October 8 – Anniversary of a Winning Performance by Rocket

Posted on October 8, 2014

I was reading about an early (1829) railroad with tracks running between Liverpool and Manchester, in England. I was shocked to read that some people were skeptical that steam locomotives could work to power the train—and instead, they proposed sticking with the older technology of a rope hauling the train, and a steam engine that stayed in one place, pulling the ropes.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if all railroads worked by way of rope haulage and stationary engines? Can you imagine ropes criss-crossing the nation above railroad tracks? It sounds crazy!

A man named George Stephenson and his son Robert insisted that locomotive engines (engines that traveled on the tracks with the trains—what a concept!) were the future. And so the Liverpool-Manchester Railway directors decided to hold an open competition to see if anyone could build a locomotive that could stand up to their hopes and dreams.

The contest was called the Rainhill Trials; they were held along a mile length of level track at Rainhill.

Ten locomotives were entered, but on the day that the competition began, only five actually began the contest. Each entrant was put through a series of tests.

Here is what happened with each of the five:

Cycloped was not a steam-powered locomotive, but was instead a horse-powered mobile platform. It was demonstrated only briefly and was withdrawn early. One source said that the horse had an accident (if so, I hope it wasn't hurt!), but another source said that the this horse-plus-machine was just a “legacy technology” entry that wasn't expected to compete with the others.

Perseverance was damaged as it was on the way to the competition, so the builder was given several more days to repair it before it had to compete. Finally it joined the competition, but it only reached a speed of 6 miles per hour—and the contest rules had stated that the winning locomotive had to reach at least 10 mph. So this locomotive was withdrawn.

Sans Pareil was also a rule-breaker, because it was about 300 pounds overweight. But it was allowed to compete, and it made 8 of the 10 trips back and forth the piece of railroad track used for the trials—but then a cylinder cracked, and that locomotive was done, too.

Novelty was cutting-edge (for 1829), and a lot of people were very impressed by it at first sight. It was lighter and faster than the other locomotives—it reached 28 miles per hour! (Remember, one of them could only reach 6 mph.)

However, this crowd favorite suffered damage to its boiler pipe. Attempts to do a quick fix weren't entirely successful, and the day after, when it reached 15 mph, the pipe gave way, damaging the engine so badly that the locomotive had to drop out of the competition.

So, it is no surprise that Rocket won the trials—after all, it was the only train “left standing,” the only one that could do all 10 of its trips. It reached a top speed of 30 mph, and it averaged 12 mph, and it was able to do so while hauling 13 tons!

Rocket was built by the Stephensons (the father-son team I mentioned above), and they won a 500 pound prize and a contract to produce locomotives for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

This summer I saw a steam-powered locomotive getting ready to haul a passenger train...and I was amazed at just HOW MUCH smoke there was!!!

Also on this date:

Octopus Day!

National Bring Your Teddy Bear to School / Work Day

(Unite Against Bullying)

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