From June until September Newcastle Discovery Museum is hosting Rocket, one of the most renowned Steam Locomotives to ever journey on Britain’s railways. Though not the first steam locomotive, it resembled a culmination of years of engineering innovation and when completed was the most advanced steam locomotive of its day.

Rocket was the brainchild of Northumberland born engineer Robert Stephenson (son of George Stephenson, the so-called “father of the railways”). It was designed and built at his Forth Street Works in Newcastle for the 1829 Rainhill Trials which sought to find the best locomotive to run on the newly built Liverpool-Manchester railway. The Trials consisted of a race between locomotives along a mile long stretch of track near Rainhill, today part of Merseyside.

During the race, Rocket reached speeds of 24mph and of the five engines to take part, was the only locomotive to complete the trials. Stephenson’s company was duly rewarded the contract to produce locomotives for the Liverpool-Manchester Railway.

Rocket’s design innovations which gave it the edge over its competition included a number of new features never seen before on a steam engine. Most notable of these was the incorporation of multiple boiler tubes and a separate, enlarged firebox (these offer larger amounts of steaming power to be produced) and pistons being connected to the wheels, a design that was later found on all succeeding steam locomotives.

In the years following the Rainhill Trials, Rocket had a long but not well-documented service history. One considerable event was the opening of the London and Midland Railway on 15th September 1830, which saw Liverpool’s Member of Parliament William Huskisson struck and killed by the locomotive – leading to Huskisson being regarded as the first railway passenger casualty. Its later history saw it serve on the Liverpool-Manchester Railway and on Lord Carlisle’s railway near Brampton. In 1862 the locomotive was donated to the Patent Office Museum in London (which today is called the Science Museum) where it still lives to this day.

Rocket is on loan to the Newcastle Discovery Museum until the 19th September where it can be viewed, though in a much-modified state from its original look at the time of the Rainhill Trials.