PETER COOPER LOCOMOTIVE
Mr. Latrobes next letter informed the author that he had then
a rough sketch of the Peter Cooper machine, taken by his brother,
John H. B. Latrobe, Esq., counselor for the company; but he desired
to submit the sketch to Mr. Ross Winans, for his examination and
opinion, before he translated it.
I have now seen Mr. Winans, and shown him the rough sketch
of the Peter Cooper locomotive, referred to in my former letter.
I send, upon the next page, a copy of the sketch, which presents
as near an approach to a picture of the machine as at this distant
day is possible to exhibit. Mr. Ross Winans tells me that Mr.
Cooper brought the boiler from New York, in the spring or early
in the summer of 1829; and it was on a frame, and rested on four
wheels belonging to the company; the road was then used thirteen
miles to Ellicott's Mills, and with horsepower. The boiler was
tubular, and upright in position. Mr. Winans does not recollect
the dimensions of it, although he says it lay in his shops for
several years. He thinks it was not more than twenty inches in
diameter, and, perhaps, from five to six feet high. There was
a single cylinder of three and one quarter inches in diameter,
fourteen and one quarter inches stroke, that projected its piston-rod
and connecting rod, so as to take hold of the crank by direct
"On the crankshaft, which rested on the dome of the car,
was a spur-wheel which geared with a pinion on the forward road-wheels
so as to increase speed; the road-wheels being only two and one-half
feet in diameter.
"The fuel was anthracite coal, and an artificial draught,
in the firebox at the bottom of the boiler, was created by a fan,
driven by a belt passing around a wooden drum attached to one
of the road-wheels, and a pulley on the fan-shaft as shown in
"Mr. Winans says that Mr. Cooper at first proposed to
communicate the reciprocating motion of the piston-rod to the
road-wheels by an arrangement which I cannot accurately describe,
but the experiment did not satisfy Mr. Cooper on trial, and the
common crank action was substituted, and the favorable results
obtained, which are described in Mr. Winans's letter of August
28, 1830, published in the Railroad Record of Cincinnati, on the
8th of July last. Mr. Cooper, if applied to, could perhaps furnish
some interesting additional particulars about this engine, which
was undoubtedly the very first American locomotive.
"Mr. Winans, after examining the sketch, pronounces it
substantially correct as to the general features of the engine;
the details, many of course ideal, must be very defective. The
number, size, and length of the tubes are not known, only their
position in the boiler.
"The road-wheels were two and a half feet in diameter;
the axles had outside bearings upon Winans's friction wheels.
The axle on which the pinion was fixed was kept from lateral or
longitudinal movement, so as to preserve its position with respect
to the spur-wheel.
"Your friend's sketch of the horse-car,
you sent for my inspection, gives the general idea of it, and
it is made with a spirit that shows him to be a good draughtsman
and knowing to the 'points of a horse,' better than myselfthe
thing was as much like one of those horsepower's, of which we
see so many, along railways at the stations, for cutting-up wood
for the locomotives. The hinged or slatted platform, on which
the horse walked, turned round a drum; on this was a spur-wheel
working in a pinion on the road-wheel axle; so that this gearing
gave considerable speed to the car, with a moderate one to the
horse. I remember well the adventure with the cow, mentioned by
my brother in his lecture, to which you refer. I agree with him
and Mr. Winans that the successful experiment with the Cooper
engine was in 1830, as it was the year I entered the Baltimore
and Ohio Railroad company's service, and some of the particulars
are permanently fixed upon my memory.
