards at each end to stop the engine in, making in one journey 3½ miles.  The first experiment was for 35 miles, which is exactly ten journeys, and, including all stoppages at the ends, was performed in 3 hours and 10 minutes, being upwards of 11 miles an hour.  After this a fresh supply of water was taken in, which occupied 16 minutes, when the engine again started, and ran 35 miles in 2 hours and 52 minutes, which is upwards of 12 miles an hour, including all stoppages.  The speed of the engine with its load, when in full motion, was from 14 to 17 miles an hour; and had the whole distance been in one continuous direction, there is no doubt that the result would have been 15 miles an hour.  The consumption of coke was very moderate, not exceeding half a ton in the whole 70 miles.  At several parts of the journey the engine moved at 18 miles an hour.

Mr. Hackworth’s Darlington engine was withdrawn, on account, we believe, of some part of it falling accidentally out of order.  It is nearly of the same size and weight as Mr. Stephenson’s and like that engine requires the addition of an engine tender to carry its water and fuel.  Judging from several short trips which it performed on the rail-road, by way of exercise, we should pronounce it to be a machine of great power.


Today a public notice appeared, from Messrs Braithwaite and Ericson, stating that, in consequence of the alterations made in the conditions of the competition, the definitive trial of the new engine had, with the approbation of the judges, been deferred until Saturday at eleven.  Friday became thus a dies non in the competition; the engines of Mr. Stephenson and Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericson being the only two which, to use the language of the turf, had been placed by the judges.


In the expectation of witnessing the Novelty perform its appointed task, the attendance of company on the ground was more numerous today than it had been on several of the preceding days.  Three times its own weight having been attached to the engine, the machine commenced its task, and performed it at the rate of 16 miles in an hour.  Mr. Stephenson’s engine, the Rocket, also exhibited today.  Its tender was completely detached from it, and the engine alone shot along the road at the almost incredible rate of 32 miles in the hour.  So astonishing was the celerity with which the engine, with its apparatus, darted past the spectators, that it could be compared to nothing but the rapidity with which the swallow darts through the air.  Their astonishment was complete, every one exclaiming involuntarily, “The power of steam is unlimited!”

The experiments will be continued during the present week.


The Morning Post, 20th October 1829.

Liverpool, Oct. 15.― We may consider the trial of Locomotive Engines virtually at an end.  In consequence of the number of petty accidents which occurred to the London Engine, Messrs Braithwaite and Ericson (rather unadvisedly we consider) took their engine to pieces after the performance of Saturday, and they only had the joints of the boiler-pipe closed this morning.  Every engineer knows the effect of a high pressure upon a green joint; but as the Novelty had been entered for this day’s contest, the proprietors determined upon starting.  Accordingly, at one o’clock, the engines set off, and performed about seven miles in a manner highly satisfactory, going at one time at the rate of 24 miles an hour, with its customary load, when the green joint of the boiler pipe gave way ― as might have actually been expected ― and the engine was obliged to stop.  It is much to be regretted that the Novelty had not been built in time to have the same opportunity of exercising that Mr. Stephenson’s engine had, or that there is not in London, or its vicinity, any railway where experiments with it could have been tried.  It will evidently require several weeks to perfect the working of the machine and the proper fitting of the joints; and under this impression, Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericson have acted wisely in withdrawing, as they have done, from the contest.

In the early part of the day Mr. Stephenson’s engine ascended the Rainhill inclined plane several times with heavy loads of passengers, and did this at the rate of twelve miles an hour.  Now, considering that the rate of ascent is one in 96, or upwards of a third of an inch in a yard, we consider the erection of fixed engines on that and the other inclined plane at Sutton as quite out of the question, and that before very long, we may hear of railways by the sides of our turnpike roads.

Mr. Burstall exercised his engine, but we believe we are correct in stating that this gentleman is conscious that his engine is not sufficiently powerful to compete with the other three.  He will, however, continue to try its powers.

The course is thus left clear for Mr. Stephenson; and we congratulate him, with much sincerity, on the probability of his being about to receive the reward of £500.  This is due to him for the perfection to which he brought the old-fashioned locomotive engine; but the grand prize of public opinion is the one which has been gained by Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericson, for their decided improvement in the arrangement, the safety, the simplicity, and the smoothness and steadiness of a locomotive engine; and however imperfect the present work of the machine may be, it is beyond a doubt ― and we believe we speak the opinion of nine-tenths of the engineers and scientific men now in Liverpool ― that it is the principle and arrangement of this London engine that will be followed in the construction of all future locomotives.  The powerful introduction of a blast bellows, the position of the water-tank below the furnaces of the carriage, by which means the centre of gravity is brought below the line of central motion, the beautiful mechanism of the connecting movement of the wheels, the absolute absence of all smoke, noise, vibration, or unpleasant feeling, of any kind, the elegance of the machinery ― in short, the tout ensemble ― proclaim the perfection of the principle; and we deeply regret that the want of sufficient time to practice the mere mechanical motion of the engine has caused Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericson to withdraw ― their motive for which we hope will be duly appreciated by the public and by the Railway Directors, inasmuch as we believe it has been only to devote their whole time and talent to the perfection of their machine.

