The UK’s first public railway, the Stockton and Darlington link was opened today in 1825 by railway engineer George Stephenson (1781-1848), operating the engine Locomotion.
Locomotion used all the improvements that Stephenson had pioneered in the Killingworth locomotives. It used high-pressure steam from a centre-flue boiler with a steam-blast in the chimney, to drive two vertical cylinders enclosed within the boiler. A pair of yokes above them transmitted the power downwards, through pairs of connecting rods.
The locomotive is really historically important only because it was the first one to run on a passenger carrying line, rather than for the innovations in its design.
On 1 July 1828, the boiler exploded at Aycliffe Lane station, killing the driver. With advances in design such as those incorporated into Stephenson’s Rocket, Locomotion became obsolete very quickly. It was rebuilt and remained in service until 1841 when it was turned into a stationary engine.
The general dimensions of the engine were: diameter of cylinders 9″; stroke of piston 24″; diameter of wheels 48″; total heating surface, 60 square feet; weight of engine 6 tons, 10 cwt., capacity of tank, 240 gallons.
On the opening day back in 1825, the engine drew thirty-eight vehicles upon which were four hundred and fifty passengers and about ninety tons of merchandise with the highest speed obtained being twelve miles an hour, the average being between four and six.