In 1829 Mr. Cooper made some experiments with his little locomotive,
built upon the principle he first adopted; but, as it did not
perform as well as he expected and desired, he changed his plan,
and, after some delays, made, as one may say, the first actual
experimental trip on Saturday, August 28, 1830. A particular account
of this experiment has been given the author by Mr. Winans himself,
who was present on the occasion, and took a lively interest in
the result. Mr. Winans writes:
"On Saturday, the 28th of August last, 1830, the first
railroad car propelled by steam proceeded the whole distance from
Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills, and tested a most important principlethat
curvatures of 400 feet radius offer no material impediment to
the use of steam-power on railroads, when the wheels are constructed
with a cone, on the principle ascertained by Mr. Knight, chief
engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad company to be applicable
to such curvatures. The engineers in England have been so decidedly
of opinion that locomotive steam-engines could not be used on
curved rails, that it was much doubted whether the many curvatures
on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad would not exclude the use of
steam-power. To congratulate our fellow-citizens on the conclusive
proof, which removes forever all doubt on this subject, and establishes
the fact that steam-power may be used on our road with as much
facility and effect as that of horses, at a very reduced expense.
"The engine" (Cooper's locomotive-engine) "started
from Pratt Street depot, taking the lead of a train of carriages.
The power of the engine is a little, if any, over that of one
horse, and it can therefore only be regarded as a working model.
Immediately on front of, and connected with it, was a passenger-carriage
containing (including the engine attendants) twenty-four persons.
The aggregate weight of carriages, persons, fuel, and water, as
nearly as could be ascertained, was estimated to be from four
to four and a half tons. Notwithstanding the great disproportion
of the moving power to the load, the following highly-gratifying
results were obtained; the time was accurately noted by disinterested
gentlemen, of the first respectability:
First mileperformed in six minutes and fifty seconds,
the steam in the onset not being fully raised. Second mileperformed
in five minutes; one minute was lost in altering the switch, to
pass from one track to the other. Third miletraveled in
six minutes; two lost in changing from one track to the other,
the switch not being in the right place. Fourth milewas
traveled in four minutes and thirty seconds. Fifth mileoccupied
five minutes and twenty-five seconds. Sixth miletraveled
in six minutes; one minute was lost in changing to the other track.
Seventh miletraveled in five minutes and thirty seconds;
the engine stopped at the middle depot for fifteen minutes to
receive a supply of water. Eighth mileperformed in six minutes.
Ninth mileperformed in five minutes and forty-five seconds,
the engine traversing an ascent of thirteen feet per mile, and
encountering the numerous curves which abound in this part of
the road. Tenth mileperformed in seven minutes; the engine
still ascending at the rate of thirteen feet per mile, and the
road much curved. Eleventh milein seven minutes and thirty
seconds; the same disadvantages of an ascending and curved line
of road being still encountered. Twelfth milein seven minutes
and thirty seconds; the ascent here being increased to eighteen
feet per mile and the line curved. Thirteenth milein six
minutes and thirty seconds, the same disadvantages of an amending
and curved line being encountered as on the preceding mile.
"Making the aggregate passage of thirteen miles, under
the circumstances detailed, in the space of one hour and fifteen
"On the return of the locomotive-engine at six o'clock
in the evening, the following results were realized, there being
four additional passengers, or thirty in all, seated in the attached
First miletraveled in five minutes. Second miletraveled
in four minutes. Third miletraveled in four minutes six
seconds. Fourth miletraveled in four minutes. Fifth miletraveled
in four minutes four seconds. Sixth miletraveled in four
minutes five seconds.(Four minutes occupied in taking in a supply
of water.)Seventh miletraveled in five minutes. Eighth miletraveled
in three minutes fifty seconds. Ninth miletraveled in four
minutes twenty-five seconds. Tenth miletraveled in four
minutes ten seconds. Eleventh miletraveled in four minutes
forty seconds. Twelfth miletraveled in four minutes fifty
seconds. Thirteenth miletraveled in four minutes fifty seconds.
Making the entire passage of thirteen miles in sixty-one minutes,
including the four minutes lost in taking in water at the middle
depot. If this be deducted, it will give precisely fifty-seven
minutes in traveling the distance.
"It should also be borne in mind that these are experiments
merely, and that several material improvements have already suggested
themselves to the inventor. The result, under all the circumstances,
is highly satisfactory, and constitutes another triumph of the
efforts of American genius."
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