In awarding the principal prize, we cannot doubt both the inclination and the intention of the Directors to purchase the engines which have been exhibited, and to reward with minor prizes, the unsuccessful but ingenious competitors.


The Standard, 29th October 1829.

On Tuesday last, the judges appointed to report on the performances of the locomotive carriages at Rainhill, gave in their report to the directors, and in consequence of the opinion expressed by them, the prize of £500 was adjudged by the directors to Mr. Robert Stephenson of Newcastle.  It has not yet been decided whether the report of the judges shall be published or not.  We understand, however, that it expresses no opinion as to the principle of Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericson’s carriage, but merely gives a statement of the respective performances of the different carriages.



Hand books of the Science Museum:

Pub. H.M.S.O. 1931.

This celebrated engine was constructed by Messrs. R. Stephenson & Co. in 1829, to compete for the £500 prize offered by the directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway to the makers of the most successful locomotive competing at a trial to be held at Rainhill in October of that year.

The “Rocket” left Newcastle on September 12th, 1829, going part of the way by canal, and was delivered by wagon at Rainhill on October 2nd; the competition commenced on October 6th and continued for eight days.  At that time the “Rocket" was painted yellow, relieved with black, while the chimney was white.  Her greatest speed was 29 miles an hour; some years afterwards, however, she ran 4 miles in 4½ minutes, or at the rate of 53 miles an hour.  After the trial the “Rocket” was purchased by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Co., and worked on the cutting between Chat Moss and Salford till the opening of the line on September 15th, 1830; during this period, however, the engine was improved by the addition of a smokebox and the chimney was shortened.  At the ceremony of opening the railway, this engine ran over and fatally injured the Right Hon. William Huskisson, then M.P. for Liverpool; this sad accident, however, drew great attention to the possibilities of travelling by steam, as George Stephenson took the injured gentleman to his destination, 11 miles away, at a speed of 36 miles an hour.  The “Rocket” worked on the Liverpool and Manchester line till 1836, when it was removed to the Midgeholme Railway, near Carlisle, where it ceased running in 1844; it was brought to South Kensington in 1862.

The engine as it now exists differs in several respects from its form in 1829; the cylinders were originally arranged at an inclination of 35 deg. with the horizontal, but they were altered in 1831 to their present inclination of 8 deg.; the present trailing wheels are quite modern, but the original wheels, which were also of cast iron, were 30 inches diameter.  The firebox originally had a double copper wrapper plate forming a water-jacketed top and sides, but the front and back were dry plates.  The latter were soon lined with firebrick, and finally, before the cylinders were lowered, the present iron water-jacketed back was fitted.

Rocket, as rebuilt, was similar in appearance to Northumbrian.  The firebox has been stripped down to expose the firetube ends.
Note the absence of brakes.


This model, which is partly in section, represents the famous locomotive “Rocket” as originally built for the Rainhill trials in 1829.

The engine ran on four wheels and had two cylinders, 8 in. diameter by 17 in. stroke, placed at the rear end of the boiler and inclined downwards at 35 deg. with the horizontal; the piston rods drove the front wheels, which were 56.5 in. diameter, thus giving a tractive factor of 19.4.  The trailing wheels were 30 in. diameter and the wheel base 7.17 ft.  The cylinders were mounted on iron plates, which were bolted to the boiler shell and supported by stays; these plates also carried the guide bars, which were of square section, set diagonally, while the crossheads were of brass, in halves, bolted together and embracing the bars.  The steam chests were below the cylinders and the slide valves were driven, through an intermediate shaft and levers, by a pair of eccentrics fixed to a loose sleeve which could be moved endwise along the shaft by a pedal so as to engage with either of two drivers, one set for forward and the other for backward running.  The valve rods had gab ends, so that the valves could be disengaged and worked by hand levers when reversing.  The crankpins had spherical ends, to allow for irregular motion of the engine relative to the driving axle.

The boiler was a cylindrical shell, 40 in. diameter by 6 ft. long, made in two rings, with a circumferential lap joint and longitudinal butt joints; the flat ends were secured by angle rings and tied together by longitudinal stays.

The shell was traversed by twenty-five copper tubes, 3 in. diameter, secured in holes through the end-plates.  The firebox had a double copper wrapper plate forming a water-jacketed top and sides, but the front and back were dry plates.  Copper pipes connected the water and steam spaces of the firebox with those of the barrel.  The total heating surface of the boiler was 138 sq. ft., that of the firebox being 20 sq. ft.; the grate area was 6 sq. ft.  The chimney was nearly 15 ft. high, above the rails, and was swelled out at the base to cover the tube ends; it was supported by stays from the cylinder plates.

