The Hurricane Locomotive

Gallery opened: May 2003

Updated: 15 Oct 2003
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The Hurricane was the last of a series of truly bizarre locomotives built for the Great Western around 1838. This is the earliest engine on display in the Loco Wing of the Museum of Retrotech, and it would be quite wrong to poke fun at engineers still feeling their way in a young technology, but I think it was pretty well established by then that this was not going to be a good idea.

As Ernest Carter so aptly put it: "The engine formed a kind of procession when it passed."

First came the engine itself, with a huge 10-foot driving wheel impelled by two inside cylinders. Then came the separate boiler, (connected by jointed pipes) and finally a conventional tender. The 10-foot driving wheels are believed to be the largest ever applied to a steam locomotive.

The engine was built to the patents of one T E Harrison, who nevertheless went on to become the chief engineer of the North Eastern Railway.

Above: Drawing of the Hurricane, built by Hawthorn's of Newcastle in 1838. No photographs are known to exist, which given the date is hardly surprising.

The obvious screw-up here is that very little of the locomotive's weight is available for adhesion- one wonders that it could move at all.

There is anecdotal evidence that the Hurricane achieved 100 mph on a 28 mile test run in September 1839. This seems highly unlikely as even if it had the horsepower and adhesion to reach this speed, it appears very doubtful that the Hurricane would have had the dynamic stability to stay on the rails. 100 mph is also a suspiciously round figure.

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