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Tag: Rocket

Museums Have Changed. “Rocket”.

I visited the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry today.

As I entered I had to remove my hearing aids.  The noise was deafening.  It sounded like a rock concert with someone screaming into a microphone, as they do.

At the same time, I could see in front of me, Stephenson’s “Rocket”, and that was exciting.  Better still, there were only 1 or 2 people looking at it, so it was possible to get up close or more distantly, to examine it and take photos.

But there was a large crowd on the other side of the room, where the noise was originating.  I was informed that it was “a history of industry in Manchester” lecture, with sound effects and a live performance directed at kids.   Fair enough I suppose.  That sort of presentation might introduce kids to science and museums.  But I am skeptical.  More likely it is an introduction to entertainment, and not much to do with science or industry.

So, I made the most of it and spent quite a while examining Rocket and taking photographs from every angle.  Photos later.

Then I changed buildings to see the Power Hall exhibition of industrial steam engines.  This was the second major reason for my visit to Manchester.   But the Power Hall was closed!  “Temporary” said the sign.  “For one year” said the attendant.  Bummer.

Had a look in the “Air and Space Hall” and was impressed by the size of the twin rotor helicopter, and some other interesting old string and rag airplanes, but that is not really my thing.

Anyway, back to “Rocket”, which you know was the winner of the 1829 Rainhill trial, to pick a locomotive design which would be used to power a railway line between Manchester and Liverpool.  I had seen a replica of Rocket at York.  But this is the real one.   It is almost 200 years old, and it looks the part.  The timber bumper slab has partially disintegrated, and it is likely that some parts have been upgraded.  But those changes are now part of history.

Rocket side.JPG

The firebox water jacket is missing, causing the incomplete appearance.  Wooden front wheel, with iron rim.  Cylinder is horizontal so this is mark 2 or later.

Rocket firedoor.JPG

Rocket firedoor

Rocket firebox top.JPG

Firebox without copper water jacket, from the top

Rocket side2.JPG

The only other steam engine on display, (because the Power Hall was closed), was this very elegant beam engine.

Beam engine unlabelled

The flywheel must be 8′ diameter, which makes it a tall, thin machine.  I do like the fluted columns, and symmetrical entabulature.

Beam engine cylinder end

Now, that would make for an interesting model.



National Rail Museum, York, UK.

I am not really “into” trains.  More a stationary engine enthusiast.  But so many readers and friends advised me to not miss the Rail Museum at York that I went today, with my local guide and blog reader, Jennifer Edwards.  To my surprise, Jennifer had not previously visited the museum either.

The museum is located outside the city walls, (the longest city walls in UK), and next to the railway station.  Parking was easy, but not cheap.  $AUD20, which seems to be the standard parking fee in many UK places.  But entry to the museum was free!

There are 3 big halls and an outside area.  The first hall contained a number (didn’t count, but maybe 8) of complete trains with carriages, including a couple of royal trains, with monogrammed carriages, double beds, elegant dining tables with fine china and silverware.  The paintwork gleams.  The metal surfaces are polished.  Altogether a magnificent spectacle.


Express passenger locomotive nicknamed “Spinner”, 1890-1920.  Average speed 60mph, maximum 90mph.  (we could use some of these in Oz)

For some inexplicable reason I did not photograph the royal trains.

The next building housed the interesting locomotives.


This is KF7, the largest loco in the collection.  Designed for use in an area of China with steep hills and weak bridges.  The weight was spread over many axles.  Jennifer is 5’6″ 


This is a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket 1.  It is particularly interesting because many covers have been sectioned or removed, showing the innards.


This section shows the internal structure of a power cylinder and D valve.


And the multitube boiler.

I took many photos.  This is showing just a tiny fraction of them.


And, of course all steam engine buffs will recognise the fastest steam locomotive in the world.  Mallard could reach speeds of 126mph (203kph), towing a full complement of carriages.  Not bad for 1938


Guided tour of Mallard controls


Magnificent green livery.  Did not record engine details.


And this was a full size locomotive, found in a scrap yard and beyond restoration, so it was sectioned to display the workings.  Quite fascinating.


The “Agenoria” 1829, reminded me strongly of Trevithick’s designs.  The info says that the designer,  John Rastrick, had worked with Trevithick.


That boiler end, firebox door, water level taps and square nuts could be straight off the Trevithick dredger engine.

We did not see the last areas, because after 4 hours or so, we two seniors had aching joints.   Nice to leave something for the next visit.

Thanks guys, for a wonderful recommendation.

If you have not seen this museum, definitely add it to your bucket list.

And sincere thanks to Jennifer Edwards, fellow model engineer,  for being great company over the last 2 days.


Jennifer collects clocks, as well as boilers and steam engines.  Here she is admiring a railway station pendulum clock.