Steam from the boiler was admitted to the cylinders by two pipes leading from a regulating cock fixed above the firebox and which received steam from a dome through an internal pipe.  The boiler pressure was limited to 50 lb. per sq. in. by two safety valves, one of which was loaded by a weight and lever, while the other was a lock-up spring loaded valve covered by a small dome.  A mercurial gauge was fitted beside the chimney and was arranged to indicate the steam pressure from 45 to 60 lb.; a water gauge was fitted behind one of the cylinders and two gauge cocks near the front end of the boiler.  The feed water was introduced by a long-stroke feed pump worked from one crosshead, while the exhaust steam was passed into the chimney by two pipes, each fitted with a brass nozzle 1.5 in. diameter.

The framing of the engine was wholly between the wheels, and was built up of 4 in. by 1 in. flat bar iron bent down at the rear end to accommodate the firebox and rear axle; to this the cast-iron axlebox guides were secured, and four brackets to support the boiler.  The weight was transmitted to the axles by plate springs.  The driving wheels were constructed with cast-iron bosses, in which the crankpins were fixed, oaken spokes and felloes, and iron tyres secured by bolts.  The engine weighed 3.25 tons when empty and 4.25 tons in working order.

The tender was a four-wheeled wooden truck carrying the fuel in the body and the water in a large barrel above it.  The axles had outside bearings and plate springs, the wheels were 36 in. diameter, and the wheel base was 4 ft.  It weighed 3.2 tons when loaded, so that the total weight of engine and tender in working order was 7.45 tons.




A Practical Treatise on Railways, Explaining their Construction and Management
(pp 201-206)

Lieut. Peter LeCount R.N., F.R.A.S., C.E. (1839)

The following are the engines in use on the London and Birmingham Railway and which were made by Mr. Bury of Liverpool.  The description here given applies to both the passenger and goods’ engines, except when otherwise stated.

The two cylinders are to have an 18-inch stroke, those of the passenger engines being 12 inches, and the goods engines 13 inches in diameter, with single slide valves, brass spring pistons, and cast iron packing; the cover of each cylinder having one oil cup.  The boilers are made of the best Yorkshire plates, either Bowling or Lowmoor.  The fire-boxes are of the same material, and are welded so as not to have the rivets or lap exposed immediately to the action of the fire.  They are ⅜ths of an inch thick, the back plates half an inch, the outside of the fire-box and the backplate ⅜ths of an inch, and the rest of the boiler 5/16ths of an inch.  Full-sized drawings are furnished to shew how the plates are to be worked; the plate for the tubes at the smoke-box end is half an inch thick, and a lead plug, ⅝ths of an inch in diameter, is riveted in the crown of the fire-box.

The tubes are two inches in diameter inside, and are secured with steel hoops at the fire-box end, and iron hoops at the chimney end.  These hoops are made to a given gauge; and the tubes are of the best rolled brass, No. 14 wire gauge thick; the arrangement as well as the exact size of the tubes being regulated by a template.

The engines have four wheels; those for the passengers are 5½ and 4 feet in diameter, and those for the goods are each pair 5 feet in diameter.  Each wheel has a cast iron centre; and the spokes are of wrought iron, accurately fitted into the nave.  The tire consists of two thicknesses, the inner being ¾ths of an inch when finished, of the best Staffordshire iron, well secured to the end of the spokes by riveting, the ends of the spokes having been previously turned in their exact position.  The outside tire is made of the very best Bowling or Lowmoor iron 1⅝ths inches thick when finished. When the outside of the inner tire has been well riveted to the spokes it is turned; and the inside of the outer tire having been accurately bored, so as to secure a perfect fit, it is then shrunk on, and the outside turned and finished.  The naves are bored out, and the axles turned to fit; they are secured on by two steel keys, one inch square, at right angles with each other.  The goods’ engine wheels are connected on the outside by a rod, with a ball pin at one end, and a parallel pin at the other.  These engines have also a damper to their blast pipe.

The crank axles are made from Backbarrow iron, cut out of solid blocks, and finished according to full-sized drawings.  The straight axles are made of the very best scrap iron.  The framing of the engine is of wrought iron accurately fitted.  There is one pump attached to each cross-head and made of good tough brass, the suction pieces being connected by Macintosh hose pipes, with screw coupling joints next the engine.  The eccentrics are fixed on the crank axles in the mode shewn by drawings.  The steam and exhausting pipes are of copper, No. 12 wire gauge in thickness.  When these engines are made by other persons, templates and full-sized working drawings are given out, from which no deviation whatever is allowed without Mr. Bury’s approbation, so as to secure all parts of the engines matching each other.

A Bury copper-domed firebox dating from 1846.

The top of the fire-box has a copper cover, No. 16 wire gauge thick, secured to the wooden covering on the lower part of the fire-box and body of the boiler, by screws two inches apart.  The wooden covering on the fire-box is finished to ⅝ths inches thick, and is made fast to the boiler by two hoops; and round the fire door it is lined with thin sheet iron under the hoops; the sheets being 6 feet long, and 2 feet 3 inches broad, with a hole cut out for the furnace, and secured at the ends by screw nails 2 inches apart, to prevent the fire from burning the wood casing on the boiler.  The casing on the barrel of the boiler is secured by four hoops, with a strip of brass under the fore-end hoop, about 2½ inches in breadth, to cover the ends of the lining and the rivet heads at the junction of the barrel of the boiler, and the smoke-box.  The boiler is wrapped in at least three thicknesses of flannel all over.

