And so it begins. In 1813, this was the white heat of the technological revolution, William Hedley’s ‘Puffing Billy’. This spindly ‘contraption’, which went on to become the modern steam locomotive we all know and love, in the words of one author, Wolfgang Schivelbusch, ‘industrialised time and space.’ It wasn’t just the speed of transportation which increased, the pace of change in peoples lives and livelihoods accelerated too.
The original Puffing Billy, the one above is a modern replica, was the work of William Hedley, assisted by Jonathan Forster and Timothy Hackworth, whose own engine, ‘Sans Pareil’, was a serious contender to Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’, in the Rainhill Trials of 1829. Hackworth’s ‘Royal George’, an 0-6-0 built for the Stockton & Darlington Railway, was, in some quarters, credited with saving steam haulage on the S&D. Hackworth had quite a career in locomotive building and design and is credited with the invention of the blastpipe. He built and exported a steam locomotive to Russia, in 1836 and was, from 1825 to 1840, the Locomotive Superintendent to the S&D.
Hedley’s ‘Puffing Billy’ remained in service until 1862 when she was ‘loaned’ and then sold to the Patent Office Museum, which, eventually, became the Science Museum, in London. Puffing Billy had a sister engine, ‘Wylam Dilly’, which was also preserved and now resides in the National Museum of Scotland.
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: