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First steam locomotive


First steam locomotiveYet success was here. The locomotive performed its work, not fairly well, but admirably. It was watched and cheered; it became an accustomed sight, its speed increased, and the suggestion followed that the road should embark in passenger traffic. Then, as a great stride in progress - a development that startled even its originators - a passenger car was put into operation.

This vehicle - the parent of every railway car in the world - was merely a cabin upon wheels. There was a door at the rear, and three windows on each side. Its walls were fashioned of clap boards, wooden benches lined the interior, and in the center was a deal table. At first it was drawn along the rails by a docile horse, and not until patronage had assured the success of the enterprise was it tied to the tail of Stephenson's engine.

The first year's passenger receipts amounted to six hundred pounds sterling, and the pioneer car - the Experiment - was succeeded by two others, the "new and elegant" Express and Defense. Astonishment pervaded England. It was announced that "a trade and intercourse has arisen out of nothing and nobody knows how." Stephenson's machine was literally a wonder in more ways than one.

Essen­tially, it was of the grasshopper type, and a more uncouth and formless thing, compared to the modern machine, it would be difficult to conceive. Its running gear consisted of four webbed wheels of equal diameter, fastened to a fixed frame. Two cylinders produced power; instead of resting at the sides, in line with the wheels, they were submerged in the boiler. The movement of the piston rods was up and down; at the top of each of them was affixed a beam with connecting rods on either side. These, in turn, were connected to the driving wheels.

It should be mentioned here that Trevithick was on the verge of a great discovery, and that Stephenson owed mutch to his genius. The steam blast, for instance, is the very life of a locomotive. Trevithick, however, had no conception of its value, and merely turned steam into the stack to get rid of the noise of the exhaust.

Stephenson, moreover, had drawn upon other inventors, notably Blenkinsop, Blackett, and Foster and Waters of Gateshead. The engine of the last two had a cast iron boiler and a six inch cylinder, and would have succeeded had it been tried on a proper tramway instead of on a bare road. Like others, it blew up, but Blackett, who had been present, took up the idea anew, and with an improved engine was actually able to haul a load of twenty one tons at the rate of five miles an hour. Stephenson seized all these improvements at one stroke.

But it must not be supposed that the first successful developer of the locomotive was a new man in a new field. As early as 1816 he had produced a machine capable of running five miles an hour on rails. One of his earliest engines was still in active operation as late as 1865. But the Stockton & Darlington locomotive worked as no machine ever worked before, and was a development far ahead of anything else in existence at the time.

Locomotion, the first engine on the Stochton & Darlington line, weighed about eight tons. It had one large flue, or tube, through the center of the boiler, by which the heated air passed directly from the fire box, lined with brick, to the stack at the other end. It was capable of speeding sixteen miles an hour, and is still in existence, and possibly capable of work.