The lagging on the boiler is put together with iron feathers ⅝ by ⅛; by the boiler is covered over the lagging with thin sheet lead, about 3½ feet broad along the top of the barrel.  The smoke-box is No. 7 wire gauge thick, and the chimney is No. 13 wire gauge.  The cover on the lock-up safety valve is of brass, secured to the boiler; there is a brass frame round the door of the smoke-box, and a brass handle to the small door in the middle of the large one.

All the pins of the joints are of steel, and hardened when practicable, but if not, they are steeled and hardened, and the working parts of the engine, which are of iron, are case hardened.  In making the boilers, the sharp edges of the rivet holes are taken off on both sides, and the rivets and rivet heads made to correspond.  The engines are furnished with a wooden guard, and two leather buffers stuffed with cotton flock; and there are a draw-bar, draw-pin, and loop in the centre of the wooden guard, to connect them to the tender.  They have three water gauge cocks, and a glass water gauge, with a lamp stand; also a whistle, and a number plate on each side of the boiler; and they are furnished with a complete set of screw keys.

All the screws in all the engines correspond, for which purpose, either master taps, or sets of stocks and dies, at the option of other makers, are furnished them by Mr. Bury.  They receive two coats of paint, and are finished with two coats of the best varnish.  They are guaranteed for one month, or 1000 miles, during which trial, no other work is allowed but the tightening of cotters, and the very best workmanship and materials that can be produced, are in all cases rigidly insisted on.

The framing of the tenders is of well-seasoned oak, or ash timber, thoroughly secured with iron knees and bolts, having an iron box No. 7 wire gauge thick, underneath to carry the coke, which box is secured to the wooden frame.  The tank contains 700 gallons of water.  The wheels are of cast-iron, turned to receive a tire of either Bowling or Lowmoor iron, bored out to secure a perfect fit, and finished to 1¼ inches thick.  The axles are 3¼ inches in thickness, of the best hammered scrap iron; and the journals are 2¼ inches in diameter, case-hardened, with brass bushes and oil box.

The steadiment for the axles consists of two plates, one outside, and the other inside the framing; both of them being bolted through the framing, and secured together below, by a piece of iron between the plates for steadying the axle bushes.  These are made completely parallel, and the bushes fitted into these so as to move up and down, but in no other direction.  The tenders have buffers, a spring to which the load is attached, and also four springs by which they are supported, one over each oil box.

The tank is No. 10 wire gauge thick, having two brass cocks or valves, and rod handles with bushes for the top of the rods; also two copper pipes, 1¾ inches in diameter, for carrying water from the tender to the engine.  The tender frame and tank have two coats of paint inside and out, and two coats of varnish.  They are fitted up with a brake, and furnished with a complete tool box; a wire sieve in the main hole of the tank to prevent dirt or water from getting into the tank; and two Macintosh hose pipes, one to each suction piece, with the necessary connexion to attach them to the engine.

When water requires to be pumped from the tender into the boiler of the engine, previous to the starting of the train, it is the usual practice to run the engine backwards and forwards for a short distance, in order to work the force pumps.  This increases the wear and tear both of the engine and the road, besides inducing a liability in a crowded station of running foul of something, if great care be not taken.  The following contrivance will obviate the necessity of this inconvenient method of filling the boiler.  A square pit should be sunk in some convenient part of the line, selected with reference to its intended use.  This pit should be large enough to admit a pair of three-feet wheels fixed on an axle similar to the carriage wheels.  There should be no flanges, and a part of the circumference of these wheels should come up through the rails, which must be cut so as to admit them, additional chairs being put in to support the ends of the rails.  This part of the circumference of the wheels thus becomes a part of the railway, the wheels being made to lock at pleasure; but when the engine requires to pump water into the boiler, it must be brought with its driving wheels directly on those in the pit, and these latter being then unlocked, the steam is let gradually on, and the pumps worked as long as is found necessary to fill the boiler, without the engine advancing from the exact spot in which it was first placed, the only effect produced by the driving wheels of the engine, being to turn round the wheels fixed in the pit.  When the boiler is filled, the pit wheels are locked, and the engine proceeds to the performance of her assigned duty.  How much more performance assigned duty advantageous this mode of filling the boiler is, will be readily seen, particularly when it is remembered that if engine-men are not looked well after, they will oil the driving wheels and the rails when in the engine house, and then letting on the steam, fill their boiler by means of the wheels slipping round on the rails.  We have often seen this carried to such an extent, that streams of sparks have been struck out by the attrition.  When no better plan can be obtained, the engine should have one end lifted by screw-jacks, till the driving wheels are off the rails, and the steam may then be let on without any damage being done.




