Rainhill Trials

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The Rainhill Trials were an important competition in the early days of steam locomotive railways, run in October 1829 in Rainhill, Lancashire (now Merseyside) for the nearly completed Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

When the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was approaching completion, the directors of the railway ran a competition to decide whether stationary steam engines or locomotives would be used to pull the trains. The Rainhill Trials were arranged as an open contest that would let them see all the locomotive candidates in action, with the choice to follow.[1] Regardless of whether or not locomotives were settled upon, a prize of £500 was offered to the winner of the trials. Three notable figures from the early days of engineering were selected as judges: John Urpeth Rastrick, a locomotive engineer of Stourbridge, Nicholas Wood, a mining engineer from Killingworth with considerable locomotive design experience and John Kennedy, a Manchester cotton spinner and a major proponent of the railway.

Contents

Rules

Locomotives that were entered were to be subjected to a variety of tests and conditions. These were amended at various points, but were eventually nailed down to:

  • "The weight of the Locomotive Engine, with its full complement of water in the boiler, shall be ascertained at the Weighing Machine, by eight o'clock in the morning, and the load assigned to it shall be three times the weight thereof. The water in the boiler shall be cold, and there shall be no fuel in the fire-place. As much fuel shall be weighed, and as much water shall be measured and delivered into the Tender Carriage, as the owner of the Engine may consider sufficient for the supply of the Engine for a journey of thirty-five miles. The fire in the boiler shall then be lighted, and the quantity of fuel consumed for getting up the steam shall be determined, and the time noted.
  • "The Tender Carriage, with the fuel and water, shall be considered to be, and taken as a part of the load assigned to the Engine.
  • "Those engines which carry their own fuel and water, shall be allowed a proportionate deduction from their load, according to the weight of the Engine.
  • "The Engine, with the carriages attached to it, shall be run by hand up to the Starting Post, and as soon as the steam is got up to fifty pounds per square inch (3.4 bar), the engine shall set out upon its journey.
  • "The distance the Engine shall perform each trip shall be one mile and three quarters (2.8 km) each way, including one-eighth of a mile (200 m) at each end for getting up the speed and for stopping the train; by this means the Engine, with its load, will travel one and a-half mile (2.4 km) each way at full speed.
  • "The Engines shall make ten trips, which will be equal to a journey of 35 miles (56 km); thirty miles whereof shall be performed at full speed, and the average rate of travelling shall not be less than ten miles per hour (16 km/h). (Note: The only other passenger railway in the world at that time, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, had an average speed of only about 8 miles per hour (13 km/h).)

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