Locomotion No. 1

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Locomotion No. 1
Locomotion No. 1..jpg
Locomotion at Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
Type and origin
Power type Steam
Builder Robert Stephenson and Company
Build date 1825
 • Whyte 0-4-0
Driver dia. 48 in (1.219 m)
Loco weight 6.5 long tons (7.3 short tons; 6.6 t)
Fuel type Coke[1]
Fuel capacity 2,200 lb or 1,000 kg or 1.00 t
Water cap 400 imp gal or 480 US gal or 1,800 L
Boiler pressure 50 psi (0.34 MPa)[2]
Heating surface 60 sq ft (5.57 m2)
Cylinders 2
Cylinder size 9.5 in × 24 in (241 mm × 610 mm)
Performance figures
Maximum speed 15 mph (24 km/h)[3]
Tractive effort 1,900 lbf (8.5 kN)
Operators Stockton and Darlington
First run 27 September 1825
Retired 1857
Disposition static display at the
Darlington Railway Centre and Museum

Locomotion No. 1 (originally named Active) was an early steam locomotive built by the pioneering railway engineers George and Robert Stephenson's via their manufacturing firm, Robert Stephenson and Company. It became the first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public rail line, the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Locomotion was originally ordered by the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company on 16 September 1824; its design greatly benefitted from the experience that George Stephenson had acquired during the construction of the previous series of Killingworth locomotives. Weighing a total of 6.6 tonnes, extensive use of cast iron was made throughout the vehicle, although some elements, such as the engine frame, were composed of timber instead. Fitted with a total of four driving wheels, it is believed that Locomotion was the first locomotive to make use of coupling rods to link together its driving wheels for greater adhesion and less slippage when accelerating. However, the adoption of a centre-flue boiler proved to be a weakness, providing for a poor heating surface compared to subsequently-built locomotives.

On 27 September 1825, Locomotion hauled the first train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, becoming the first locomotive to run on a public railway; after this occasion, it was routinely used by the railway. On 1 July 1828, it was heavily damaged as a result of a boiler explosion while at Aycliffe Lane station, resulting in the death of its driver, John Cree. While it was rebuilt, as a consequence of the rapid advances in the capability of locomotives, Locomotion became obsolete within the space of a decade. Rebuilt after the boiler explosion, it was used on the line up until 1841, after which Locomotion adapted to function as a stationary engine. During 1857, as a consequence of its historical importance, Locomotion was preserved and subsequently put on display. Between 1892 and 1975, it was on static display at one of the platforms at Darlington Top Bank railway station. It is presently at the Darlington Railway Centre and Museum, now known as Head of Steam. A working replica of Locomotion has also been built and is currently at Beamish Museum.



On 23 June 1823, the pioneering locomotive manufacturer Robert Stephenson and Company was established by the railway engineers George Stephenson and his son Robert Stephenson.[4] During November of that year, only months following its commencement of operations, a key early order for the company was placed by the Stockton & Darlington Railway Company for a total of four stationary engines. On 16 September 1824, the railway company also ordered a pair of steam locomotives, each of which reportedly costing around £550.[4]

This order was a historically important one as the first of these locomotives, which was originally given the name ‘’Active’’ and later renamed Locomotion, was not only the first steam locomotive to be constructed for the Stockton & Darlington Railway, it would also result in the operation of the first steam-powered passenger railway anywhere in the world.[4] While this line was worked by steam, the steep inclines present along the route required the use of static engines to move trains, as the primitive locomotives of the day struggled to perform such ascents unaided.[4]


The No. 1 engine, called Locomotion, for the Stockton & Darlington Railway

The design of Locomotion combined all of the accumulated improvements that George Stephenson had pioneered in the development and construction of the previous Killingworth locomotives. The vehicle possessed a total weight of 6.6 tonnes; many elements, including the boiler, cylinders and wheels, were composed of cast iron, while the engine frame was composed of timber instead. There were a total of four driving wheels present, which had a diameter of 1.22 meters and were configured in a 0-4-0 arrangement.[4]

Locomotion used high-pressure steam, which was generated within a centre-flue boiler and drove a pair of vertical cylinders, which were enclosed within and ran in-line with the boiler itself. This boiler was furnished with a steam-blast in the chimney. As a consequence of the single flue arrangement, it had a poor heating surface compared to later steam locomotives. It is believed that Locomotion possessed a maximum speed of 15 mph (24 km/h).[3] A pair of yokes positioned above the cylinders transmitted the power downwards through pairs of connecting rods, making use of a loose eccentric valve gear;[5] it has been claimed that Locomotion was the first locomotive to use coupling rods to link its driving wheels together, rather than achieving this through either chains or gears, an approach which considerably increased adhesion to the rails.[4]


During 1825, the completed Locomotion was transported by road from Newcastle to Darlington.[4] On 26 September 1825, the day prior to the official opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the locomotive conducted a live practice run between Shildon and Darlington, during which a number of the railway’s directors rode aboard the railway’s first passenger coach, known simply as ‘’Experiment’’. The driver on this run was James Stephenson, the elder brother to George Stephenson, who had to perch on a small platform beside the top of the boiler due to there being no cab; the fireman, William Gowling, stood on a footplate between the rear of the engine and the tender.[4]