A Practical Treatise on Railways, Explaining their Construction and Management
(pp 377-378)

Lieut. Peter LeCount R.N., F.R.A.S., C.E. (1839)

Among the leading improvers of these machines, is Mr. Edward Bury of Liverpool, who now contracts for the locomotive power on the London and Birmingham Railway.  The distinguishing features of his plan are horizontal cylinders: these were first put outside under the framing, but are now inclosed within the smoke-box, which all his engines have, except two made for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.  Inside bearings, and cranked axles, and horizontal cylinders, however, were before used by Gurney in his common road engines.  Ericson’s engine the Novelty also had the former.  The first engine made by Mr. Bury was the Dreadnought, which was started on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway March 12, 1830.  She had six wheels, and was much objected to on that account.  The next was the Liverpool: this was the original engine made by him with horizontal cylinders and cranked axles.  She was placed on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway on July 22, 1830, and had an 18-inch stroke, two pair of six-feet coupled wheels, and 12-inch cylinders.

The great danger in cranked axles is from their breaking, which, with four-wheeled engines, might occasion considerable damage.  They have been broken repeatedly, but this has not happened fairly to one of Mr. Bury’s manufacture; only two have been broken, and in both cases from bad welding.  One of these, the engine No. 14 on the London and Birmingham Railway, was discovered to have been actually running for some time with a broken axle, without its being found out: this arises from the eccentrics being keyed on to the weakest part of the axle, and thus forming a protection against accidents.  The above axle had only two-thirds of its section soundly welded when sent from the manufactory.

Mr. Bury’s engines are now all made with cranked axles and four wheels, the goods’ engines being coupled, and the passengers not.  We attribute the success of his axles in some measure to the mode of constructing the framing, and to his bearings being inside the wheels, as any shock from obstructions on the road is thus thrown upon the bearings and not on the crank; the framing is made with great breadth, and but little depth, in order to resist lateral shocks; whereas most other makers have great depth, and but little width, which would afford the most powerful resistance to vertical shocks, but, in conjunction with the bearings being outside the wheels, would throw all the lateral ones on the cranks.  Many broken axles, however, have been produced by gross neglect in their manufacture.  We have seen one which had been welded together, and there was not a junction of a tenth of an inch in the iron, all round; the whole central part being perfectly black, with not the smallest sign of welding.  Mr. Bury cuts his out of the solid iron, and only welds the part joining the cranks to set them at right angles.  Some makers twist the axles for this purpose.




The Monthly Chronicle of Events, Discoveries, Improvements.
Vol. 1 (1840).

The locomotive department of the London and Birmingham railway has been conducted, under the care of Mr. Edward Bury, with remarkable skill, economy, and success.  Mr. Bury is an engine builder, and some of his engines are in use in this country [The U.S.A.].  One of them on the Boston and Providence, and another on the Boston and Worcester rail-road, are beautiful and efficient machines.  There are now on the London and Birmingham railway 82 engines of his construction.  According to a report lately published, the number of miles which have been run by these 82 engines, from September 17th, 1838, the date of the general opening of the line, to August 31st, 1840, is 1,635,396; the average number by each engine 19,944; the greatest number by any one engine 41,932 miles.  The number of miles run in the six months from December 15, 1839, to June 14, 1840, was 474,154; the greatest number by any one engine was 15,228.  During this period, of nearly two years, three engines only have broken an axle, two of which were on passenger trains, and one on a merchandise train.

The number of passenger trains now running daily, is 28, or 14 each way.  The number of journeys during the six months was equal to 3,459 through the whole line of 111 miles, by passenger trains, and 813 by goods trains, making 4,272 in all, equal to an average of 23 per day, Sundays included.  The journeys on Sundays are fewer than on other days.  The average time of performing the journeys of 111 miles, excluding the stoppages at the stations, was 4 hours 27 minutes, which is equal to an average of 25 miles an hour.

The number of passengers conveyed, from the opening of the line to the 1st of September last, was 1,239,526; and the aggregate of miles travelled by them amounted to 80,942,952, equal to 65 miles and 3 tenths for each passenger.  No case of death or fractured limb has occurred from an accident to any passenger.  Two passengers were severely injured, one at the inclined plane between the Euston and Camden stations, and one at the Coventry station, but in both instances the parties recovered.  The average gross load of the engine on each passenger journey, carriages included, was 39.98 tons; and of each engine on the goods trains 98.67 tons.





JOHN URPATH RASTRICK F.R.S. (1780-1856): a distinguished civil engineer, whose career bridges the gap between Thomas Telford and Robert Stephenson.  Early in his career he worked at the Bridgenorth Foundry, a business that supplied Richard Trevithick with high pressure steam engines to Trevithick’s design.  He later became managing partner at the works of Foster and Rastrick at Stourbridge, a manufacturer of a wide range of machinery including boilers and steam engines.  By the 1820s, Rastrick had become involved in railway projects, his most famous being the London to Brighton Line.  Other than railways, Rastrick designed a range of machinery and appeared before parliamentary committees as an expert witness on railway schemes.

