Stephenson's Rocket and the Rainhill Trials (Paperback)

By Richard Gibbon

Shire, 9780747808039, 56pp.

Publication Date: September 21, 2010



The iconic shape of George and Robert Stephenson's Rocket, as unveiled to the world in 1829, is arguably the most enduring silhouette in railway history. But why was Rocket that special, curious, shape? And why does the surviving locomotive, a star exhibit at London's Science Museum, look so unlike the striking yellow image associated with the Rocket today?

Rocket was built to take part in The Rainhill Trials, the competition to find a locomotive design to pull trains on the world's first passenger line, the Liverpool and Manchester. The trials caught the public's imagination and its victor, Rocket, became a sensation. It quickly became of symbol of technological progress and was increasingly seen as a milestone in industrial, and world, history.

Incorporating several important innovations, the Stephensons' engine set the pattern for future world steam locomotive development for the next 130 years. But would the steam locomotive have developed differently if Rocket had not won the trials? Richard Gibbon addresses all these questions while exploring in words and pictures the machine that became the metaphor for what is seen as Britain's greatest gift to the industrial world: the steam locomotive.

About the Author

Richard Gibbon is former Head of Engineering Collections at the National Railway Museum, York. During his fifteen years at York he cared for many famous locomotives, including the working replica of Stephenson's Rocket. He has appeared several times on radio and television, including 'Scrapheap Challenge' and a BBC Timewatch documentary about the Rainhill Trials. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and was awarded an OBE in 2004 for his services to museums.