Railroad History

Its all about the rails


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George Stephenson builds Locomotion No. 1

In 1825, Locomotion No. 1 was the first steam locomotive to carry passengers on the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Its historical significance is based, not on its design inovation, but on the fact that it the first locomotive to run on a public railway.

The locomotive built by George and Robert Stephenson's company Robert Stephenson and Company in 1824, hauled the first train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway on September 27, 1825. 

On the opening day of the Stockton and Darlington line “Locomotion” was preceded by several men on horses carrying flags with stirring mottos. One said in Latin: ‘Periculum privatum utilitas publica” (The private danger is the public good).

Once the horsemen were out of the way Stephenson opened the throttle and pulled his train of wagons carrying about 600 passengers and 50 tons of freight at up to the hair-raising speed of 15 mph (24.1 kph). “Locomotion” pulled a train 122 metres long which comprised the tender, five coal wagons, one wagon of flour, “Experiment” (a specially-built passenger car for the railway directors which looked just like a stage coach), 6 coal wagons full of guests, 14 wagons full of workmen and 6 wagons of coal.

Thousands of spectators had come from miles around to watch the spectacle of the ‘steam horse’ as it was then called, some of whom were terrified and fled when the engine’s safety valve was opened and the steam let off.