Monday September 27, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The First Passenger Steam Locomotive
On this Day:
In 1825, George Stephenson’s “Locomotion No. 1” became the first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public rail line, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in England.
George Stephenson (9 June 1781 – 12 August 1848) was a British civil engineer and mechanical engineer. Renowned as the “Father of Railways”, Stephenson was considered by the Victorians a great example of diligent application and thirst for improvement. Self-help advocate Samuel Smiles particularly praised his achievements. His chosen rail gauge, sometimes called ‘Stephenson gauge’, was the basis for the 4 feet 8+1⁄2 inches (1.435 m) standard gauge used by most of the world’s railways.
Pioneered by Stephenson, rail transport was one of the most important technological inventions of the 19th century and a key component of the Industrial Revolution. Built by George and his son Robert’s company Robert Stephenson and Company, the Locomotion No. 1 was the first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public rail line, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. George also built the first public inter-city railway line in the world to use locomotives, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which opened in 1830.
In 1821, a parliamentary bill was passed to allow the building of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). The 25-mile (40 km) railway connected collieries near Bishop Auckland to the River Tees at Stockton, passing through Darlington on the way. The original plan was to use horses to draw coal carts on metal rails, but after company director Edward Pease met Stephenson, he agreed to change the plans. Stephenson surveyed the line in 1821, and assisted by his eighteen-year-old son Robert, construction began the same year.
A manufacturer was needed to provide the locomotives for the line. Pease and Stephenson had jointly established a company in Newcastle to manufacture locomotives. It was set up as Robert Stephenson and Company, and George’s son Robert was the managing director. A fourth partner was Michael Longridge of Bedlington Ironworks. On an early trade card, Robert Stephenson & Co was described as “Engineers, Millwrights & Machinists, Brass & Iron Founders”. In September 1825 the works at Forth Street, Newcastle completed the first locomotive for the railway: originally named Active, it was renamed Locomotion and was followed by Hope, Diligence and Black Diamond. The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened on 27 September 1825. Driven by Stephenson, Locomotion hauled an 80-ton load of coal and flour nine miles (14 km) in two hours, reaching a speed of 24 miles per hour (39 kilometres per hour) on one stretch. The first purpose-built passenger car, Experiment, was attached and carried dignitaries on the opening journey. It was the first time passenger traffic had been run on a steam locomotive railway.
The rails used for the line were wrought-iron, produced by John Birkinshaw at the Bedlington Ironworks. Wrought-iron rails could be produced in longer lengths than cast-iron and were less liable to crack under the weight of heavy locomotives. William Losh of Walker Ironworks thought he had an agreement with Stephenson to supply cast-iron rails, and Stephenson’s decision caused a permanent rift between them. The gauge Stephenson chose for the line was 4 feet 8+1⁄2 inches (1,435 mm) which subsequently was adopted as the standard gauge for railways, not only in Britain, but throughout the world.
Britain led the world in the development of railways which acted as a stimulus for the Industrial Revolution by facilitating the transport of raw materials and manufactured goods. George Stephenson, with his work on the Stockton and Darlington Railway and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, paved the way for the railway engineers who followed, such as his son Robert, his assistant Joseph Locke who carried out much work on his own account and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Stephenson was farsighted in realising that the individual lines being built would eventually be joined together, and would need to have the same gauge. The standard gauge used throughout much of the world is due to him. In 2002, Stephenson was named in the BBC’s television show and list of the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote, placing at no. 65.
The Victorian self-help advocate Samuel Smiles had published his first biography of George Stephenson in 1857, and although attacked as biased in the favour of George at the expense of his rivals as well as his son, it was popular and 250,000 copies were sold by 1904. The Band of Hope were selling biographies of George in 1859 at a penny a sheet, and at one point there was a suggestion to move George’s body to Westminster Abbey. The centenary of George’s birth was celebrated in 1881 at Crystal Palace by 15,000 people, and it was George who was featured on the reverse of the Series E five pound note issued by the Bank of England between 1990 and 2003. The Stephenson Railway Museum in North Shields is named after George and Robert Stephenson (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
I was telling my friend about the history of locomotives, when I forgot what I was saying… I guess I lost my train of thought…
Second, a Song:
Stephenson’s Rocket is an early steam locomotive of 0-2-2 wheel arrangement. It was built for and won the Rainhill Trials of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR), held in October 1829 to show that improved locomotives would be more efficient than stationary steam engines.
