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Roads and Railways : Introduction
The opening of the Stockton to Darlington railway
TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLTIONARY CHANGE
The Industrial Revolution
The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
If Richard Trevithick was the 'father' of the steam locomotive, then the 'father' of the railways was the first railway engineer, George Stephenson. Stephenson developed the steam locomotive into the powerful workhorse that formed the foundation of the modern railway system. It was Stephenson who pioneered railway construction and undertook all of the tasks involved in building railways, such as locomotive design and production, surveying, levelling and building the railway track.
Stephenson was a self-made man who came from humble origins. He started his working life when he was still very young and, at the age of fifteen, he was already responsible for working the steam pumps at a coal mine. His natural talent for engineering meant that he was eventually placed in charge of the mine's steam engines. He was able to experiment and make improvements to their efficiency. At the same time, Stephenson was interested in the idea of a 'travelling steam engine'. He felt that he could improve the work of other pioneers of steam and locomotive development.
The first steam locomotives had been wasteful of energy. The steam had been lost into the air after it had been used to move the cylinders and the fire lacked a draft of air to make it burn well. Stephenson solved both of these inefficiencies by building an extension to the boiler, called a smokebox. The exhaust steam from the cylinders was fed through this box. A partial vacuum was created at each stroke of the piston.
This partial vacuum drew in air through the boiler tubes. The air, known as steam blast, made the fire hotter and the locomotive became more efficient. Stephenson's first steam blast engine was called Blücher. This engine was used at the Killingworth colliery and it produced double of the power of the engine it replaced. The steam blast was able to pull 30 tonnes of wagons at around 7 kilometres per hour. Stephenson's second engine patented in 1815 was an improvement on the Blücher in both construction and design.
George Stephenson (1781 - 1848)
George Stephenson was born in Wylam, near Newcastle. He had no formal education and he taught himself to read by attending night classes. His first job was a fireman. Later, in 1812, he became a colliery engineer at Killingworth. Between 1814 and 1826 he designed and built steam engines to pull coal. In 1815 he designed a miner's safety lamp. Stephenson shared the credit for this invention with Humphrey Davy who had, independently, come up with the same design.
By 1821 Stephenson was managing his own factory in Newcastle. It was here that he designed and constructed the Stockton to Darlington railway line which became the first to carry passengers. Between 1826 and 1830 he supervised the construction of the Manchester to Liverpool railway. Stephenson drove the first passenger train himself. It reached a record speed of 35 m.p.h..
There was a great deal of interest in Stephenson's invention and he was asked to build a railway in Lancashire to rum from Stockton to Darlington. This railway, which took three years to build, was opened in 1825.
It was the world's first steam railway, with locomotives pulling both goods and passengers along a track of wrought iron rails. Stephenson designed and constructed a new locomotive for the Stockton to Darlington railway. This locomotive, called "Locomotion No.1", showed further improvements in design.
Locomotion Number 1
Not everybody in Britain was happy about Stephenson's success. In fact, there were many fears and complaints. It was said that steam locomotives frightened cows and stopped chickens from laying eggs. They were also said to poison the air and set fire to houses near the line. It was even suggested that steam engines would make the horse redundant. Some people even believed that is a man travelled at 50 kilometres per hour he would be crushed by the resulting air pressure! However, whatever the opposition, the steam railway was here to stay.
The Rainhill Competition 1829
Stephenson was next commissioned to construct a railway to link two English cities, Liverpool and Manchester. However, the directors of this railway were still suspicious of the steam locomotive. Some of them wanted stationary engines which would pull the wagons along using cables, while others were still promoting the use of the horse. To prove that the steam locomotive was the best option, a competition was held at Rainhill in 1829.
There were four locomotives entered in the competition. The Novelty, built by Braithwaite and Ericsson, The Perseverance, built by Burstall, the Sans Pareil, built by Hackworth, and the Rocket built by George Stephenson and his son, Robert. The Rocket proved to be the fastest of the four and travelled at up to 50 kilometres per hour. Orders were placed for seven more Rockets and the Liverpool to Manchester line was completed and opened in 1830.
Drawing of Sans Pareil from 1829
George Stephenson and his son, Robert, were perhaps most famous for their entry into a competition to design a railway engine which would pull both freight and passengers. The "Rocket" won them £500 in prize money.
The First Passenger Trains
The early railway carriages looked like three stage coaches joined together. They were upholstered in soft, padded leather. However, this comfort was restricted to first class passengers. The second class passengers had only wooden seats and the third class passengers either sat on wooden benches or stood in open coaches. For those who could afford it, it was possible to place a horse-drawn carriage on a flat-bed wagon. This ensured privacy.
George Stephenson was in great demand. he was commissioned to build railways both in Britain and in other parts of the world. The first steam locomotive railway in France was opened in 1832. The first steam locomotive to run on a French railway had been built by George Sequin in 1829 for a railway at Lyon. Sequin used rotary fans, driven by the tender wheels, which forced a draught of air through the pipes and into the firebox, thus increasing heat output. In the 1840's the Stephenson works built nine locomotives for the line between Marseille and Avignon.
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