By 1829 the planned 16-mile line between Honesdale and Carbondale only was in service for about three miles from Honesdale westward, crossing the Lackawaxen River in the process. As early as 1827 when the railroad was still in construction the D&H's chief engineer at the time John B. Jervis was very interested in the development of the steam locomotive happening in England. He decided to send his deputy engineer Horatio Allen to Britain on two missions; one was to purchase strap iron for the railroad and the other was to study the steam locomotives being constructed there. Interestingly, despite his young age of only 25 Allen was given the responsibility of ordering up to four locomotives if he felt they would prove useful and reliable to the D&H's operations. Upon arriving in 1828 he met with several builders including the Robert Stephenson & Company and John Urpeth Rastrick of Foster, Rastrick & Company.
He first talked with Robert Stephenson, who, along with his father
George were widely regarded as the experts in the field of steam
locomotive manufacturing. Allen decided to place an order with their
company for one locomotive, the Pride of Newcastle. However, it was Rastrick's company that received the other three orders and the first unit it completed was the Stourbridge Lion
so named for the lion painted on the nose and place were it was built,
Stourbridge, England. While there Allen also ordered the needed strap
iron from a foundry in Wolverhampton, 390 tons worth. The cost of the Lion
came to $2,914.90 and arrived back in New York on May 13, 1829
disassembled. It was then sent to the West Point Foundry based in
nearby Cold Spring for reassembly in testing. Its initial trials began on August 5, 1829 and proved to be in good working order.
The Stourbridge Lion was designed somewhat differently than the American-built "Tom Thumb" and Best Friend of Charleston which began operating a year later. It sported the now classic steam design with a horizontal boiler (and vertical smokestack) and driving rods followed by a trailing carriage (tender). Its wheels were built of wood with iron sheathing and featured an 0-4-0 wheel arrangement. Pistons that sat atop the boiler were driven by steam and were connected to the driving rods which powered the Lion. Despite the fact that Jervis had requested a locomotive that weighed only 4 tons so that the timber-constructed railroad could support the machine, the Lion weighed nearly 7.5 tons (which became a major issue later).
The locomotive's trial run took place on August 8, 1829 with Allen at the controls. This newfangled machine drew a large attendance to watch the event, many of whom were quite skeptical and fearful that it would explode. As a result no one would ride the contraption but were stunned and amazed when it took off down the track without a problem and out of sight from the cheering crowd. It likewise returned without a problem and not only convinced those in attendance of steam's future importance but also in the process entered the history books as the first locomotive ever operated in the United States. In an odd twist of fate, its weight was too heavy for the track and resulted in D&H officials storing the locomotive instead of spending the necessary upgrades to use it in regular operation. It then sat out of sight after its initial trial run until 1834 when it was sold for its boiler to be used in a local foundry in Carbondale. After realizing steam was not to be used on the D&H Allen left the company and became chief engineer of the South Carolina Canal And Rail Road a year later in 1830.
What remained of the Stourbridge Lion passed into many
hands over the coming years and was eventually acquired by the
Smithsonian Institution in 1890. By that point the remaining boiler had
been badly damaged through years of use, neglect, and even vandalism.
An attempt to restore the locomotive has been attempted but without
knowing what is original the project has never been completed. Today,
the boiler is on loan to the B&O Museum. Also, a replica built by
the D&H using the original blueprints resides at the Wayne County
Historical Society in Honesdale. For more reading about the Lion please click here.
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