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First locomotive

First locomotiveNext came the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. Its origin was as a tram road for the hauling of public freight, but the Stockton & Darlington's success changed all that, and a prize of five hundred pounds was offered for the best locomotive.

After many experiments and failures, Stephenson and his son Robert produced the Rocket, the first engine with a tubular boiler and a complete steam blast.

The Rocket's boiler was cylindrical with flat ends, six feet in length, and was half filled with water. The upper half was the steam reservoir, and through the lower part were twenty five copper tubes, three inches in diameter. The fire box was two feet wide and three feet high, and the cylinders of the engine were placed in an oblique position, aft. It had two driving wheels, in the place now occupied by the bogey truck of the modern locomotive. With its load of water, the Rocket weighed four and a quarter tons.

Four engines entered the competition - Braithwaite and Ericsson's Novelty; Timothy Hackworth's Sanspareil; Burstall's Perseverance, and Stephenson's Rocket. A majority of the judges were at first in favor of the Novelty, but its repeated breakdowns and slow speed eventually threw it out of the competition. The Perseverance was also rejected because of its low speed; the Sanspareil collapsed, and after a few trials Stephenson's Rocket won.

The Rocket's performance was really extraordinary. It ran as high as thirty miles an hour, and with a heavy load achieved an average of fifteen miles. Public hostility to the new invention ended, though in private quarters it still continued. The charges, brought against it were numerous and absurd. It was asserted that the gases and smoke from the locomotive would kill live stock and game, injure agriculture, and put an end to the royal sport of fox hunting. But all this was gradually disproven.