Birth of the Locomotive.


First Railroad Engine in the United States Imported from England -
First Working Locomotive Used in South Carolina.

FOR many years there stood in a rough shed in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, an old engine, an object of terror to the children of the neighborhood and of curiosity to visitors. It was the famous Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive ever run in America. Brought over from England in 1829 by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, it was run for two or three miles over the railroad connecting the company's coal-mines with Honesdale, the terminus of the canal, and then retired permanently from service. With the Stourbridge Lion itself the directors found no fault. It was the weakness of the track which prohibited its use.

On the road there was a great deal of wooden trestle-work, built not to sustain locomotives, but horse-cars. Over the Lackawaxen Creek, for instance, this trestle was thirty feet high, with a curve of three hundred and fifty or four hundred feet radius. So, flimsy was the construction of a great part of this road - timber rails with an iron top taking the place of our modern steel - that engineers estimated that it would not be safe for an engine with more than a ton and a quarter weight on each wheel. From the inexperience of the builders it resulted that the Stourbridge Lion actually put a weight of nearly two tons on each wheel, and the locomotive had consequently to be withdrawn.

First Appearance in America.

This disappointment was a great one, not only to the officials of the company but to the whole country-side, which had expected the "wonderful machine" to work marvels for the prosperity of that section. Its trial, indeed, was made the occasion of a public holiday. At first it had been intended to run the Lion for the first time on July 4, 1829, but as the railroad was not completed in time the experiment was postponed to August 8.

On that day a large crowd was on hand see Horatio Allen, the assistant engineer of the company, who had purchased the engine in England, start the locomotive. After running it back and forth a number of times over a short stretch of track, Allen headed for the high trestle over the Lackawaxen Creek.

He took no one with him, for it was considered not at all improbable that the Lion would either plunge through the trestle-work or leave the track at the curve. What actually happened has been described by Allen in a speech on the occasion of the completion of the New York and Erie Railroad in 1831.

"As I placed my hand on the throttle-handle I was undecided whether I would move slowly or with a fair degree of speed; but, believing that the road would prove safe, and preferring, if we did go down, to go down handsomely and without any evidence of timidity, I started with considerable velocity, passed the curve over the creek safely, and was soon out of hearing of the cheers of the large assemblage present. At the end of two or three miles I reversed the valves and returned without accident to the place of starting, having thus made the first railroad trip by locomotive on the Western Hemisphere."

Allen's return in safety with the Lion was greeted by more cheers and by the discharge of cannon procured for the purpose of helping in the celebration of the great event. A mechanic named Alva Adams was so severely injured by this discharge that his arm was amputated, apparently the only unfortunate incident in a day of general rejoicing.

One business man notes rather sourly, however: "The locomotive engine Stourbridge Lion was started by steam this morning. Alva Adams had his arm blown off while firing the cannon. No work was done until after the middle of forenoon."

Inglorious Fate of the Lion.

For those responsible for the inovation, however, there was no rejoicing. The road had been built for horse-power, not locomotives, and the Stourbridge Lion was considered too heavy a load for it to sustain. For fourteen or fifteen years the locomotive stood in an old shed until so many of its parts had been lost or broken that it was obviously impossible to use it again. The boiler was then installed as a stationary engine in one of the company's shops at Carbondale and the wheels and axles sold for old iron.

During its long stay in the shed the Lion - so called because of the lion's head painted on the smoke-box - was dreaded by children who had to pass its home, and many of the more timid ones were accustomed to take long detours in order to avoid passing the mysterious monster.

For us it is somewhat difficult to see how the Lion could terrify any one or strain any railroad. The locomotive, described as a "plain, stout work of immense height," weighed no more than seven tons - an insignificant burden compared with the eighty or one hundred tons of a modern flyer.

Nine horse-power was the strength of the new machine, and with this it was expected to draw from sixty to eighty tons at the rate of about five miles an hour. In the neighborhood especial pride was taken in the fact that with Lackawaxen coal the steam pressure had been raised to more than forty pounds to the square inch. The monster was ungainly enough. There was no cab, the engineer standing on the tender, and above the boiler rose a complicated mass of walking-beams, rods, and levers of every description.

First Home-Grown Locomotive.

A year after the Stourbridge Lion had been tried and found wanting, Peter Cooper brought out the first locomotive built in America. The Tom Thumb, as he named his creation, was purely an experimental machine designed simply to prove that locomotives would stay on the track on curves. In this respect the engine, weighing less than a ton, and with a boiler smaller than those in many private houses to-day, was completely successful.

In the summer of 1830 Cooper hitched his locomotive to a passenger carriage containing twenty-four persons and weighing, together with the fuel and water, about four tons. With this load he started from Baltimore for Ellicott's Mills, thirteen miles away on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, over which horse-cars had been running for some time. Including stops for various purposes, the outward run was made in one hour and fifteen minutes.

The return trip was even more successful, for only fifty-seven minutes were needed. The inventor's satisfaction in this feat was somewhat marred, however, by his defeat in an exciting race with a horse-car. Half-way back to Baltimore, Cooper met a car drawn by a powerful gray horse, and sent out by Stockton & Stokes, the great stage-proprietors of the day, to humble their new rival.

Tom Thumb Beaten by a Horse-Car.

As there were two tracks available. there was nothing to hinder a race home, and Cooper readily accepted the challenge. The gray got the better start. and for a while seemed to have completely distanced the little locomotive. He was indeed fully a quarter of a mile in the lead before the Tom Thumb struck its gait. Slowly the engine crawled up until the machine and the horse were on even terms once more, then gradually forged ahead until a cheer from the passengers behind announced that the horse had been distanced.

It seemed, indeed, as if Cooper's victory was to be a decisive one, when suddenly the situation was reversed again. A band in the blowing apparatus, used to obtain a forced draft in the diminutive boiler, slipped from the drum, and the engine, wheezing and panting, began to lose speed. By the time the band had been replaced the horse was too far ahead to be overtaken.

At this time steam had many rivals. One car, the Flying Dutchman, for which its inventor received a prize of five hundred dollars, was worked by a horse on an endless apron, or belt, which he worked as a squirrel whirls the wheel of his cage. This machine could carry twelve passengers at the rate of twelve miles an hour, and for a while a great future was predicted for the device. Its popularity, however, was greatly diminished when a car filled with Baltimore newspaper men ran into a cow and was rolled down an embankment.

Another remarkable invention was the sailing-car, now entirely forgotten. The first of these strange craft was the Meteor, which occasionally made its appearance outside of Baltimore, when the wind was in the right quarter. As the car was nothing but a basket set on wheels, with a pole in the middle to hold the sail, the inventor was afraid to run the risk of capsizing in a side-wind.

Steam Finally Set to Work.

The construction of the South Carolina Railroad, which was begun in 1829, hastened the end of these mechanical fancies. Acting on the advice of Horatio Allen, the directors determined to adopt steam as the only motive-power for the new road, and an order for a locomotive was given to the West Point Foundry in New York City. In October, 1830, this locomotive, the Best Friend, was shipped by water to Charleston.

During the fall several experimental trips were taken, on one of which a small piece of artillery was carried for the purpose of firing salutes, and then the Best Friend settled down to routine work, the first locomotive to be used in the United States for actual service. Through the winter the locomotive worked faithfully, only to come to grief in the spring. While on the turn-table a negro fireman pressed down the safety-valve, and the boiler exploded.

About this time the second locomotive, the West Point, was put in service. One hundred and seventeen passengers took part in the new arrival's trial trip, and it was evident that in South Carolina at least the locomotive had come to stay. A few months later the West Point Foundry turned out the De Witt Clinton, the first locomotive to run in the State of New York.

In August, 1831, this engine began to make regular trips over the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad from Albany to Schenectady, with a train of five or six passenger coaches. These coaches had previously been drawn over the line by horses. Their shape and construction were those of an old-fashioned stage- coach, with a driver's seat at each end.

Utica to Buffalo in Twelve Hours.

On the first trip the conductor - a new official in railroading, for hitherto the driver had collected fares, as well as guided the horses - having gathered up the passengers tickets before starting, mounted to the little outside seat on the carriage, and from that perch tooted a tin horn as a signal for the train to go ahead.

Despite these inconveniences, the trip was regarded as an unqualified success. For a portion of the way a speed of thirty miles an hour was maintained, and enthusiasts already predicted that it would soon be possible to breakfast in Utica, dine in Rochester, and sup on the shore of Lake Erie. As a matter of fact this prediction has been far more than realized. The running-time of the Empire State Express from Albany to Buffalo is about five hours and a half, and if one cares to, he can breakfast in Albany and lunch at Buffalo.

From that time locomotive has followed locomotive from the foundries and locomotive-works of the country. In 1829 there was one locomotive in America, the Stourbridge Lion, described above. When the De Witt Clinton began its trips between Albany and Schenectady, in 1831, there were three engines in active service. Seventy-three years later there were in the country forty-six thousand seven hundred and forty-three working locomotives in the freight and passenger service.

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