On 27 September 1825, Locomotion hauled the first train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in north-east England.[4] During this maiden trip, which was driven by George Stephenson himself, the train consisted of Locomotion, eleven wagons of coal, the carriage ‘’Experiment’’, and a further 20 wagons of passengers, guests, and workmen – reportedly, around 300 tickets had been sold but roughly twice as many people were believed to have been aboard. The train, which had an estimated weight of 80 tonnes and a length of 122 meters, reported reaching peak speeds of up to 38.6kph (24mph), and took around two hours to complete the first 14km of the journey to Darlington, but was slowed by a derailed wagon and a blocked feed pump valve, thus only achieving an average speed of 12.9kpm (8mph).[4]

According to author H.C. Casserley, Locomotion has often been considered to be more historically important as a consequence of it being the first locomotive to run on a public railway than for any of the innovations present in its design.[6] Having been determined to be satisfactory, it continued to perform in this capacity for a further three years with only one major incident occurring in this time.[4] On 1 November 1825, the railway’s second locomotive, No. 2, arrived from Newcastle. Suitably impressed, further locomotives were ordered and joined the fleet, leading to the numbering system being replaced by names, thus ‘’Active’’ (No.1) became ‘’Locomotion’’.[4]

On 1 July 1828, Locomotion was heavily damaged when the boiler exploded while the train was stopped at Aycliffe Lane station, resulting in the death of the driver, John Cree, and the wounding of water pumper, Edward Turnbull.[7] The cause of the accident was a deliberate action by Cree, who had tied down the arm of a safety valve.[4] As a result of rapidly-made advances in locomotive design, such as those incorporated into Robert Stephenson's famous Rocket, Locomotion had quickly became obsolete in comparison. Following the boiler explosion, it was rebuilt and returned to service; as such, Locomotion continued to be used up until 1841, during which it reportedly derailed at least on three occasions[4]

Following its withdrawal by the railway, ‘’Locomotion’’ was purchased by Joseph Pease and Partners for use as a stationary pumping engine and was used in this capacity for several years[4] During June 1846, it was returned to the track to participate in the opening celebrations surrounding the Middlesbrough and Redcar Railway. Allegedly, during 1850, it was reportedly offered for sale for scrap at an advertised price of £100; no buyers came forward however.[4]


During 1856, Locomotion was restored by Joseph Pease and his family, spending £50 during this process; as such, it was amongst the first locomotives to receive such treatment. During the following year, the preserved Locomotion was presented to the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company.[4] Between 1857 and the 1880s, it was usually present on static display at Alfred Kitching's workshop near Hopetown Carriage Works. However, ‘’Locomotion’’ was periodically returned to steam, such as for the Stockton and Darlington Railway’s Golden Jubilee during September 1875, as well as to participate in a procession of locomotives at the George Stephenson Centenary, held in June 1881.[4]

From 1892 to 1975, Locomotion was on display along with Derwent, another early locomotive, on one of the platforms at Darlington's main station, Bank Top. During 1924, it was subject to visual restoration work in response to weathering, which had been aggravated by its outside storage. During the Second World War, Locomotion was temporarily relocated from the mainline station in fear of the complex being bombed.[4] In the present day, the locomotive is on display at the Darlington Railway Centre and Museum, now known as Head of Steam, in the same building as Darlington's North Road station. Locomotion is on long-term loan from the National Railway Museum and is part of the National Collection.

Additionally, there is a working replica of the locomotive, currently present at Beamish Museum; this was built during 1975.[8] The original Locomotion is considered to be too fragile to return to steam without performing an extensive rebuild, which would have the consequence of compromising its historical condition and authenticity; it was largely for this reason that the replica had been produced.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Ross, David (2004). British steam railways. Bath: Parragon. p. 15. 
  2. ^ Casserley, H.C. (1960). Historic locomotive pocket book. London: Batsford. p. 7. 
  3. ^ a b "Locomotion No. 1, George Stephenson and the world's first public railway". 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t “Locomotion No.1, Stockton & Darlington Railway.” ‘’ engineering-timelines.com’’, Retrieved: 19 June 2018.
  5. ^ Science Museum (1958). The British railway locomotive 1803–1850. London: Science Museum. p. 11. 
  6. ^ Casserley, H.C. (1976). Preserved locomotives (4th ed.). London: Ian Allan. p. 16. ISBN 071100725X. 
  7. ^ Hewison, Christian H. (1983). Locomotive Boiler Explosions. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 26. ISBN 0715383051. 
  8. ^ Satow, F.; Satow, M.G.; Wilson, L.S. (1976). Locomotion — concept to creation: the story of the reproduction 1973–1975. Beamish: Locomotion Trust. 

External links

  • Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
  • Photograph of Locomotion at the Darlington Railway Museum
  • Postcard of Locomotion at the Darlington Bank Top station in 1959
  • http://www.spartacus-educational.com/RAlocomotion.htm
  • Photo (1975) of locomotive Locomotion No.1 on display at Darlington main station

Coordinates: 54°32′10″N 1°33′18″W / 54.536°N 1.555°W / 54.536; -1.555

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