Stephenson’s Killingworth Billy ‘older than we thought’


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.

Stephenson’s Rocket on display at the discovery Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. COLIN DAVISON/DISCOVERY MUSEUM

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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