Stephenson’s Rocket (1829)

Stephenson’s Rocket (1829)

The English engineer George Stephenson’s locomotive was built for a competition of locomotives in 1829.

Technology

Keywords

steam locomotive, Rocket, train, locomotive, railway, steam engine, Stephenson, steam output, machinery, boiler, rail, transportation, history of rail transport, technology, history

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Scenes

Steam locomotive

George Stephenson, father of the steam locomotive

Steam locomotives were the first railway locomotives to be powered by engines. Their invention revolutionised public and freight transport. The first working locomotive was built by Richard Trevithick, but Stephenson’s construction was the real breakthrough.
The English engineers, George Stephenson and his son had collected results of earlier research about locomotives, then improved previous models by adding original ideas and technological novelties.
They introduced their construction in 1825.
Their locomotive named Locomotion No. 1 (fuelled with coal and wheat) hauled a train of 38 wagons with 600 passengers on board for 14 km, between Stockton and Darlington. The locomotive hauled the train of 70 t on the world’s first public passenger railway line at an average speed of 24 km/h.
Stephenson’s most famous locomotive was called ‘Rocket’. Thanks to its speed and reliability it won the Rainhill Trials, an important competition organised by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company in October 1829. The train averaged a speed of 21 km/h and achieved a maximum speed of 34.4 km/h. When the railway line was opened in 1830, the ‘Rocket’ locomotives hauled the first successful passenger trains of the world.

George Stephenson

Winner of the contest: the ‘Rocket’

Features

Construction and features

Stephenson’s invention revolutionised the manufacture of locomotives: principles and engineering solutions were used in the construction of the majority of later locomotives. Its basic construction also served as an example.
Steam engines usually consisted of three major parts: the boiler, the machinery and the running gear. The fuel necessary to fire the boiler was stored in a separate tender (or in a box attached directly to the locomotive).
The ‘Rocket’ was manufactured in Newcastle-upon-Tyne by Robert Stephenson & Co. It ran on a 143.5 cm gauge track. It was 7.3 m long and 4.9 m wide, weighed 4.3 t and had a maximum speed of 47 km/h.

Then...

...and now

Machinery

The heart of the locomotive

The piston is a cylindrical component of engines. Its function is to create progressive motion using the pressure of gas or liquid in the cylinder by changing the volume of the cylinder.
The cylinders of the Rocket were set at an angle on the two sides of its firebox. The space within the cylinder was divided in two by the piston, which was forced to move by the steam flowing into the cylinder. The connecting rod connected the piston to the crosshead, providing straight movement. The crankshaft transmitted the driving force to the driven wheels.
The novelty of Stephenson’s locomotive lied in the shortness of the connecting rods in the piston cylinders. This made it possible to apply larger driving force on the wheels and run the ‘Rocket’ at a previously unimaginable speed.

Boiler

Steam in the service of progress

One of the main components of the steam locomotive was the boiler, assembled of several parts. The energy created by the combustion of the fuel heated the water in the boiler, creating steam.
Stephenson developed fire tubes to convey the exhaust gases from the cylindrical boiler through the chimney into the air. This, together with the blastpipe, made steam production much more effective.
The race of contemporary locomotives was decided by the size of the heating surface. The larger the firebox’s surface in contact with the water was, the faster heat was transferred. The most effective type was the multi-tube boiler developed by Henry Booth, used in the Rocket.

View from the driver’s stand

Structure

Construction and features

Stephenson’s invention revolutionised the manufacture of locomotives: principles and engineering solutions were used in the construction of the majority of later locomotives. Its basic construction also served as an example.
Steam engines usually consisted of three major parts: the boiler, the machinery and the running gear. The fuel necessary to fire the boiler was stored in a separate tender (or in a box attached directly to the locomotive).
The ‘Rocket’ was manufactured in Newcastle-upon-Tyne by Robert Stephenson & Co. It ran on a 143.5 cm gauge track. It was 7.3 m long and 4.9 m wide, weighed 4.3 t and had a maximum speed of 47 km/h.

Then...

...and now

Narration

At the beginning of the 19th century, steam engines appeared in nearly all spheres of life, including transport. Steam locomotives were the first railway locomotives to be powered by engines. This invention soon became popular and revolutionised public and freight transport.

The English engineers George Stephenson and his son Robert had collected results from earlier research on locomotives, then improved previous models by adding original ideas and technological innovations.
They developed fire tubes to convey the exhaust gases from the boiler into the air and blastpipes to make steam production more effective. By making the connecting rods in the piston cylinders shorter than before, they managed to apply a larger driving force to the wheels. Their invention revolutionised the production of locomotives: their principles and engineering solutions were used in the construction of the majority of later locomotives.

Their most famous locomotive was called the Rocket. It measured 7 m in length and nearly 5 m in height and weighed 4.3 t. Thanks to its speed and reliability, it won the Rainhill Trials in 1829, an important competition for steam locomotives. Fired with coal and wheat stored in a tender, it had a maximum speed of 47 km/h. When the railway line was opened in 1830, the Rocket locomotive hauled the first successful passenger train in the world.

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