The Collection - The Disease

Dear Marjorie - My husband is 46 years old and spends most of his time playing with toy trains. He doesn't pay any attention to me these days.

Dear M - You have my deepest sympathy! Unfortunately, this condition is well known and is usually terminal. Very few people ever fully recover. However, you can turn this situation to your advantage! Trainaholics are so oblivious to their surroundings that you can bring as many men back to the house as you want - your man will never know!

Whatever you do though, don't get rid of your train fanatic - they are notoriously good at paying the bills! Blessings

When I first read this letter in a women's magazine I was shocked, devastated, mortified........

It took me a while to comprehend the truth in these words, but I am determined to 'clean up' my act.

No more trains!

The disease started .......... continue reading my incredibly boring history


Friday, April 3, 2009

The First Steam Locomotive

The Alternative History of Steam

Although an American, John Fitch, was the first person to build a working steam powered rail locomotive, the idea fell flat on its face soon after its launch in 1784. Americans were too attached to their horses to let a machine move them around. "It jus' ain't manly ye hear"

Ten years later a Scotsman by the name of Murdoch built a steam powered locomotive, but his design was built for the roads and eventually paved the way for the steam revolution in Britain.

In 1804 Richard Trevithick managed to coax his own steam locomotive along a tramline in 'The Valleys' of South Wales...... never to be heard of again.

Eventually George Stephenson and his son Robert ... and perhaps one or three other people came up with a better design for the steam producing boiler and bolting it to a steel carriage, entered it into a competition to find the best locomotive to pull the first ever train service in the world. The 'Rocket' won the race without any real competition.

George and Robert Stephenson's 12mph 'Rocket'

The Rainhill Trials

The trials were established to find the best vehicle to run a regular passenger service between two major industrial cities in Northern England - Liverpool and Manchester. Steam power wasn't a condition of the trials, which took place over a five day period starting on the 6th October 1829, but it was certainly the only contender.

The trials were set to run on a very short length of track and it was stipulated that the engines had some means of stopping, just in case the operators hadn't considered that aspect.

The Rules (abbreviated version)

1. The locomotive must be weighed (cold and empty) and a load would then be assigned to the train of three times its weight. The operator had to guess how much fuel and water he would need for firing the boiler plus 35 miles of travel on the rails. He was then provided with this fuel and water and the time was measured for the fireman to build a head of steam.

2. The tender carrying the fuel and water for the locomotive was included in the load assigned to each engine. Engines carrying the fuel and water on the locomotive would receive a discount from their load. (they thought of everything eh?)

3. The locomotive must be pushed to the start line by hand - WHAT?? and then once the boiler reaches a pressure of 50psi it can take off (that is if the boiler didn't blow up before hand)

4. The track was one and three quarter miles long. One eighth of a mile at each end would be allowed for building up speed AND for stopping (quite important that on a straight piece of track), thus the timing would be taken over one and a half miles each way.

5. The engine had to reach a speed of ten miles per hour.

I would like to take brief interlude here to expand upon more recent developments in technology that are ridiculed, because they are not sufficiently powerful .....YET. After 100 years the steam engine was replaced by the internal combustion engine and not long after the engine was designed, someone had the bright idea of splitting water down into its constituent elements of hydrogen and oxygen and using this to fuel the engine. Such a vehicle was running in 1937.

Now ask yourself why you are still spending a fortune on hydrocarbon fuel?
Why we allow billions of tonnes of toxic fumes to be released into the atmosphere.... and fall back down again - let's not forget!
Why millions of people have been killed and mutilated through countless, pointless wars (often launched with a different excuse for public consumption) and why the global economy has been (so far) based upon the value of oil?

Water fuel engines are in their infancy. they have a long way to go and some people already have cars that run on nothing but water (and very little of that!).

Learn how to run your car using simple and inexpensive Water Fuel Technology

eeeerrrrrrr.....where was I?

Ruel Number 6. That's not how you spell rule!

Once more from the top:

Number 6. The locomotive shall make ten trips (equal to the distance from Liverpool to Manchester - thirty five miles. She will then be refueled and pushed back to the start line where she will make another ten trips, representing the return trip. What? You want to go BACK to Liverpool?

Number 7. The locomotive and driver have to survive the journey.

Sadly, they didn't include passengers and bystanders in the rules and Stephenson's Rocket, having won the trials promptly squashed the Member of Parliament for Liverpool at Parkside station during the inauguration run the following year.

Out of ten entries in the trials only five made it to the starting line. Does not augur well methinks!

The first entry 'Cycloped' failed, when the horse that powered the engine by walking on a moving belt, fell through the bottom of the machine. Eeh! Uur! Cycloped wasn't seriously injured, but went on to further misery when George Orwell got hold of him on Animal Farm and handed him over to the pigs for some serious abuse.

The second entry 'Perseverance' was damaged en route to the trials. Rumour has it, it fell off the back of the cart. Just a thought here - what mode of transport do you use to transport a steam locomotive when their are no rails OR roads ....or trucks or planes or EVEN slaves? It was repaired in time for the fifth day, but couldn't overtake the snails on the grass verge, so got back on the M1 and drove home again in a snot, causing untold damage to fences and property along the route. The police gave chase on penny-farthing bicycles, but couldn't catch him.

Number three was 'Sans Pareil' - when you choose a name like that you should make sure you mean it! It blew a cylinder and failed to finish, but it did actually go on to work for a couple of years.

The fourth engine was a demon. At 28mph it knocked spots off the competition... for a few minutes at least. Mechanical failures dogged this one to the grave, but the design was good, just poor quality iron!

Thus, at an average of 12mph, the rocket won by default, earning five hundred pounds prize money and going on to form the basis of what so many people fell in love with in subsequent years.


Some of this information was stolen from Wikipedia other information I found in a guidebook to the London Science Museum and other information i just made up to make it more interesting. That's how history is made!

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