JAMES WALKER F.R.S. F.R.S.E. (1781-1862): unlike Rastrick, Walker had a general civil engineering practice, being involved with the construction of roads, bridges, canals, harbours, docks and lighthouses.  His major railway project was to survey what the Leeds and Selby Railway, which was opened in 1834.  It was Walker who suggested that a locomotive competition took place to settle the argument over whether a steam locomotive was capable of working the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, with a substantial cash prize going to the winner.  The outcome was the Rainhill Trials, Rastrick and Walker both being judges.


The pair commenced with an inspection of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, arriving at Manchester on 14th January, 1829.  On the following day, they inspected the Bolton and Leigh Railway and an unspecified locomotive; Stephenson, who accompanied them, stated that it incorporated the best principles he had yet constructed, so it may have been the Lancashire Witch.  On 16th January they inspected (and were impressed by) Blenkinsop’s locomotive at Leeds.  The 17th to 20th January was spent on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, where they were able to see various modes of motive power at work.  On the 21st January they visited the Hetton Railway, where they found that Stephenson’s locomotives had been replaced by cable haulage.  The remainder of the trip was spent in discussions and collecting data.


Based on fuel consumption of 2.5 lbs per ton mile for locomotives, Rastrick and Walker calculated that a locomotive travelling 30 mile per day for 312 days per year, with a load of 13 tons, would consume coal to the value of £111.  They stated that 123 engines would be required to work the estimated traffic, giving an annual fuel bill £13,653.  Making an allowance for coal consumed in raising steam each day, the fuel bill for the suggested complement of fixed engines totalled £3,784.


Despite being over the weight limit for a 4-wheel locomotive (Rule 5), Sans Pareil was allowed by the judges to take part in the trials, but not to compete for the prize.  There is no consistent view on whether San Pareil was mounted on springs at the time of the trials, as required by Rule 4, but it is unlikely due to the risk of the up-and-down motion imparted on the locomotive by its (vertical) reciprocating piston rods causing the pistons to collide with the cylinder head.


Although at first glance the Novelty appeared to be equipped with a vertical boiler, its boiler was in fact of composite construction (see main text).  Genuine vertical boilers were used on rail vehicles, such as cranes, shunting locomotives and steam rail cars, Sentinel and Clayton being leading exponents of the latter.  Vertical cylinders were also used in some industrial applications, the American Shay articulated locomotive being an example.


Besides protecting their ends from the intense heat of the furnace, the firebrick arch prevented the combustion gases travelling directly into the firetubes.  The longer path that they were forced to take to reach the firetubes gave more time for the fuel particles they contained to burn through completely.  This improved fuel utilisation.


Following the Rainhill Trials, Robert Stephenson & Co. delivered eight new locomotives, all developments of the Rocket.  The Meteor, Comet, Dart and Arrow were soon after the Trails, to be followed in February 1830 by Phoenix and North StarNorthumbrian and Majestic followed in December, 1830, following the opening of the line.  The batches differed in weight and cylinder size ― the Rocket’s cylinders were 8 by 17 inches stroke compared with the later engines being either 10 or 11 inches by 16 inches stroke.  And at 8 tons, the Northumbrian considerably exceeded Rocket’s 4½.


Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 2-2-0 represents the wheel arrangement of two leading wheels on one axle, two powered driving wheels on one axle, and no trailing wheels.  This configuration, which became very popular during the 1830s, was commonly called the Planet type after the first locomotive, Robert Stephenson’s Planet of 1830.


A suggestion that use of the crank axle in the Planet was copied from Bury’s locomotive, the Liverpool, appears to have irked Stephenson, for at a meeting of the Institution of Civil Engineers held on 11th November 1856, Stephenson (then President) had this to say:

“Mr. R. STEPHENSON, M.P., ― President, ― remarked, that the working drawings of the ‘Planet,’ which was admitted to have been the type of the engines employed on the Liverpool and Manchester line, had been made, and the engine constructed under his direction, without any reference to, or knowledge of the ‘Liverpool.’  These facts could be fully confirmed by those who were confidentially employed upon the engine at the time.  Neither was there any analogy between the two machines, for the ‘Planet’ had a multitubular boiler, the fire being urged by a blast-pipe, and the cylinders, which were as nearly horizontal as their position would permit, were fixed inside, or between the frames, because it was only by such an arrangement that they could be placed within the smoke-box, where it was considered desirable to fix them, in order to prevent the condensation of the steam in the cylinders, and the consequent loss of power.  This had been resolved upon, from information given to Mr. R. Stephenson by the late Mr. Trevithick, who in the course of some experiments, had built a brick flue round the cylinder, and had applied the heat of a fire directly to the metal, with very beneficial results as regarded the economical use of steam.  With the cylinders in the smoke-box, a cranked axle was indispensable, and there was not anything new in its use in locomotives, for the ‘Novelty’ by Braithwaite and Ericsson, had one in 1829. Horizontal cylinders and cranked axles had also been commonly employed long previously, in Trevithick’s, Gurney’s and almost all the other locomotives for turnpike roads.”

Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 16 (1856-7).


Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 2-2-2 represents the wheel arrangement of two leading wheels on one axle, two powered driving wheels on one axle, and two trailing wheels on one axle.  This configuration was first introduced in 1834 on Robert Stephenson’s Patentee locomotive.  The type were also sometimes described as a ‘Single’, although this name could apply to any locomotive with a single pair of driving wheels.

The 2-2-2 Jenny Lind (1847), London Brighton and South Coast Railway.


About 5½ tones ― a ton more than the entire weight of the Rocket.


The London and Birmingham was not the only railway company to adopt a small engine policy and the multiple heading of heavy trains.  More famous (or infamous) was the small engine policy adopted by the Midland Railway, which continued following its merger with the LNWR until the appointment, in 1932, of William Stanier as Chief Mechanical Engineer, after which the policy was abandoned and a range of large locomotives constructed.


This technique continued to be adopted on some long wheelbase locomotives, notable examples in the U.K. being the wartime Austerity and the British Railways 9F 2-10-0 heavy freight designs by R. A. Riddles.


Page 135, Robert Stephenson ― the Eminent Engineer, edited Michael R. Bailey, pub. Ashgate, November 2003.


A Century of Locomotive Building by Robert Stephenson & Co., 1823-1923 by James G. H. Warren (1923).


EDWARD BURY F.R.S., M.I.C.E. was born at Salford near Manchester on 22nd October 1794.  From an early age he was interested in machinery and showed ingenuity in constructing models.  After school he served an engineering apprenticeship and eventually established himself at Liverpool as a manufacturer of engines.  His firm ― Bury, Curtis, and Kennedy ― also developed interests in marine engines and general engineering.  In 1836, Bury won a contract to provide locomotive power to the London and Birmingham Railway.  However, in 1838 the contract was annulled and he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent, a position in which he continued until shortly after the merger that formed the London and North-Western Railway.  In 1848 Bury was appointed Chief Mechanical Engineer to the Great Northern Railway and then, in 1849, General Manager, a post from which he retired in 1850 to return to business.  He died at Scarborough on 25th November 1858, being survived by his wife, Priscilla.

The only other designers of railway locomotives to become Fellows of the Royal Society (that spring to mind) were Robert Stephenson and Sir William Stanier.

Bury’s grand nephew, Oliver Bury (1861-1946), also served as General Manager of the Great Northern Railway, and was a director of the London and North Eastern Railway until shortly before his death.


JAMES KENNEDY (1797-1886) was a Scottish millwright, marine and locomotive engineer.  His first connection with the railway industry was in 1824 while in Liverpool to supervise the installation of a marine engine, when he met George Stephenson.  This led to Kennedy’s appointment as works manager for Robert Stephenson & Co.  In the following year he returned to Liverpool where he eventually became foreman of the Clarence Foundry.  In 1842, Kennedy became a partner in the firm, which was then renamed Bury, Curtis and Kennedy.  He was a founder member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1847, and its President in 1860.


Another account of the fate of the Dreadnought/Liverpool is given by an American author:

Another difficulty is that several locomotive makers each built ‘trial engines’ upon their own system or patent, and obtained the permission of certain companies to try them on their lines; in some cases the railway companies afterwards purchased the engines, in others they did not.  As an instance, Mr. Bury, in 1830, built an engine named ‘Dreadnought;’ it was, by permission, tried on no less than five lines, and then taken back to the works and broken up, but in 1831 most of the parts were used in a new engine named ‘Liverpool’ which by permission of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company ran a trip on that line, and was at once purchased for the Petersburg Railroad of America, where soon after its arrival in May, 1831, it became known as the ‘Spitfire.‘  The Author happens to have the maker’s private number, marked upon the drawings, corresponding with that stamped upon parts of the engine itself, or it would have been impossible to trace its history.”

The Locomotive Engine and its Development, Clement E. Stretton (1903).

The authors assertion appears to be borne out by the US Treasury return of 1838 below:


A History of Railway Locomotives Until 1831, Chapman Frederick Marshall, Oxford University Press 1953.


Professional spats are rather beyond the scope of this paper; nevertheless, the conflicting views of James Kennedy (Bury’s former works foreman and business partner) and of Robert Stephenson (then President of the Institution of Civil Engineers) concerning the Planet’s pedigree are interesting.

The following extracts are from an exchange that took place at a meeting of the Institution of Civil Engineers held on 11th November, 1856, Robert Stephenson in the Chair.  In replying to a paper ― “On the Improvement of Railway Locomotive Stock and the Reduction of the Working Expenses” ― presented to the meeting by DANIEL KINNEAR CLARK, Assoc. Inst. C.E.:

Mr. JAMES KENNEDY, (Liverpool) through the SECRETARY, said . . . .

