Resource Type: Image | Posted on 24th October 2011 by Liam Physick

One of the images donated to Metal by Eric Shenton. This mural shows the Novelty, another of the failed entrants at the Rainhill Trials, but one that nevertheless captured the public imagination. It was built in London by John Ericsson and John Braithwaite, and used a 0-2-2WT wheel arrangement - it is regarded as the world’s first tank engine. No other British locomotive was ever built in the same style: its unique features included a vertical boiler and wheels that resembled those of a bicycle (yet to be invented). The Novelty looked very similar to the horse-drawn steam fire engines that were being built by Ericsson and Braithwaite around the same time, and probably used many of the same parts - possibly, parts that had been ordered for a fire engine but were converted to the Novelty, as Ericsson and Braithwaite only found about the Rainhill Trials seven weeks in advance. As a result both of this and the fact that there were no railways in London at that time, there was no time to test the locomotive before it was transported to Rainhill: once it arrived there, it underwent a few test runs, and it was found that it was the wrong gauge: Timothy Hackworth, designer of the Sans Pareil, carried out repairs. Its short design period may well have contributed to its ultimate failure. At two tons 3 cwt, the Novelty was by far the lightest engine at the Trials. On the demonstration runs on 6th October, just before the Trials started, the Novelty reached speeds of 28 miles per hour, making it the fastest of all the entrants and winning popularity with the crowds. George Stephenson, however, was less than impressed, opining that the London engine had “no guts”. He was proved right the next day when the competition actually got underway,as the Novelty’s blower failed, necessitating repairs for the whole of the day. On 10th October, Ericsson and Braithwaite tried again, but someone on the engine shut down the stopcock between the water pump and boiler, and the water feed pipe burst: to repair this, among other things the boiler would have to be sealed, a process then involving a cement-like substance that took days or even weeks to set properly. Thus, when the Novelty tried again on 14th, the seal failed and the joints started to blow, and the locomotive had to be withdrawn from the Trials: the Liverpool Mercury probably spoke for many when it regretted the fact that the Novelty had not won. Despite its failure, it was purchased by the St. Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway: while there, it received a new boiler and cylinders (thus, unlike the Rocket and the Sans Pareil, the original no longer exists), but the original wheels and cylinders have survived. In 1929, the original wheels and one of the original cylinders were used to construct a replica on display at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry: the other cylinder is in Rainhill Public Library, and the replica was rebuilt in 1988: an electric motor was added. Another replica was built in 1979 for the re-enactment of the Rainhill Trials at Rocket 150, where it was carried on a Well wagon, so its wheels could rotate freely. This replica was then steamed a few times in Manchester, and since 1982, it has been on display at the Swedish Railway Museum in Gavle, although in 2002 it was used in the BBC Two programme Timewatch - The Rocket and its Rivals, in a substantially modified state: in contrast to the original, it could go no faster than 17 miles per hour. British Rail No. 86235, a Class 86 electric locomotive, was named after the Novelty: it is currently stored at Long Marston


Tagged under: steam locomotives, eric shenton, rocket 150, rocket, rainhill trials, british rail, george stephenson, tank locomotives, sans pareil, novelty

Categorised under: Landmarks, Landscapes & Locomotives

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