CHAPTER XX

EXPERIMENTAL LOCOMOTIVES

The first locomotive, then built to demonstrate its adaptability to a curved road, was constructed by Mr. Peter Cooper, of New York, long and most favorably known as the founder of the far-famed Cooper Institute in that city. Mr. Cooper's locomotive was built at the St. Clair Works, near Baltimore, and was first run upon the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the summer of 1899, nearly two years before that first really successful locomotive (as it was described in the Ledger, and built by Messrs. Tyler and Baldwin) was tried upon the Germantown and Norristown Railroad, in 1832. What success Mr. Cooper's locomotive displayed on its first trial trip we will describe:

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, as we have before stated, was the first of any extent begun in America; and the first built for the purposes of trade and commerce, as nearly all are at the present day. Previous to the year 1826, no railroad, even in England, had been constructed for the general conveyance of passengers or merchandise between two distant points. A- few railroads had been constructed for local purposes, such as the conveyance of coal or ores from the mines to the points of shipment on navigable streams; but, for general purposes of travel or transportation, they severe still regarded as an untried experiment, and the question had not been settled whether stationary engines or horsepower would be the most available. The Stockton and Burlington Railway, the Killingsworth, and several others in England, al} coal-roads, had experimented with locomotives, but no one of them was satisfied that the locomotive would ever advantageously supersede horse- power. The Liverpool and Manchester Railroad had just been completed, but the question had not been settled what power should be used upon it. The same might be said of railroads in America—one or two short roads, for mining purposes, having been constructed, using horsepower.

We have devoted the foregoing remarks to the early history of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, not on 5r from the fact that it was the first railroad in the United States, constructed for the actual traffic and commerce of the community between two distant sections of the country, the far-off West with the East, but because it was the railroad upon which the first locomotive built in the United States was successfully introduced. We allude to the machine constructed by Mr. Peter Cooper, in 1829;: and, although this was but a Lilliputian affair, it nevertheless became the forerunner of a race of iron giants who sprang into existence as soon as the principle was established, for the demonstration of which Mr. Cooper had brought forth his " Tom Thumb " locomotive. The cause which led him, at this time, to deviate from the path of his legitimate business, to become the builder of the first American locomotive, will be better explained by the perusal of his letter to the author, in answer to some inquiries upon that subject, dated

MR. WILLIAM H. BROWN—

" MY DEAR SIR: In reply to your kind favor of the 10th inst., I write to say that I am not sure that I have a drawing or sketch of the little locomotive placed by me on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, in the summer of 1829, to the best of my recollection. " The engine was a very small and insignificant affair. It was made at a time when I had become the owner of all the land now belonging to the Canton Company, the value of which, I believe, depended almost entirely upon the success of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

" At that time an opinion had become prevalent that the road was ruined for steam locomotives, by reason of the short curves found necessary to get around the various points of rocks found in their course. Under these discouraging circumstances many of the principal stockholders were about abandoning the work, and were only prevented from forfeiting their stock by my persuading them that a locomotive could be so made as to pass success fully around the short curves then found in the road, which only extended thirteen miles, to Ellicott's Mills.

" When I had completed the engine, I invited the directors to witness an experiment. Some thirty-six persons entered one of the passenger-cars, and four rode on the locomotive, which carried its own fuel and water; and made the first passage, of thirteen miles, over an average ascending grade of eighteen feet to the mile, in one hour and twelve minutes. They made the return-trip in fifty-seven minutes.

" I regret my inability to make such a sketch of the engine as I would be willing to send you at this moment, without further time to do so.

The following letter from Benjamin H. Latrobe, Esq., the chief engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad during its construction, addressed to the author, and containing a description and sketch of the sailing-car invented by Mr. Evan Thomas, and experimented with upon the road, and also his promise of a future sketch Of the Peter Cooper locomotive, will no doubt be interesting to our readers:

"DEAR SIR: Your letter to me, of the 26th July, has been forwarded to me at this place, where I am on a visit with my family. It will give me pleasure to give you what information I can upon the subject upon which you inquire, but I cannot do this so well here, as I could after my return to Baltimore, and communicating with my brother, who, as counsel of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, entered its service a couple of years before I did, as 3 subordinate in the engineer corps, on the 1 st of July, 1830.

" I will recollect the little experimental locomotive of Mr. Peter Cooper, and also the sailing-car of Mr. Evan Thomas; but I could not give you a reliable sketch of the former at present, but, as to the latter, it was ' a basket body,' like that of a sleigh, and had a mast, and, if I recollect, ' a square sail, and was mounted upon four wheels of equal size.' It ran equally well in either direction, but of course only in that in which the wind happened to be blowing at the time, although it would go with the wind abaft the beam, but at a speed proportioned to the angle with a line of the sails. It was but a clever toy, but had its use at the time in showing how little power of propulsion was necessary upon a railway, compared with the best of the roads that had preceded it. Mr. Cooper's engine had, I remember, a vertical tubular boiler, and he was, at the time of its being placed on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the summer of 1829, regarded as the first suggester of that form of boiler,* although Mr. Booth, the treasurer of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, had proposed it for the Rocket engine about the same time; upon this point, however, I am not posted. There I at home I would refer to some books and memoranda there, which, together with an interchange of recollections with my brother, would enable me to speak more specifically. The mode of applying the power to the wheels I do not remember. I had just entered the company's service, and my thoughts were directed more to learning the use of the leveling instrument and transit, and how to run curves with the latter, than to the rolling machinery of the railroad.

"I recollect very distinctly, however, a trip which this little locomotive of 'Alderman Cooper's,' as he was then called, made to Elicitor’s Mills, where I was stationed. It must have been in July or August, 1830. It brought out several of the directors, and my brother was one of the party, and I remember following it a little distance down the road, after it had started with much puffing and leaking of steam from some of its joints p

" It was in size (and power too, I might say) about the scale of Evan Thomas's sailing-car; yet it was, as the first step in the use of steam on that road, a highly important one.

" Its fuel, I think, was anthracite coal, the use of which, in the engines which succeeded it, was a favorite idea with the company, and influenced the form of the locomotives employed upon the road for several subsequent years.

" The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, stimulated by the example of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, next year (1830) offered a premium of $500 to the constructor of the locomotive which would draw fifteen tons, gross weight, fifteen miles an hour. This advertisement brought upon the road an odd collection of four or five original American ideas, of which it is much to be regretted that photographs and indeed detailed drawings have not been preserved. Among these was a rotary engine, by a Mr. Childs, which, I believe, never made a revolution of its wheels, certainly not in the form of the locomotive. The engine which took the premium was built by Mr. Phineas Davis, which was the model for those built after it for three or four years.


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