It was a visit to the Science Museum in London that sparked the quest to find the most famous steam locomotive (click here to read more). However despite that, there had yet to be a proper article on the three locomotives to be found there, so here (at last!) it is!
The first of the three locomotives in the Science Museum is the oldest surviving steam locomotive in the world. Built in 1814, it is quite incredible to consider that it is 199 years old! “Puffing Billy” was one of a trio of steam locomotives built for the Wylam Colliery by Hedley from 1813-15. What you see was a direct replacement for horses and in it’s time was at the cutting edge of new technology.
One innovation was a single crankshaft which connected all wheels for better traction. Indeed, Puffing Billy was influential to Stephenson and the development of The Rocket, the locomotive from which all consequential steam trains can trace their ancestry to.
The second locomotive in London’s Science Museum is the remains of George Stephenson’s Rocket, 1829. This locomotive was built for and won the Rainhill Trials held by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829.
The winning formula was down to the use of a variety of innovations, such as being the first single driver locomotive, having a multi-tubular boiler that increased the heating surface area of the water, a blastpipe to feed off exhaust from the cylinders, a more horizontal cylinder layout (for stability) and a separate firebox.
The Rocket was much modified after construction, which is why it looks so different to how you might expect it to look. The cylinders are now almost horizontal, the firebox enlarged and a drum smokebox fitted. It is for these reasons that the replica that is not in the Science Museum (see below) is, in many ways, a better representation of how the Rocket that won the Rainhill trials would have looked.
The third locomotive to be found in the Science Museum is the newest of the three, being built in 1845.
Columbine ran until 1902, hauling passengers from Birmingham to a junction with the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It is a typical design from it’s day and represents an early “standard” design that replaced many older types.
I’m sure you’ll agree that these are three fantastic, historical locomotives. All are members of the National Collection and are free to view in the Science Museum, Kensington, London. They’re well worth having a look at!
The Science Museum’s three steam locomotives are members of the National Collection that is based in York – click here to find out about some of the incredible exhibits to be found there.