No.1 in an Occasional Series on Early Railways

I'm planning an occasional series on early railways, as Northeast England is the birthplace of the railway. (I guess, of course, that this blip, this blip and this blip would have been appropriate to the theme, but I hadn't thought of a series then!)

We had a walk round one of our favourite local haunts this morning - the Rising Sun Country Park here in North Tyneside (I've done several blips from there in the past). This is a relatively new information board on one of the paths there. In case you can't read the legend (you might have to look large on a fairly big screen) it says "A young George Stephenson showing "The Blücher" to Edward Pease, a Quaker businessman, who helped to develop the railways in this area".

According to Wikipedia, Blücher (often spelled Blutcher) was built by George Stephenson in 1814; the first of a series of locomotives that he designed in the period 1814–16 which established his reputation as an engine designer and laid the foundations for his subsequent pivotal role in the development of the railways. Stephenson carefully measured Blücher's performance and realised that overall it saved little money compared with the use of horses, even though the price of corn was at an all-time high because of the Napeonic wars. He made one significant improvement by redirecting the steam outlet from the cylinders into the smoke stack, thereby increasing the efficiency of the boiler markedly as well as lessening the annoyance caused by the escaping steam. It could pull a train of 30 tons at a speed of 4 mph up a gradient of 1 in 450.

(Interestingly, Wikipedia says that Blücher was named after the Prussian General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher who, after a speedy march, arrived in time to help defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. However as Wikipedia also says that the locomotive was built in 1814 this sounds a bit odd!)

Edward Pease was instrumental in showing that steam would be a sound investment for hauling coal, and introduced George Stephenson into a scheme for using steam to move coal from the County Durham coalfields.

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