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Steam in Captivity

The first steam powered locomotives

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Richard Trevithick's Locomotive

Richard Trevithick's invention is considered the first tramway locomotive.

However, across the sea in England, there were a few dreamers. Railways of wooden rails, sometimes covered with iron, on which wagons were drawn by horses, were common in Great Britain; some were in use very early in America. And on these railways, or tramways, men were now experimenting with steam-powered vehicles.

First Railroads and Locomotives in England and America

In England, Richard Trevithick, Blenkinsop, John Ericsson, George Stephenson, and others, started building the first locomotives.

In the United States, John Stevens, now an old man but persistent in his plans as ever and with able sons to help him, had erected a circular railway at Hoboken as early as 1826, on which he ran a locomotive at the rate of twelve mph.

Stourbridge Lion Locomotive

In 1828, Horatio Allen, of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, went over to England and brought back with him the Stourbridge Lion locomotive. This locomotive appears to have been the first to be used regularly in the United States. It was a seven days' wonder in New York when it arrived in May, 1829. Then Allen shipped it to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, where the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company had a tramway to bring down coal from the mountains to the terminal of the canal. On the crude wooden rails of this tramway Allen placed the Stourbridge Lion locomotive and ran it successfully at the rate of ten mph.

The Great Train Race

In 1829, an extraordinary locomotive race took place. There were three entries: The Novelty locomotive owned by John Braithwaite and John Ericsson; The Sanspareil locomotive owned by Timothy Hackworth; The Rocket locomotive owned by George and Robert Stephenson. The directors of the London and Manchester Railway had offered a prize of five hundred pounds for the best locomotive.

George Stephenson's Rocket

The Rocket alone met all the requirements and won the prize. George Stephenson became famous and has often been called the father of the locomotive. The Rocket did not have any different or new parts compared to the other entries in the race, it was just put together very well. Like Robert Fulton, George Stephenson appears to have succeeded where others failed because he was a great engineer, who made things run better.

The news of George Stephenson's remarkable success spread back to the United States. And by this time the first crude railroads were beginning to appear in various parts of the United States: the Mohawk and Hudson, from Albany to Schenectady; the Baltimore and Ohio; the Charleston and Hamburg in South Carolina; the Camden and Amboy, across New Jersey. It can be imagined with what interest the owners of these roads heard that at last a practicable locomotive was running in England.

Continue > Railroad Expansion with Peter Cooper and The Stevens Brothers

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