“The plan of constructing locomotives with cranked axles and horizontal cylinders, was contrived and introduced by Mr. Kennedy, and was first applied in the locomotive ‘Liverpool,’ which was started on the 22nd of July, 1830, by Mr. Edward Bury, then of Liverpool, and was employed in aiding in the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.  The ‘Planet,’ the first engine constructed by Messrs. Stephenson on this plan, was not started until four and a half months afterwards; and a little later Mr. Hackworth set the ‘Globe’ engine to work on the Stockton and Darlington line.  The late Mr. George Stephenson had told both Mr. Bury and Mr. Kennedy after having seen the ‘Liverpool’ engine on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, that his son, the present Mr. Robert Stephenson, had taken a fancy to the plan of the ‘Liverpool’ engine, and intended to make, immediately, a small engine on the same principle.  Further, the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, brother to the late Mr. George Stephenson, had, as soon as he saw the ‘Liverpool,’ declared it was the best type for locomotives, and that all would have to come to it by-and-by.  In fact, in the engineering world, the ‘Liverpool’ was considered a great stride in the right direction.  That engine was as efficient a machine as had ever been made of that weight.”

Robert Stephenson had this to say in response:

“Mr. R. STEPHENSON, M.P., ― President, ― remarked, that the working drawings of the ‘Planet,’ which was admitted to have been the type of the engines employed on the Liverpool and Manchester line, had been made, and the engine constructed under his direction, without any reference to or knowledge of the ‘Liverpool.’  These facts could be fully confirmed by those who were confidentially employed upon the engine at the time.  Neither was there any analogy between the two machines, for the ‘Planet’ had a multitubular boiler, the fire being urged by a blast-pipe, and the cylinders, which were as nearly horizontal as their position would permit, were fixed inside, or between the frames, because it was only by such an arrangement that they could be placed within the smoke-box, where it was considered desirable to fix them, in order to prevent the condensation of the steam in the cylinders, and the consequent loss of power.  This had been resolved upon from information given to Mr. R. Stephenson by the late Mr. Trevithick, who in the course of some experiments, had built a brick flue round the cylinder, and had applied the heat of a fire directly to the metal, with very beneficial results as regarded the economical use of steam.  With the cylinders in the smoke-box, a cranked axle was indispensable, and there was not anything new in its use in locomotives, for the ‘Novelty’ by Braithwaite and Ericsson, had one in 1829.  Horizontal cylinders and cranked axles had also been commonly employed long previously, in Trevithick’s, Gurney’s, and almost all the other locomotives for tumpike roads.  The statements alleged to have been made by the late Mr. George Stephenson, as to the priority of the peculiar arrangement of the ‘Liverpool,’ in this respect, or those asserted to have proceeded from the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, as to its being the best type for locomotives, could not therefore be admitted to be correct.”

Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 16, 1857.

It is interesting to note that Stephenson fails to mention Hackworth’s Globe ― also a crank-axle, inside, double horizontal cylindered locomotive ― which was building in his Company’s Newcastle workshops while the Planet was also under construction.


From 1830 to 1833 (incl.), Robert Stephenson & Co. supplied 25 locomotives, Edward Bury 1 (the Liver) and 5 were supplied by other firms.


Later to attract considerable fame in the railway industry as the Vulcan Foundry.


. . . . some of which was acrimonious and public.  The following extract is from “Inland Transport”, an article published in October 1832 in the influential periodical, The Edinburgh Review.  The credibility of its author, Dr. Dionysius Lardner, is often called into question (and sometimes held up to ridicule) on railway matters.  While monopoly and cartel present commercial dangers of which some, at least, of the Railway’s directors were keenly aware, in his article Lardner overlooked the benefits to be had from standardizing on a proven product at a time when there was great diversity extending to freakishness in the design of railway locomotives, as the Rainhill Trials demonstrated:

“There can be no doubt that this method of exciting competition
[the Rainhill Trials] produced a favourable effect at the time; and most probably the enterprise would not have commenced with the same degree of success without some such expedient.  Nevertheless, it has had also some injurious consequences.  It will be easily understood, that an engine may possess great capability of improvement, and yet fail upon a single trial; or it may fail even from accidental causes, unconnected with any defect either in its principle or in its details.  The complete success of the engine furnished by Mr. Stephenson appears at once to have fascinated the Directors; and whether intentionally or not, the fact is indisputable, that the monopoly of engines has ever since been secured to the manufacturer of this particular form of machine [Robert Stephenson & Co.].  Even when Mr. Stephenson was unable himself to supply engines as fast as the Company required them, and other engine-makers were employed, it was under the most rigorous conditions, to construct the engines upon the same principle and in the same form, or nearly so, as that which Mr. Stephenson had adopted.  Experience, the great parent of all invention and improvement, so far as the railroad afforded it, has thus been exclusively confined to one particular form of engine.  Under the influence of this, a succession of improvements, as might have been expected, have been made by the ingenious inventors of the engine above described.  These improvements consist partly in the relative proportion and strength of the parts, and partly in the arrangement of the cylinders and their action upon the wheels; but all have been suggested by the results of experiments, upon such a scale as was altogether unattainable by any part of the vast stock of national talent excluded from the road by those measures of the Directors, which limited the engines employed to a single form.  The whole enterprise of the country was therefore paralysed, in as far as the powers of this road were concerned; with the exception of one individual, who was fortunate enough to obtain a field of exertion, which it must be admitted he did not fail adequately to improve. ”


 ‘d’ was the symbol used to denote an old penny.