IT was now that Mr. Stephenson, about twenty years of age,
set about the construction of his first locomotive. As we before
stated, the want of good and skillful workmen was a great drawback.
None of the magnificent and ingenious machinery of the present
day to be seen in our machine-shops had been invented. At that
early period every part of the engine had to be made by hand,
and hammered into shape as a horseshoe was; and John Thorswall,
the colliery blacksmith, was his chief workman; and with all these
disadvantages and difficulties to contend with, Mr. Stephenson
persevered and finally completed his first locomotive.
It will no doubt be interesting to our mechanical readers to
have a full description of Mr. Stephenson's first effort. The
boiler was cylindrical, eight feet long and thirty-four inches
in diameter, with an internal flue tube twenty inches wide passing
through the boiler. The engine had two vertical cylinders of eight
inches in diameter and two feet stroke, let into the boiler, working
the propelling gear, with cross-heads and connecting rods; the
power of the two cylinders was continued by means of spur-wheels,
which communicated the motive power to the wheels supporting the
engine upon the rails. The adoption of the spur-gear was the chief
peculiarity of this new engine; it worked upon what is termed
the second motion. The chimney was of wrought-iron, around which
was a chamber extending back to the feed-pumps, for the purpose
of heating the water previous to its injection into the boiler.
The engine had no springs, was mounted on a wooden frame upon
four wheels. In order, however, to equalize the jolts and shocks
which such an engine would encounter, the water-barrel, which
served as a tender, was fused at the end of a lever and weighted,
the other end being connected with the frame of the carriage.
The wheels of this locomotive were all smooth, and it was the
first engine so constructed. After ten months' labor, this locomotive
was completed and put upon the Cillingwood Railway on the 25th
July, 1814, and tried. On an ascending grade of one in four hundred
and fifty feet, this engine succeeded in drawing after it eight
loaded wagons of thirty tons' weight, at about four miles an hour,
and was the most successful working engine that had ever been
constructed up to this period. It was called "Blusher."
Although successful, this improvement over horse-power was not
sufficient to justify the abandonment of the latter. The great
trouble with this new machine was the inability of keeping up
steam sufficient to answer its demands; and this experiment, like
all its predecessors, might have been set aside as a practical
failure, had not Mr. Stephenson hit upon (accidentally) the invention
or discovery of the steam-blast. The puffing and noise occasioned
by the escapement of the steam from the steam-pipe into the open
air, after it had performed its duty in the cylinder, frightened
the horses upon the common roads hard by and near the vicinity
of the crossings, and occasioned much complaint to the authorities.
Mr. Stephenson was warned by the police to abate the nuisance,
or be subject to a prosecution. To remedy the evil he hit upon
the plan of discharging the surplus steam into the smoke-stack,
which produced a vacuum, and the draught in his furnace became
so perfect, that double the quantity of steam was generated, and
the power of his engine increased to double its former capacity.
This was a triumph, and encouraged the inventor to further experiments.
Seeing all the defects of his first engine, and the wonderful
effects of the steam-blast in facilitating the combustion of the
fuel used in generating steam, Mr. Stephenson set about constructing
his second engine, the patent dated February 28, 1815.
This second locomotive we will describe, as we think it will
prove interesting to our readers, especially so to our engine-drivers
or engineers and our locomotive-machinists.
Like the first, this engine had two vertical cylinders, communicating
directly with each pair of the fore-wheels which supported the
engine, by means of a cross-head and a pair of connecting-rods.
It was soon seen that the direct action from the cylinder to the
wheels upon such uneven roads would not answer with the rigidity
of the machinery, particularly the stiff connecting-rods communicating
from the wheels to the piston-heads. To obviate this difficulty,
Mr. Stephenson invented and applied the ball-and-socket joint
upon his connecting rods, where they were attached to the pistons,
and crank-pins upon the crank-axles.
Many other experiments were tried and as quickly abandoned
in England by this accomplished engineer, whose name and reputation
were as well known in America as they were in England. These experiments
tended in a great measure to prevent our own countrymen subsequently
from falling into the same errors and mistakes that would be found
in the pathway of the early developments of this wonder of science
and mechanics, the locomotive.
We will not believe but that a description, step by stepfrom
the first experiments by Trevithick, in 1804, on the Merthyr-Tydvil
Railway, in South Wales, when his machine drew after it several
wagons containing ten tons of bar-iron at the rate of five miles
an hour, to the experiments of Stephenson, with his far-famed
Rocketwill prove interesting to the machinists and engineers
among our readers, and we will continue our accounts until we
come to the date of our own experiments in America.
It will be remembered by our readers that in the Blucher the
motion was continued by the spur-wheel system, and its place was
supplied by inserting into the axle two cranks at right angles
to each other, and this method answered extremely well; but even
here Mr. Stephenson found obstacles, in the difficulty, at that
early day, of forging cranks of sufficient strength and accuracy
to answer the purpose, and stand the jars and jolts occasioned
by the rough roads, and he tried a substitute for the requisite
object. This new arrangement was a chain which rolled over indented
wheels on the center of each axle, and so arranged that the two
pair of wheels were effectually coupled and made to keep pace
with each other. This did well for a while, but the chains soon
proved troublesome, and were abandoned for the new plan of connecting
the front and hind wheels together by rods outside of the wheels,
instead of rods and cranks inside, as at first. This method completely
answered the purpose, and is in use at the present day.
Although many other improvements were afterward suggested to
the fertile mind of Mr. Stephenson, and introduced in the machinery
of the locomotive Blucher, yet, as a mechanical construction,
it may be considered as the type of the present successful locomotive
Mr. Stephenson was now left alone in locomotive experiments
and improvements: all the other experimentalists before him quitted
the field of that kind of enterprise, and all their works in the
shape of machines were thrown away and entirely abandoned.
Railways, as we have before stated, had been in successful
operation for many years, in the transportation of coal and mineral
ores from the mines to the places of shipment. The idea had never
been suggested to the mind of any one, or had never, at least,
been advocated, to use them for general purposes of traffic, or,
as at the present time, for the transportation of goods, wares,
merchandise, produce, or for the transportation of passengers
from one city to another, until about the year 1800, as we before
stated, by a Mr. Thomas, who introduced the subject before the
Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle, and a few years
after by a Mr. Edgeworth, and even then no other power was thought
or dreamed of but the horse-power then in use upon all the tram-roads
(as the railroads were called in all the mining regions throughout
England and wherever else they were used), and which had by this
time become general, and was looked upon as one of the essential
necessaries for such enterprises. But the use of steam-power had
not entered the minds of the warmest advocates of railroads for
general purposes, as at the present day.
It was not until 1820 that the first suggestion of using the
locomotive (imperfect as it then was) in the place of horse-power,
was advocated by one Thomas Gray, who devoted much of his time
and money in publishing articles and pamphlets upon the subject.
He pointed out the importance of such a road between Liverpool
and Manchester and other important points, all of which have since
been carried out. He was so energetic and pertinacious in his
efforts to impress it upon the minds of the people, and so untiring
in his labors, that many pronounced him a bore, and those who
knew him declared that he was cracked or derangedjust as,
nearly two hundred years before, poor Solomon de Cause was shut
up in a mad house for advocating his discovery of a great power
in the steam of boiling water.
While Mr. Gray was advocating the adoption of railways for
general transportation purposes, George Stephenson was planning
locomotives to run upon them.
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