The "Best Friend", 1830.


The Best Friend was the first engine to draw a train of cars in America. It was built at the West Point Foundry Shops, New York City, for E. L. Miller and was put on the Charleston and Hamburgh Rail road in 1830. It was a four-wheeled engine, all four wheels being drivers. Two inclined cylinders at an angle working down on a double crank inside of the frame, the wheels connected on the outside by side rods. The wheels were made with iron hubs, wooden spokes and felloes with iron tires and iron webs and pins in the wheels to connect the outside rods to. The boiler was a vertical one, the boiler set in the centre of the four wheels with connecting rods, running by it to the crank shaft. The cyls. were 6" dia. by 16" stroke, the wheels 4½ ft. dia. Engine weighed about 4½ tons. The boiler of the engine exploded and was caused by the negro fireman putting his weight on the safety valve to prevent the steam escaping and is the first locomotive boiler explosion on record in America.


From John White:


The railway era had hardly started in America before native mechanics began the fabrication of locomotives. The Best Friend was the first. She was built in 1830 for the South Carolina Railroad by the West Point Foundry in New York City.



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November 2009