Originally from Wylam, Northumberland, England George Stephenson and
his son Robert were the pioneers of early railroad design and
construction as well as developing one of the first, commercially
successful steam locomotives. Both men were mechanical and civil
engineers with father, George, first experimenting with steam locomotive
technology as early as 1814 (the first steam locomotive is credited to
Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian, which built a small experimental design in
1804 for the Penydarren tramway in Wales). His efforts proved
successful and from that point his business really began to take off.
In 1820 he was hired to survey the Hetton colliery railway and a year
later surveyed the Stockton & Darlington Railway with help of son,
Robert. Throughout the 1820s the duo was increasingly called upon for
their expertise with either surveying or locomotive building.
For instance, in 1828 they received a contract to build a locomotive (the Stourbridge Lion) for the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company of the United States and in 1829 surveyed the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR). It was after October of that year that the two men's fame truly blossomed. They entered their 0-2-2 Rocket into the Rainhill Trials to determine which company would manufacture the locomotives for the L&MR. The Rocket proved to be the winning entry despite some issues with ride quality due to its angled cylinders being placed up high along the boiler. To remedy this problem and allow for much better fuel economy it was suggested by Richard Trevithick himself that the builders place their cylinders inside the frame and construct a wooden jacket (otherwise known as a sandwich frame) around the outside of the boiler and driving wheels.
This, however, caused a slight modification to the design that deviated from the Rocket. Stephenson's Planet would instead utilize a
2-2-0 wheel arrangement while still carrying many of the other features
of the Rocket such as a horizontal boiler, vertical stack, and trailing
tender/carriage. The L&MR liked the new design and wound up with eighteen examples in all (numbered as Planet #9, Planet #10, and so forth). Interestingly, several other early English railroads operated similar 2-2-0 designs including the London & Greenwich Railway and London & Birmingham Railway (which rostered quite a fleet like the L&MR) as well as the Dublin & Kingstown Railway of Ireland.
During the time the Planet was designed railroads in the United States were in their infancy and only operated a few scattered miles of track between South Carolina and New England. The only steam locomotives in use at that time had been shipped over from England although American-made designs were in the works, such as Peter Cooper's Tom Thumb. The 2-2-0 design, which featured a vertical boiler, was officially tested on the Baltimore & Ohio on August 28, 1830. While it proved to be a successful alternative to the horse and other examples were put into use most American lines would not operate the 2-2-0.
Instead, a wide range of wheel arrangements found use in the States until the successful and mass-produced 4-4-0 American was developed in the late 1830s. This design is often credited with "taming the West" and proved to be the preferred wheel arrangement throughout much of the 19th century. In any event, those 2-2-0s that were operated in the United States included the Boston & Lowell (which used true 2-2-0s built by the Lowell Manufacturing Company in the late 1830s, five in all) and the Grand Trunk Railway (which operated a unique 2-2-0T+4). The Susquehanna Coal Company also created a custom-built 2-2-0 around 1889 which was used as a steam inspection car and given the name Nydia.
According to SteamLocomotive.com it was later sold to the M. A. Hanna
Coal Company. All other 2-2-0s put into service in the Western
hemisphere were saddletanks used in industrial or plantation
applications. Finally, at least two examples of the 2-2-0 are known to
be preserved and operational; the aforementioned replica Planet
in Manchester, England and a replica Tom Thumb at the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. To learn more about the
Stephenson's Planet replica please click here.
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