Steam Locomotives Known as "Mallets" The Mallet (pronounced "Ma-lay") was a one-of-a-kind steam locomotive design that used compound steam and was articulated. Anatole Mallet of Switzerland invented the locomotive, which bears his name. The first Mallet ran in 1868.
The engine was designed to work on steeply graded railways and had two sets of driving wheels, one behind the other, with only their periphery in contact with the rail. This meant that more of the wheel surface was available for gripping, improving traction. It also meant that if one set of wheels slipped, the other would still provide drive.
The boiler was attached to the front of the frame and it contained two fireboxes, one above the other. Each firebox had four burners, arranged in pairs on opposite sides of the box. The upper firebox was for generating heat; the lower one was for pumping water out of the boiler when needed. The smokebox at the rear of the frame was open at the top, with louvres for air flow through it. A large chimney mounted on the roof behind the driver's cab gave support to a tall stack of tubes through which the exhaust gases were expelled.
Two men, one at each end of the single cab, controlled the valves and handled other ancillary duties.
Railways were powered by horse-drawn carriages prior to the introduction of steam technology. In the nineteenth century, the steam engine transformed rail transportation. Furthermore, steam power became widely utilised in a variety of sectors, most notably the shipping industry. The development of mechanical engineering enabled railway engineers to exploit the benefits of using steam power as a source of energy.
Before the advent of the steam engine, railways were operated with hand-powered tools. Early locomotives used for passenger trains were usually simple 0-4-0 or 0-6-0 saddle tanks. They were often built from commercial wagon frames that were then covered with wood panels and fitted with a single driving wheel at each end. The first true locomotives were designed by Robert Stephenson for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1825. These were 2-4-0 side-tank engines that were based on military designs from his father, George Stephenson. They were capable of working heavy loads at high speeds, which made them popular with railroad owners across Europe and America.
The modern diesel engine is a direct descendant of these early locomotives. In fact, many modern diesel engines were originally designed for use on railways! The first true electric locomotive was built by Thomas Edison's colleague Elihu Thomson for the New York Electrical Company in 1882. It had two vertical poles mounted on either side of the track, with wires running down each side of the track bed.
The "Best Friend of Charleston" was the first steam locomotive built in the United States for regular railroad operation (1830). The A4 "Mallard" 4-6-2 steam locomotive was the fastest, reaching speeds of 125 or 126 mph. It was used by the London and North Western Railway from 1853 to 1870.
The average speed of trains in the 1800s was about 10 mph. But some trains were able to travel much faster than this. In 1831, an experimental train called the "Dover Roadster" ran between Dover and Canterbury with a top speed of 20 mph. It is estimated that this train would have been able to cover the 50 miles between London and Dover in 2 hours 40 minutes!
In 1829, a train traveling from Paris to Marseille reached a maximum speed of 70 mph, but it is not known how long it took him to reach this speed. In 1842, a train traveling from Vienna to Budapest covered the 160 miles in 5 hours 30 minutes, which is very fast even by today's standards.
Trains in the 1800s were usually made up of one main line with several branches coming off it. Each branch had its own track so the train could stop without blocking the main line.