Rocket in the Air

Stephenson’s Rocket was the winner of the 1829 Rainhill Trials and the original machine was the centrepiece of the Science Museum's railway display at Kensington for many years. In 1979, they commissioned a working replica under the direction of Mike Satow a founder member of the Friends, to participate in the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the first Manchester to Liverpool Railway.

Rocket has international significance and achieved another World First when it became the first working steam locomotive to fly!

In March 1983, she was flown from Heathrow, over the North Pole to Japan to participate in the Great Railway Exposition at Osaka sponsored by Asahi Shinbun (the equivalent of our Times).

For three weeks she steamed over 200 yards of track carrying thousands of enthusiastic Japanese visitors entranced by the machine and the three operators from York Museum. John Bellwood, David Mosley and Bill Smith, were bogus Stephensons dressed in frock coats, extravagant waistcoats and tall hats.

Apparently for the first three days Japanese coal was used but it was of poor quality and very smoky so a change to wood produced beneficial effects on steaming and on cleanliness.

Since then of course replica Rocket has entered the frequent flyer category with flights to Vancouver, Sacramento, Australia and return trips to Japan as well as road borne excursions to many European capitals.

Photo: ©Philip Benham

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By Frank Paterson

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