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The five locomotives that took part in the Rainhill Trials came from all over the UK. How were they transported to Rainhill?

The rail network was pretty much non-existent, so presumably by road. I have read here that Perseverance was

damaged on the way to the Rainhill Trials when the wagon that was carrying it overturned

but I'm only surmising that this was a road vehicle accident as this isn't specified. Did all the locomotives get to Rainhill that way? (Presumably horse-drawn?)

Was it common to move such heavy loads such relatively long distances (Perseverance was from Leith, some 230 miles from Rainhill by our modern road network) by road then?

The only other way might have been by canal but I'm only guessing.

  • The only other way might have been by canal Wikipedia tells that the trials were organized for the L&Ma Railway and that the line was almost completely built (if you look at Google Maps, the current railway line passes through Rainhill), so a reasonable way to get there would be sending the locomotives by ship to Liverpool and then by railroad to get to Rainhill. Of course, that still implies that some parts of the journey were doing off-tracks (I am betting that engines were relatively easy to disassemble; the issue of transport would have been evident to the inventors). – SJuan76 May 5 '15 at 18:02
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    In your own link there is a reference to one of the competitors disassembling its engine for reparations, so, at least for that engine, it could have been send by parts. – SJuan76 May 5 '15 at 18:03
  • It was travelling through Rainhill yesterday (by bus) that got me wondering and prompted the question. – DaveP May 5 '15 at 18:10
  • @SJuan76 sounds highly plausible. It's the way most large construction work is done after all. Manufacture components off site, then assemble them where needed. Heck, we do it even today with things like bucket excavators for mines as they're too large to be transported in one piece. – jwenting May 6 '15 at 3:42
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Originally, ten locomotives were entered for the Rainhill Trials. In the event, only five took part. Cycloped, Novelty, Perseverance, Rocket, and Sans Pareil.

The locomotives were to be transported to the Liverpool & Manchester Railway’s Millfield Yard where they were to be assembled ahead of the trials. Most were transported by sea to Liverpool, and then by wagon to Millfield Yard.


  • Cycloped was built by Thomas Shaw Brandreth of Liverpool. It thus only needed to be transported the relatively short distance to the Millfield Yard by wagon. Source: Cycloped - Wikipedia

Cycloped locomotive

Click to enlarge - Image source Wikimedia


  • Novelty, built by the Ericsson and Braithwaite Partnership, was constructed in the London Workshop belonging to Braithwaite and transported to Liverpool by boat. From there she would have been carried to the Millfield Yard by wagon. Source: Novelty - Wikipedia.

Novelty Locomotive

Click to enlarge - Image source - Wikimedia


  • Perseverance, owned by Timothy Burstall of Leith. Burstall had shipped his locomotive by sea to the port of Liverpool. It was damaged on the way to the Rainhill Trial track when a restraining chain broke, and the wagon that was carrying it overturned. Source: Christopher McGowan: Rail, Steam, and Speed, p9.

Perseverance Locomotive

Click to enlarge - Image source - Wikimedia


  • Rocket was designed by Robert Stephenson in 1829, and built at the Forth Street Works of his company in Newcastle upon Tyne. The locomotive transported by road from Stephenson's works across country to the canal basin at Carlisle. From there it was shipped to Liverpool, and then by wagon to Millfield Yard. Industrial Railway Record - Correspondence. It seems the original intent had been to transport Rocket to Liverpool by ship, but they missed the sailing date. This turned out to be fortunate as the ship was lost in the North Sea (Friedrich Newman: The 1829 'Ordeal': The Historical Significance of the Rainhill Trials).

Stevenson's Rocket

Click to enlarge - Image source - Wikimedia


  • Sans Pareil was built by Timothy Hackworth of Shildon, County Durham.

Sans Pareil locomotive

Click to enlarge - Image source - Wikimedia

I couldn't find a reference for how Sans Pareil was transported to Liverpool, but since Shildon is in the North East of England (and so on the 'wrong' side of the Pennines from Liverpool) and isn't on the coast it looks like there were relatively few options.

  1. It could have been carried by Wagon to either Hartlepool, Sunderland or Newcastle and then by ship to Liverpool.
  2. It could have been taken by wagon to Carlisle (more-or-less the same route as Rocket).
  3. It could have been carried by road to another canal junction and shipped to Liverpool from there.

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