In 1815 this was the white heat of technology – a beam engine with a few cogs and wheels, which, if only it would stop breaking the rails, or itself, would pull 10 times the tonnage of a horse, further and faster. They say money makes the world go around, it certainly made the wheels on the engine go round and round. These engines were not the mass made product of the later Victorian age, they are craftsman built, every nut and bolt made by hand; and a great deal of head scratching trial and error.
The arrival of Puffying Billy had taken milennia, in just three generations since we’ve gone to the world wide web, put men on the moon, have mass surveillance, and the Maglev. You can travel to Tibet on a high speed train, have a Pizza delivered to your door, swim with dolphins and blow each other to bits a million times over. And a few other things besides.
And in all that change it was the steam engine, steam power, and steam locomotives which have provided the driving force – even nuclear power stations turn water into steam to drive the turbines. The really odd bit in all this is that despite what many folk think steam power wasn’t the bright spark of James Watt, it wasn’t even British in origin, nor even 19th century – the ancient Greeks discovered the power of steam – the Aeolipile, a form of steam turbine, was invented in the 1st Century AD by Hero of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician and inventor.
If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751