Prelude to the Locomotive
Born in Scotland in 1736, James Watt always had a love for engineering and making instruments. One day, when asked to repair an old Newcomen engine (one of the first engines available), he experienced an epiphany in realizing how slow, wasteful, and inefficient the old engine was. He designed a steam engine that eliminated heat loss from rapidly heating and cooling the piston. The result was a more powerful and efficient engine that laid the groundwork for the steam locomotive.
The Steam Locomotive
On September 27, 1825 after being commissioned as head engineer in the creation of a Newcastle railroad, George Stephenson and his son opened the first public railway system in the world. This railway featured the father and son's collaborative project, Locomotion. The occasionally carried passengers between Darlington and Newcastle at a top speed of 15 mph. Stephenson continued innovating and on September 15, 1830, Rocket, the sleeker, lighter, more efficient younger brother of Locomotion was entered into a contest to see which steam locomotive would be the best for carrying passengers from Manchester to Liverpool and back. Stephenson's train easily outclassed all other competition and became the first regular, public rail transit, as it regularly went 16 mph and reached bursts of 36 mph. The Rocket, with its innovative design, set a precedent for later steam locomotives, the earliest example of a steam-driven train that resembles recent steam engines. Stephenson's invention of the Rocket started a new era of modernized transportation that only improved after his progress in the railroad industry.