Puffing Billy (locomotive)
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''Puffing Billy'' is the world's oldest surviving
steam locomotive A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive, rail vehicle that provides the Tractive force#Rail vehicles, force to move itself and other vehicles by means of the expansion of steam. It is fuelled by burning combustible material (usually coal, ...

steam locomotive
, constructed in 1813–1814 by
colliery viewer A colliery viewer or coal viewer was the manager of a coal mine or colliery. The term was mostly used in the late eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, in the UK. In modern use, the viewer would be the senior and responsible mining engineer at a site ...
William Hedley William Hedley (13 July 1779 – 9 January 1843) was born in Newburn Newburn is a semi rural parish A parish is a territorial entity in many Christianity, Christian denominations, constituting a division within a diocese. A parish is u ...

William Hedley
, enginewright Jonathan Forster and blacksmith
Timothy Hackworth Timothy Hackworth (22 December 1786 – 7 July 1850) was an English steam locomotive A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive, rail vehicle that provides the Tractive force#Rail vehicles, force to move itself and other vehicles by means ...
for
Christopher Blackett Christopher Blackett (1751 – 25 January 1829) owned the Northumberland Northumberland () is a ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and Historic counties of England, historic county in North East England. It is bordered by ...

Christopher Blackett
, the owner of
Wylam Wylam is a village and civil parish in the county of Northumberland. It is located about west of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is famous for the being the birthplace of George Stephenson, one of the early railway pioneers. George Stephenson's Birth ...
Colliery near
Newcastle upon Tyne Newcastle upon Tyne ( , ), often simply Newcastle, is the largest city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedi ...

Newcastle upon Tyne
, in the United Kingdom. It was employed to haul coal chaldron wagons from the mine at Wylam to the docks at
Lemington Lemington is an area and ward (politics), electoral ward of Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England, North East England. History Lemington has a strong Industrial Revolution, industrial history. It is famous for its brick Lemington Glass Work ...
in
Northumberland Northumberland () is a ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are areas of England to which lord-li ...

Northumberland
.


History


Precursors

In 1810 the
Durham Coalfield The Durham Coalfield is a coalfield in north-east England. It is continuous with the Northumberland Coalfield to its north. It extends from Bishop Auckland in the south to the boundary with the county of Northumberland along the River Tyne in the n ...
was disrupted by a major strike over the Bond system. During this time
Christopher Blackett Christopher Blackett (1751 – 25 January 1829) owned the Northumberland Northumberland () is a ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and Historic counties of England, historic county in North East England. It is bordered by ...

Christopher Blackett
, owner of the
Wylam Colliery Wylam is a village and civil parish in the county of Northumberland. It is located about west of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is famous for the being the birthplace of George Stephenson, one of the early railway pioneers. George Stephenson's Birth ...
, took advantage of the pit's idleness to experiment with the idea of a locomotive-hauled tramway worked purely by adhesion, rather than the Blenkinsop rack system used on the
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Middleton
. These began with a simple hand-cranked wagon, converted from a coal wagon chassis with the addition of a central drive shaft and geared drives to the axles. As this experiment was successful, by 1812 it was followed by Wylam's first prototype 'travelling engine', worked by steam. This was based on a combination of the test wagon, with a single cylinder engine and boiler atop it. Little is known of the design, although it has been said to have been inspired by Trevithick's Pen-y-darren locomotive. It is unclear whether the single cylinder was vertical or horizontal, and whether the boiler had a single straight flue or a . It may have been nicknamed ''Grasshopper''. The 'travelling engine' was successful as a prototype, but underpowered and prone to stalling when overloaded or faced by a gradient. It was however convincing enough as a demonstration to encourage Blackett to fund further locomotives.


''Puffing Billy''

''Puffing Billy'' was one of three similar engines built by Hedley, the resident engineer at Wylam Colliery, to replace the horses used as motive power on the tramway. In 1813, Hedley built for Blackett's colliery business on the Wylam Colliery line the prototypes, ''Puffing Billy'' and ''
Wylam Dilly ''Wylam Dilly'' is the second oldest surviving rail transport, railway locomotive in the world; it was built circa 1815 by William Hedley and Timothy Hackworth for Christopher Blackett, the owner of Wylam colliery, west of Newcastle upon Tyne. ...
''. They were both rebuilt in 1815 with ten wheels, but were returned to their original condition in 1830 when the railway was relaid with stronger rails. In the September 1814 edition of ''Annals of Philosophy'' two locomotives with rack wheels are mentioned (probably ''
Salamanca Salamanca ( , ) is a city situated in western Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map ...
'' and '' Blücher''), then there is mention of "another steam locomotive at Newcastle, employed for a similar purpose auling coals and moving along without any rack wheel, simply by its friction against the rail road". From the context, this is at a different location to ''Blücher'', so is probably ''Puffing Billy''. ''Puffing Billy'' remained in service until 1862, when Blackett of Wylam, Edward Blackett, the owner of Wylam Colliery, lent it to the Patent Office Museum in South Kensington, London (later the Science_Museum,_London, Science Museum). He later sold it to the museum for £200. It is still on display there. Its sister locomotive, ''
Wylam Dilly ''Wylam Dilly'' is the second oldest surviving rail transport, railway locomotive in the world; it was built circa 1815 by William Hedley and Timothy Hackworth for Christopher Blackett, the owner of Wylam colliery, west of Newcastle upon Tyne. ...
'', is preserved in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. A replica has been built and was first run in 2006 at Beamish Museum. Another replica, built 1906 in a Royal Bavarian State Railways workshop, can be found in the Deutsches Museum, German Museum, Munich.


Design

''Puffing Billy'' incorporated a number of novel features, patented by Hedley, which were to prove important to the development of locomotives. It had two vertical cylinders, one on either side of the boiler, and partly enclosed by it, and drove a single crankshaft beneath the frames, from which gears drove and also coupled the wheels allowing better traction. The engine had a number of serious technical limitations. Running on cast-iron wagonway plates, its eight-ton weight was too heavy and broke them, encouraging opponents of locomotive traction to criticise the innovation. This problem was alleviated by redesigning the engine with four axles so that the weight was spread more evenly. The engine was eventually rebuilt as a four-wheeler when improved Wagonway#Edgeway, edge rails, edge rails track was introduced around 1830. It was not particularly fast, being capable of no more than 5 mph (8 km/h).


Legacy

''Puffing Billy'' was an important influence on George Stephenson, who lived locally, and its success was a key factor in promoting the use of steam locomotives by other collieries in north-eastern England. It has been suggested that ''Puffing Billys name survives in the English language in the intensifier ''like billy-o'', but there are several alternative explanations for that phrase's origin. In 1952, British light music composer Edward White (composer), Edward White wrote a melody named after the locomotive."Puffin' Billy" theme music
/ref> The piece became ubiquitous in British media, being used on BBC Light Programme's ''Children's Favourites'', a radio request programme, from 1952 to 1966, and also appearing in numerous commercials and radio shows. The piece also became extremely popular in the United States, where it served as the theme for ''Captain Kangaroo'' from 1955 to 1974.


References


Further reading

* * * {{early-steam-locos Individual locomotives of Great Britain English inventions Steam engines in the Science Museum, London Early steam locomotives Preserved steam locomotives of Great Britain 0-8-0 locomotives 5 ft gauge locomotives