John Speller's Web Pages Mystery Locomotive

John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Broad Gauge Locomotives

Mystery Locomotive

This drawing of a Great Western Railway broad gauge locomotive was made by William Strickland (1788-1854) a distinguished American architect and engineer and an early advocate of the steam locomotive, during a visit to London on 6 February 1838. The original drawing is digitalized in the Tennessee Virtual Archive. The locomotive is shown standing on Brunel's original design of longitudinal sleepered track with piles. The dimensions which Mr. Strickland knows about -- the cylinder size, wheel size and boiler diameter -- seem to be accurately portrayed, but other things such as the smokebox and chimney are ridiculously out of scale. It is difficult to say whether this drawing represents any locomotive that was ever built. The safety valve is somewhat like that on "Viper," built by the Haigh Foundry in 1838. Several of the early Great Western Railway locomotive engines had 8 ft. driving wheels, but the only one with 5 ft. carrying wheels seems to have been "Ajax," which originally had 10 ft. driving wheels. According to MacDermott (i. 391), "Atlas" was originally built with 14 in. x 18 in. cylinders, but these were changed by Gooch to 15 in. x 18 in. MacDermott thinks this may have been true of "Lion" and "Eagle" as well. All of the early Great Western locomotives had a boiler diameter of under 4 ft., except for three Sharp, Roberts & Co. engines -- again "Atlas," "Lion" and "Eagle." Drawings of these locomotives, however, show them with a round topped firebox, rather than a Bury-type haycock firebox as shown in Mr. Strickland's drawing. This does not preclude the possibilty, however,, that the locomotive might subsequently have received a new boiler and firebox. The brass casting on the smokebox door looks like the face of a lion -- is it possible that the drawing portrays "Lion" in its original state? -- or is it just a fanciful invention?

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