Treasures of The Henry Ford: Stephenson's Rocket Replica. This diminutive little locomotive is a replica of one of the early break-through designs when steam-powered locomotion was still in its infancy. It was essentially the winner of an 1829 contest, sponsored by the new Liverpool and Manchester Railway in England to find the best design for a locomotive to power the new line. This engine, called "Rocket" was designed by a man named Robert Stephenson. While Stephenson didn't invent any new technologies himself, his design was one of the first to combine a number of recently-developed technologies and ideas into a railroad locomotive. Among these were: a single set of driving wheels for light weight and efficiency, the use of multiple boiler flues to enhance heat transfer, the use of a blast pipe to produce draft on the fire, relatively horizontal cylinders to reduce shaking, and a firebox with a water jacket to enhance the capture and usage of heat. In a contest against other, less efficient designs, "Rocket" clearly stood out as an advancement and was chosen to power the new railway. Several additional locomotives of similar design were then built before the new railway went into service in 1830.
"Rocket" served her original line and at least one other for about 10 years. Over her life, she also received modifications and enhancements. In 1862 she was retired for good and donated to the Science Museum of London, where she was on display for 150 years. Not surprisingly, she exists today (the Brits are so good a saving historic artifacts!) Recently, she has been loaned to several other museums and has been on a tour of sorts. As displayed, she has been substantially modified from her original, contest-winning configuration, but she's still "Rocket."
The replica seen in this photo is one of at least two working replicas in existence. This one was commissioned in 1929, 100 years after the original, by Henry Ford and built by none other than Robert Stephenson & Company in England. According to the Henry Ford folks, she was last steamed in 1949, but she sure looks like you could put a fire in her today.