Posts Tagged ‘Stephenson’

Lives of the Engineers (George and Robert Stephenson). – 01 – Introduction Part 2

Free audiobook recording of Lives of the Engineers (George and Robert Stephenson). – 01 – Introduction Part 2, by Samuel Smiles. Full playlist: http://www.yo…

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George Stephenson

By the end of the 18th century a little boy of George Stephenson lived in a cottage near Newcastle.

His father worked in the nearby coal mine, looking after the big clumsy steam engines which pumped water out of the mines. Near their cottage ran a “railway” along which horses used to pull wagons full of coal. George never went to school. As soon as he was 8 he worked in the fields pulling up turnips, He was fascinated by his father’s pumping engines, and when he was 14 he started working as his father’s assistant. He spent all his spare time taking engines to   pieces, .studying them, and making models. He taught himself to read, and read all about engines.
Steam had been used to work station since the beginning of the 18th century, when Thomas Newcomer had made the first one. But they were too heavy and clumsy to be used for locomotives, or moving vehicles. Then, in 1770 a Frenchman made the first “steam road-carriage” which could move at 5 kilometers an hour. A Cornish engineer, Richard Trevithick, made a rather more efficient engine, which the coal miners found useful instead of horse-drawn wagons for the heavy coal. But even Trevithick’s engine was clumsy, slow, and wasteful.

George Stephenson, as he grew up, became more and more determined to design a better locomotive; but he had no money. So he worked hard mending watches and cobbling1 people’s shoes in his spare time, and saving every penny lie earned. By the time he was 33 he produced his first locomotive. In order to make his engine less noisy, he put in a pipe to lead the steam from his engine’s cylinder to the funnel, and then discovered that this “blast pipe” so increased the draught of air through the engine’s furnace that the engine had much more power than Trevithick’s engine had had. The coal-mine owners were so impressed that they agreed to use Stephenson’s engine to move coal along a 14-kilometre railway line from the mine to the port. Then he persuaded a firm of engineers to let him build a railway line from Stockton to Darlington in County Durham, along which his steam locomotive would run instead of horse wagons. In 1825 this line. 61 kilometers long, was opened with the first train carrying both goods and passengers.

Stephenson, with the help of his son Robert, started a factory for building locomotives and for laying railway lines strong enough to carry them safely. He was now becoming so well-known that a firm planning a railway lines from Liverpool to Manchester made him the chief engineer. But people were frightened of these engines and believed they were dangerous. Some people thought that to travel so fast would make them ill; farmers were afraid that their cattle would be frightened out of their lives’ Those who owned canals were afraid they would lose their business. So before he could start this new railway, Stephenson had to go up to London to persuade the Government to give permission. And, though people laughed at his North-country way of talking and jeered at his “wild ideas”, he convinced the government and won permission.

Building the railway truck was difficult, for it had to cross about 16 kilometers of very boggy  land, which Stephenson had to make firm by laying deep foundation. Also bridges and tunnels and cuttings through high land had to be made. Stephenson worked furiously, and by 1829 the railway was ready. Then a competition was held, with a price of 500 (a great deal of money in those days). for the best engine to pull a train. George and Robert Stephenson’s engine, the Rocket, was the only one which proved efficient and easily won the prize. The Rocket was able to average a speed of 16 kilometers an hour and to cover 110 kilometers in a day, and also to move both forwards and backwards. On September 15, 1830, the Duke of Wellington opened the new railway line, and the Rocket pulled a 20-tonne train 55 kilometer in under 2 hours.

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Categories: Vintage Steam Engines   Tags: ,