Stephenson's Rocket

Summary: Stephenson's Rocket, otherwise known as 'The Rocket', was one of the first steam locomotives, it was built in 1829 for the Rainhill Trials which was an important contest held during the early years of steam locomotives. The purpose of the contest was to build the best steam locomotive design to power the railway. Robert Stephenson's loco was declared winner of the Rainhill Trials when he carefully invented The Rocket using a lighter, faster and smaller locomotive design.

Discover interesting facts about Stephenson's Rocket Steam Locomotive including where the locomotive was built, who designed it, how fast it was, what the basic layout and design of the Rocket was like, how heavy it was, what Stephenson's steam locomotive was used for and where it is preserved and kept today.

Stephenson's Rocket Steam Locomotive Fact Sheet: What was Stephenson's Rocket? The following fact file of information provides an interesting timeline of facts about the invention and history of Stephenson's Rocket, an early British steam locomotive.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 1: Stephenson's Rocket was an early British steam locomotive which was built by Robert Stephenson and Company at the Forth Street Works, Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1829.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 2: The designer of this steam locomotive was Robert Stephenson (1803-1859); a famous British railway engineer who is often regarded as one of the greatest engineers of the 19th Century. Robert was George Stephenson's son, the father of the railways, he was famous for building the first intercity railway line in the world.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 3: Stephenson's Rocket was a steam locomotive designed by Robert Stephenson using 0-2-2 wheel arrangement. The wheel arrangement can be described as the system used to classify the configuration of the wheels under the steam locomotive. Stephenson's steam locomotive had two large wooden wheels at the front which were driven by two external cylinders set at an angle. The wheels at the rear of the loco were smaller and not coupled to the driving wheels.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 4: The purpose for which Stephenson's British steam engine, The Rocket, was built was to participate in an important competition known as the Rainhill Trials. The competition was held by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. It saw five steam engines compete on a level track which ran for one mile in Rainhill, Merseyside, England, during the early days of the steam railways. Stephenson's Rocket became the winner of the Rainhill Trails and the only steam locomotive to complete the competition.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 5: As a consequence to winning the Rainhill Trials, the designer of the Rocket British steam locomotive, Robert, and his father George, were offered a contract to build steam locomotives for the railway as Robert had designed the best steam locomotive.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 6: When Robert Stephenson was designing the Rocket steam locomotive, he had to take many things into consideration including the weight, size and speed of the loco in order to become a strong contender in the Rainhill Trials. The purpose of the contest was to build a fast, light, passenger steam engine with moderate hauling power.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 7: The basic layout of Robert Stephenson's locomotive design consisted of a tall smokestack chimney located at the front of the locomotive, a cylindrical boiler in the centre, and a firebox at the back to burn fuel and produce heat to boil water in the boiler.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 8: Robert's design was unique as it was the first 0-2-2 wheel arrangement and the first single driver locomotive. There were various advantages of using a single pair of driving wheels; some of the biggest benefits included the lighter and smaller locomotive design initiated by The Rocket.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 9: A new boiler design was on Stephenson's Rocket used called the multi-tubular boiler. There were twenty-five copper fire tubes transporting exhaust gas to the blastpipe. The gas ran from the firebox to the wet boiler before entering the blast pipe and chimney. The advantages of this particular type of boiler over a single large flue included a larger surface contact, provided by the fire tube area, which resulted in a large area of hot pipe with boiler water.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 10: Stephenson's steam locomotive's Specifications and Performance figures The maximum speed was 28 mph (45 km/h). Stephenson's Rocket locomotive weight was 4 long tons 5 cwt (9,500 lb or 4.3 t). The axle load was 2 long tons 12 cwt 1 qr (5,850 lb or 2.65 t).

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 11: The steam locomotive, Stephenson's Rocket, was involved in a fatal accident when it hit and killed a Member of Parliament for Liverpool called William Huskisson at the opening ceremony of the L&MR. The event was held at Newton-Le-Willows in Merseyside on September 15, 1830. The driver of Stephenson's engine was an assistant engineer called Joseph Locke.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 12: Robert Stephenson's Rocket steam locomotive was sold for £300 in 1836 and moved to Cumberland, to a mineral railway called Brampton Railway where it served for approximately 26 years.

Stephenson's Rocket Fact 13: The incredible Stephenson's Rocket British steam train has been preserved and can be seen at its London location at the Science Museum.


Robert Stephenson and Company


Robert Stephenson

Build Date


Wheel Arrangement



2 (8in x 17in)

Driving Wheel

4ft 8½in.

Trailing Wheel

2ft 6in

Stephenson's Rocket Steam Locomotive