Peter Cooper's Locomotive, Tom Thumb, 1830.


This Engine was built by Mr. Peter Cooper of New York, at the Mount Clare Shops of the B. & O. R. R. at Baltimore and was built to demonstrate its adaptability to a curved road and was the first locomotive for railroad purposes ever built in America. The first actual experimental trip occurred on Saturday Aug 28th 1830. The boiler sat upright on the car and was filled above the furnace with vertical tubes, a blowing apparatus driven by a drum attached to one of the car wheels created a draft to keep up steam. The engine had one cylinder 3¼" dia. x 14½" stroke, the wheels were 2½ ft. in diameter, and it hauled 4½ tons at a speed of 12 miles per hour.


******** OOOOOOOO ********


Following is an excerpt from a description of the Tom Thumb from Brown, William H. The History of the First Locomotives In America  which, most significantly, points out that the Tom Thumb was the first anthracite-burning locomotive in America and that it employed a means of augmenting the firebox draft.

I have now seen Mr. Winans, and shown him the rough sketch of the Peter Cooper locomotive, referred to in my former letter. I send, upon the next page, a copy of the sketch, which presents as near an approach to a picture of the machine as at this distant day is possible to exhibit. Mr. Ross Winans tells me that Mr. Cooper brought the boiler from New York, in the spring or early in the summer of 1829; and it was on a frame, and rested on four wheels belonging to the company; the road was then used thirteen miles to Ellicott's Mills, and with horsepower. The boiler was tubular, and upright in position. Mr. Winans does not recollect the dimensions of it, although he says it lay in his shops for several years. He thinks it was not more than twenty inches in diameter, and, perhaps, from five to six feet high. There was a single cylinder of three and one quarter inches in diameter, fourteen and one quarter inches stroke, that projected its pistonrod and connecting rod, so as to take hold of the crank by direct action.

" On the crankshaft, which rested on the dame of the car, was a spur-wheel which geared with a pinion on the forward roadwheels so as to increase speed; the roadwheels being only two and one-half feet in diameter.

" The fuel was anthracite coal, and an artificial draught, in the firebox at the bottom of the boiler, was created by a fan, driven by a belt passing around a wooden drum attached to one of the road-wheels, and a pulley on the fan-shaft as shown in the sketch.

" Mr. Winans says that Mr. Cooper at first proposed to communicate the reciprocating motion of the piston-rod to the roadwheels by an arrangement which I cannot accurately describe, but the experiment did not satisfy Mr. Cooper on trial, and the common crank action was substituted, and the favorable results obtained, which are described in Mr. Winans's letter of August 28, 1830, published in the Railroad Record of Cincinnati, on the 8th of July last. Mr. Cooper, if applied to, could perhaps furnish some interesting additional particulars about this engine, which was undoubtedly the very first American locomotive.


The complete description given by W. H. Brown is available here.


******** OOOOOOOO ********


            The following article published in the Bulletin of the  Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, Vol 10, 1925 pp. 4 -5 states again that anthracite was used in the first American Locomotive.


On August 28, 1830, Peter Cooper's small experimental locomotive made the trip from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills and return with a car carrying thirty passengers. This was undoubtedly the first locomotive built in America. As shown in the reproduction, the engine consisted of an upright boiler, mounted on a frame supported by four wheels. The engine had a single working cylinder of about three and one-half inches in diameter. Power was secured by means of gears. The boiler was tubular, anthracite coal was used as fuel, an artificial draught being created by a fan placed in the firebox of the locomotive driven by a belt passing around a wooden drum attached to one of the road wheels and a pulley on the fan shaft.


Peter Cooper's "Tom Thumb." B. & O. R. R.. The first Locomotive built in America. 1830.




Return to Pictorial Catalogue of Steam Engines


About the Hopkin Thomas Project


November 2011