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Boiler of the Stourbridge Lion
1829

The "iron monster"
On the morning of August 8, 1829, the Stourbridge Lion became the first true locomotive (that is, one designed to pull railroad cars) to operate in the United States or anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. The British-built engine was part of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co.'s plan to transport anthracite coal, or hard coal, mined in northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City by canal or rail. However, the design chosen for the locomotive's track was primitive: flat iron straps, half an inch thick, held with countersunk screws to the top of heavy wooden stringers laid parallel. Although the Lion's maiden outing was completed without incident, it was clear that the track was not firm enough to support the locomotive. Soon, laborers were laying wooden planks between the rails to provide a safe walkway for horses, which began to transport the coal. The Stourbridge Lion never ran again, but the D&H Canal Co. became a great success.

Notes
Track was made of iron straps and unseasoned hemlock timbers and cross-ties.
In the 1860s, the English gauge of 4'8-1/2" became virtually "standard" in the U.S.
British railways at this time were building lines with all-iron rails, not with iron straps on wood.
Anthracite coal is difficult to ignite, but is practically smokeless when burned properly.
On public display at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, Baltimore MD, a Smithsonian Affiliate

Learn more!
· Description of First Run
· Significance of the Stourbridge Lion

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