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The Rainhill Trials, 1829

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company set down rules for the competition to be held at Rainhill as follows:


STIPULATIONS & CONDITIONS on which the directions of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway offer a premium of £500 for the most improved locomotive engine.

  1. The said Engine must 'effectually consume its own smoke', according to the provisions of the Railway Act. 7th Geo. IV.
  2. The Engine, if it weighs Six Tons, must be capable of drawing after it, day by day, on a well-constructed Railway, on a level plane, a Train of Carriages of the gross weight of Twenty Tons, including the Tender and Water Tank, at the rate of Ten Miles per Hour, with a pressure of steam in the boiler not exceeding Fifty Pounds on the square inch.
  3. There must be Two Safety Valves, one of which must be completely out of reach or control of the Engine-man, and neither of which must be fastened down while the Engine is working.
  4. The Engine and Boiler must be supported on Springs. and rest on Six Wheels; and the height from the ground to the top of the Chimney must not exceed Fifteen Feet.
  5. The weight of the Machine, WITH ITS COMPLEMENT OF WATER in the Boiler, must, at most, not exceed Six Tons, and a Machine of less weight will be preferred if it draw AFTER it a PROPORTIONATE weight; and if the weight of the Engine, etc., do not exceed FIVE TONS, then the gross weight to be drawn need not exceed Fifteen Tons; and in that proportion for Machines of still smaller weight - provided that the Engine, etc., shall still be on six wheels, unless the weight (as above) be reduced to Four Tons and a Half, or under, in which case the Boiler, etc., may be placed on four wheels. And the Company shall be at liberty to put the Boiler, Fire Tube, Cylinders. etc., to the test of a pressure of water not exceeding 150 Pounds per square inch, without being answerable for any damage the Machine may receive in consequence.
  6. There must be a Mercurial Gauge affixed to the Machine, with Index Rod, showing the Steam Pressure above 45 Pounds per square inch; and constructed to blow out a Pressure of 60 Pounds per inch.
  7. The Engine to be delivered complete for trial, at the Liverpool end of the Railway, not later than the 1st of October next.
  8. The price of the Engine which may be accepted, not to exceed £550 delivered on the Railway; and any Engine not approved to be taken back by the owner.

NB. - The Railway Company will provide the ENGINE TENDER with a supply of Water and Fuel for the experiment. The distance within the Rails is four feet eight inches and a half.


The four engines that took part in the Rainhill Trials

This image is taken from M. Greenwood: The Railway Revolution, p. 21.  (Longman Then and There series, 1955).
Illustrated from contemporary sources by S. Greenwood.

Interestingly, the boiler of the Sans Pareil was cast at Stephenson's works.  It was supposed to be 1½ inches thick but in reality was only 5/8 inch thick.  The boiler burst and the Sans Pareil did not complete the course.  In fact, only the Rocket did complete the requirements of the competition, making the victory somewhat hollow.

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Last modified 1 August, 2017

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