R is for Rainhill Rocket Railway

Rainhill StationOn the face of it there is nothing remarkable about this photo of a train pulling into a suburban station, but the place does have historical significance for this is Rainhill where rail travel began.

Rainhill is a village midway between Manchester and Liverpool and in 1829 it was the venue for the Rainhill Trials, a pioneering competition to decide a suitable design for use on the world’s first inter-city passenger line which still runs through the village today.

When the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was nearing completion, the company ran the competition to decide whether stationary steam engines or locomotives should be used to pull the trains.

Stephenson's RocketThere was a £500 prize on offer for the winner and three notable figures from the early days of engineering were selected as judges: John Urpeth Rastrick, a locomotive engineer of Stourbridge, Nicholas Wood, a mining engineer from Killingworth with considerable locomotive design experience and John Kennedy, a Manchester cotton spinner and a major proponent of the railway.

The rules of the competition were quite specific and you can read them here if you wish. Five engines were entered and their names are remembered on plaques on Rainhill high street.

Perseverance, Novelty, Cycloped and Sans Pareil were the runners-up, but the winner of the competition was The Rocket designed by George Stephenson.

Stephenson's RocketAbove is a photo of the preserved Rocket at the Science Museum in London, courtesy of Wikipedia, but you will also find a replica in Rainhill as you’ll see in my photo on the left.

The wooden sculpture stands in the playground of St Ann’s Primary School. Sadly it has lost its tall smoke stack, but is still a reminder for the children of their village’s past.

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3 comments… Add yours
  • rog 18th May 2011

    I love trains and their history.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  • Wanda 18th May 2011

    What great train stories. Nice pictures too.

  • Yorkshire Pudding 18th May 2011

    Informative. Thank you.


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