WHILE George Stephenson’s Rocket is based in its home town for the Great Exhibition of the North, one of his earlier locomotives has stolen some of the limelight.
Stephenson’s 0-4-0 Killingworth Billy – thought to have been built in 1826 three years before Rocket – is a decade older than thought, a new study has revealed.
Latest research indicated that the locomotive, housed in Newcastle’s Stephenson Locomotion Museum, is the third oldest surviving steam locomotive in the world.
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Only the 5ft gauge Puffing Billy and Wylam Dilly are older, and then just by two years.
Early railways expert Dr Michael Bailey and his colleague Peter Davidson carried out a study of the locomotive, and found that an arrangement of components such as cylinders, valves and wheel axles indicated a build date of 1816. That would also make it the oldest surviving Stephenson locomotive and the oldest standard gauge engine.
A development of Stephenson’s earlier ‘Killingworth Travelling Engine’, some consider it to be the first commercially-successful form of locomotive. It was designed to haul coal wagons from Killingworth Colliery where George Stephenson worked as an engineer to the staithes on the River Tyne.
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