Rocket’s coming home to the North


STEPHENSON’S Rocket is to return to the city of its birthplace for the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018.

Rocket’s owner, the Science Museum, where the locomotive is on public display, has confirmed that it will be loaned for the showpiece event in Newcastle-on-Tyne and Gateshead.

Stephenson’s Rocket on display in the Science Museum in London. ROBIN JONES

Built in 1829 by Robert Stephenson and Company at Newcastle’s Forth Street Works, Rocket won the Rainhill Trials in that year to become the fastest locomotive designed up to that point.

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The trials were held by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the world’s first inter-city line, not only to find a new and more efficient form of locomotive, but to establish whether steam traction – as opposed to cable-hauled systems or horses – was really the future.

In their attempt to win the prize of £500 (£50,000 today), George Stephenson and his son Robert – who is widely believed to have contributed more to Rocket than his father – brought together several innovations with their new locomotive Rocket to improve efficiency and performance.

The basic design proved to be a ground-breaking watershed in transport technology and set the blueprint for almost all subsequent steam locomotive designs.

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The Great Exhibition of the North takes place from June 22 to September and will showcase great art, culture, design and innovation from across the north of England, with exhibition hubs at Great North Museum: Hancock, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Sage Gateshead.

Read more in Issue 232 of HR – on sale now!

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