Robert Stephenson

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

One of the images donated to Metal by Eric Shenton. This is a portrait of Robert Stephenson, the only son of George Stephenson, who deserves to be recognised as a highly talented engineer in his own right. Born in 1803, he received a good education for someone of his background, largely thanks to George’s determination that his son should receive the education that he himself had not enjoyed. Robert attended Doctor Bruce’s Academy in Newcastle, a private institution normally reserved for children of rich families: his education there was funded by his father’s successes in locomotive engineering. Robert worked with his father on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and in 1823, at the age of 20, he founded Robert Stephenson and Company to build locomotives for the new line. In 1824, a year before the Stockton and Darlington opened, Robert went to Colombia to work in the gold mines there. Returning to England in 1827, with George in the process of building the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, Robert built the Rocket for the Rainhill Trials. In 1830, he designed a more advanced and powerful locomotive, the Planet, and in 1833, became chief engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway, London’s first main-line railway and the first part of what is now the West Coast Main Line. In designing it, he faced a major problem: to get from Euston to Chalk Farm, locomotives would have to climb Primrose Hill, something locomotives then were inacapable of doing, so Stephenson devised a system whereby a fixed steam engine near the Roundhouse would drag the locomotives up the Hill up the hill by chains: his structure is now an arts centre. In 1838, Stephenson went to Tuscany, where he oversaw the construction of the Leopolda railway, and began what would later become the Faetina railway. He also built a number of bridges, including the High Level Bridge in Newcastle and the Conwy bridge, although one of his designs, the Dee bridge, collapsed under a train in 1847, killing five people: the bridge, like previous ones, had been built with cast iron, but the girders were longer this time - cast iron is strong in compresson, but brittle in tension or bending. As a result of the disaster, Stephenson was widely criticised for the poor design, and many similar bridges were demolished and rebuilt in a safer form. Among other activities, he examined the feasbility of building the Suez Canal in 1846. He died in 1859

Robert Stephenson

Tagged under: steam locomotives, liverpool and manchester railway, rocket, rainhill trials, george stephenson, robert stephenson, fixed engines, stockton and darlington railway, planet, london and birmingham railway

Categorised under: The Station & Railway Pioneers

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By christine Physick on 12th November 2011

Hi Liam,
If you get to read this, well done. I have been very impressed by your research and interview transcripts.
It was a great open day, I certainly learned lots about Edge Hill and its surrounding areas.

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