Rocket was designed by Robert Stephenson in 1829, and built at the Forth Street Works of his company in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Though Rocket was not the first steam locomotive, it was the first to bring together several innovations to produce the most advanced locomotive of its day. It is the most famous example of an evolving design of locomotives by Stephenson that became the template for most steam engines in the following 150 years.
The locomotive was preserved and displayed in the Science Museum in London until 2018. It is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York.
Our Hospitality is a 1923 American silent comedy film directed by and starring Buster Keaton. Released by Metro Pictures Corporation, it uses slapstick and situational comedy to tell the story of Willie McKay, caught in the middle of the infamous “Canfield–McKay” feud, an obvious satire of the real-life Hatfield–McCoy feud.
It was a groundbreaking work for the comedy film genre, as Keaton included “careful integration of gags into a dramatically coherent storyline”, “meticulous attention to period detail” and beautiful cinematography and extensive location shooting”—in considerable contrast to the era’s other slapstick comedies. Turner Classic Movies describes Our Hospitality as a “silent film for which no apologies need be made to modern viewers.”
The Canfield and McKay families have been feuding for so long, no one remembers the reason the feud started in the first place. One stormy night in 1810, family patriarch John McKay and his rival James Canfield kill each other. After the tragic death of her husband, John’s wife decides her son Willie will not suffer the same fate. She moves to New York to live with her sister, who after the mother’s death raises him without telling him of the feud.
Twenty years later, Willie receives a letter informing him that his father’s estate is now his. His aunt tells him of the feud, but he decides to return to his Southern birthplace anyway to claim his inheritance. On the train ride, he meets a girl, Virginia. They are shy to each other at first, but become acquainted during many train mishaps. At their destination, she is greeted by her father and two brothers; she, it turns out, is a Canfield. Willie innocently asks one of the brothers where the McKay estate is. The brother offers to show him the way, but stops at every shop in search of a pistol to shoot the unsuspecting Willie. By the time he obtains one, Willie has wandered off. Willie is very disappointed to discover the McKay “estate” is a rundown home, not the stately mansion he had imagined. Later, however, he encounters Virginia, who invites him to supper.
When he arrives, the brothers want to shoot him, but the father refuses to allow it while he is a guest in their mansion. The father refers to this as “our hospitality”. When Willie overhears a conversation between the brothers, he finally realizes his grave predicament. A parson comes to supper as well. Afterward, the parson prepares to leave, but he finds it is raining furiously. The Canfield patriarch insists the parson stay the night. McKay invites himself to do the same.
The next morning, McKay stays inside the house, while the Canfield men wait for his departure. The father catches McKay kissing his daughter. McKay finally manages to leave safely by putting on a woman’s dress. However, a chase ensues. He eventually starts down a steep cliff side, but is unable to find a way to the bottom. One Canfield lowers a rope (so he can get a better shot) to which Willie ties himself, but the Canfield falls into the water far below, dragging Willie along. Finally, Willie manages to steal the train locomotive and tender, but the tender derails, dumping him into the river towards the rapids. Virginia spots him and goes after him in a rowboat; she falls into the water and is swept over the edge of the large waterfall. McKay swings trapeze-like on a rope, catching her hands in mid-fall and depositing her safely on a ledge.
When it grows dark, the Canfield men decide to continue their murderous search the next day. Returning home, they see Willie and Virginia embracing; Joseph Canfield furiously rushes into the room, gun in hand. He is brought up short by the parson, who asks him if he wishes to kiss the bride. Seeing a hanging “love thy neighbor” sampler, the father decides to bless the union and end the feud. The Canfields place their pistols on a table; Willie then divests himself of the many guns he took from their gun cabinet (per Wikipedia).
Here is a snippet of the film “Our Hospitality” featuring an 1829 Stephenson’s Rocket steam locomotive replica built for the film. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production.” – Klaus Schwab
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky