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Stourbridge Lion

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Stourbridge Lion
The Stourbridge Lion's first run, as depicted by Clyde Osmer DeLand c. 1916
Power type Steam
Builder Foster, Rastrick and Company
Build date 1828
Configuration 0-4-0
Gauge 4 ft 3 in (1295 mm)
Weight 7.5 tons
Boiler 48 in (1.2 m) dia. x 10.5 ft (3.2 m) long
Firegrate area 8 ft² (0.7 m²)
Cylinder size 8.5 in (216 mm) dia. x 36 in (914 mm) stroke
Career Delaware & Hudson Canal Company (D&H)
First run August 8 1829
Retired 1834
Current owner Smithsonian Institution
Disposition only the boiler remains; other parts were scrapped or stolen in the 1800s

The Stourbridge Lion was a railroad steam locomotive. It was not only the first locomotive to be operated in the United States, it was also one of the first locomotives to operate outside of England, where it was manufactured in 1828.

The locomotive earned the name Lion from the picture of a lion's face that was painted on the front of the locomotive by its builder. The Stourbridge portion of the name is from the town of Stourbridge in England, where the locomotive was manufactured.


One of the first railroads in the United States, the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company (D&H), was originally chartered in 1823 to build and operate canals between New York, NY and the coal fields around Carbondale, PA. While the line was originally planned as a canal for the entire route, company engineers began thinking about rail transportation as early as 1825; the initial plan was to build a railroad between the mines and the western end of the canal as a way to get the coal to the canal boats.

John B. Jervis, who later became the designer of the 4-2-0 (the Jervis type) locomotive, was named the D&H's chief engineer in 1827. Jervis planned out a series of inclines connected by level, but themselves disconnected, railroads. The company directors liked Jervis's plan and authorized its construction with some hesitation for the as-yet unproven railroad technology.

In 1828, a former coworker of Jervis, Horatio Allen went on a railroad research tour of England. Through Allen, Jervis sent specifications for locomotives that could be used on the D&H. Allen wrote back in July that four locomotives had been ordered, three from Foster, Rastrick and Company and one from Robert Stephenson and Company, for the D&H.

Stourbridge Lion was one of these three locomotives built by Rastrick, but Stephenson's shop had completed their locomotive, the Pride of Newcastle before any of Rastrick's locomotives. The Pride of Newcastle even arrived in America nearly two months before the Stourbridge Lion, but it was the latter that was used for the first railroad trials.

The locomotive was assembled after shipment at the West Point Foundry in New York where it was first tested under steam in 1829. Its first official run took place on August 8 of that year in Honesdale, PA. The locomotive performed admirably, but the track that was built on which to run it was insufficient for the task. Jervis had specified that the locomotives should weigh no more than 4 tons; the Stourbridge Lion weighed nearly double that, 7.5 tons.

Rastrick built another engine after completing the three that were sent to America. This engine, the Agenoria, is believed to be a duplicate of the Stourbridge Lion. The Agenoria was built in 1829 and is currently preserved at the National Railway Museum in York.

By 1834, documents show that the railroad attempted to sell the Stourbridge Lion and its early sisters to the Pennsylvania Canal Commission, but the deal was not finalized. The locomotives were deemed too unsuitable for the now expanding railroads; American locomotive manufacturers had begun producing their own locomotives of improved designs as early as 1830. The four locomotives were used as sources of English wrought-iron bar stock until the middle of the 1840s.

By 1845, all that was left of the Stourbridge Lion was its boiler. The boiler was still functional, however, and it was used in a foundry in Carbondale for about another five years until the foundry's owner headed west to try his luck as a Forty-niner. The foundry was sold a few years later to new owners who recognized the boiler's value as a piece of history, and reportedly tried to sell it for $1,000 in 1874. The owners weren't able to find a buyer so they hung onto it themselves.

In 1883, the D&H borrowed the boiler to display at the Exposition of Railway Appliances in Chicago, IL. Unfortunately, security around the boiler's transportation was lax; souvenir hunters pulled every loose item that they could off the now historic boiler, even resorting to hammers and chisels to remove portions of it.

The boiler was stored again and eventually acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1890. A few other parts that are believed to have been from the Stourbridge Lion are also preserved, but their authenticity is questioned. These other parts may have come from one or more of the locomotive's sister engines. The museum has made a few attempts to rebuild the locomotive with the parts that remain. However, with the parts' origins still in question, and the lack of a few other key parts, the locomotive's reconstruction has never been completed. The boiler and assembled parts are currently on display at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD.

The D&H built their own replica of the Stourbridge Lion in 1932 from plans that were made based on the parts remaining in existence.

Mechanical description

The piston rods connected to a pair of walking beams (one for each piston) mounted above the boiler. A driving rod near the piston end of the walking beams connected to the rear axle's wheels, where it also connected to a rod that connected to the front wheels.

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