STEPHENSON’S Rocket is back in the town of its birth, ready to take a central role in the Great Exhibition of the North.
The Tyneside-built icon has been moved from London’s Science Museum, its home since 1862, to Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Discovery Museum, where it will be displayed from June 22 to September 9, next to Charles Parsons’ Turbinia, the first steam turbine-powered steamship, which dates from 1894.
Rocket was built at the city’s Stephenson Works in 1829, the year in which it won the Rainhill Trials with a top speed of 25mph. Usually credited to George Stephenson, modern historians believe that Rocket was far more the work of his son Robert.
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Its victory in the trials led to a contract to produce locomotives for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the world’s first inter-city railway, and also set in stone the course for the future development of the steam locomotive.
Rocket had been on continuous display at the Science Museum in South Kensington since 2000 after returning from a tour of Japan and a visit to the National Railway Museum in York.
An essay written by Stephenson about its design and building is also to go on show at the Discovery Museum.
On the evening of June 12, staff at the Science Museum began the preparation of Rocket for the first stage of the journey, carefully dismantling the wooden plinth around it and then removing the chimney, under the auspices of Louise Burden, head of conservation and collection care for the Science Museum Group. On arrival at the Discovery Museum, it was reassembled, with 18 nuts and bolts returned to their correct positions.
Read more in Issue 243 of HR – on sale now!