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Wonderful to relate, the engine-driver who ran tihe famous Rocket of George Stephenson, the first passenger locomotive to draw a- passenger train in the, world, is still alive, in good health. He celebrated bis ninety-second birthday tk few. weeks ago at his home in America. Edward Entwistle is the name of the man who has this unique claim to distinction.. In his humble ftome he delights to live over the old days and tell the story of tthe preparations and the trial trip, the evente of which are fresh in his mind from, frequent iteration. His story is toldi in this manner: — — Only a' Boy at the Time. — "I was born at Tilsey's Bank, Lancashire, England,. March 24, 1815. less than 15 years old I was apprenticed! for seven years to tine trade of mechaciAil engineering in the large works of George Stephenson and Me son. Robert, at Newcastle. "In 1828 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company began building a railroad across Ghat Moss, an immense bog between tW two cities. Steam carriages had bee^ in use for some time carryinglight merchandise at slow speed over the ordinary roads. The Stephengons believed the engines- could be mad©' to run on iron rails at high' speed. The directors of the railway company were decidedly sceptical, but finally decided to offer a prize of £500 for an engine, conditioned tjiat if of six \ tons' weight' it must consume its own smoke, draw, day by day, 20 tons weight, including its own water tank and tender, at 10 miles per hour, with a steam pressure not exceeding 501b per square inch, and must be delivered at the Liverpool end of the road before .October i; 1829.

—A Trial Trip. —

"My employers, the Stephenaans, de«,. cided to compete for the prize^ . notwithstanding the opinkm of the leading engineers of the country that not only a high- speed engine, but the budldinff of tihe road, would be a failure. The elder Stephensoß contracted to construct the railroad: across t,Uft bog, & huge undertaking. Tne locomotive^ was constructed in the shops where I was employed, I being engaged for some weeks on various parts of its mechanism and assisting in putting it together at the laet. I was then but a more lad t but had good mechanical ingenuity, and understood machinery thoroughly, having a special, knack and fancy for it. When our locomotive was com-, pleted it was named the -Bucket* /jwas^v^a - a trial trip, and won the prize, against three competitors, settling the question for all time whether horse traction or steam traction was to be used on railroads. , v .. "After the .ferial- trip the Rocket*.. *as put in service hauling, material for con-, atpuetion of ihfr road. Tije was 4ft B£in, or thai of the regular .Faggop; road, Stephenson intending , that if, n» ; locomotive failed on iron rails to run it- off dirt roads. It is a singular fact that the gauche of the Rocket lias, been the ste?l- ; dard gauge of railroads ail over the worUt.

—Date of the Trial Trip.—

"When the railroad was completed, Sep.tember 13, 1830, was set for the date of. - the trial trip drawing passenger 'care, me train consisted of two doable-decked carriages, each seating 18 persons— nine- on the upper deck and cine below. ±ne weight of ttoe train was, not quite 10 tons. The average speed was 14 miles, an tow, although at times we got as high as 29 miles an hour. . . , . • "I shall never forget that trial tnp. The Stepheneons and a few of us in the stop who knew what the engine oould do were about all who believed in it. The rest of the world was sceptical ; and most of the world around about turned opt to witness the trial trip, the lane of railway, being lined with people from end to- en* ' Wagers were freely laid- that the engine - would not succeed*— even that tie trial would not be attempted. "It was an historic, a nervous, day for all of us. &}, the last nwpienit it was

learned that for some reason, now forgotten by- me*.' the man who had been scheduled to. run the engine on- its first trip was not . available. I do not know whether he ■ lost f aithj whether he - was temporarily ill, or-' what had become of him. The Stephensocs were dismayed ; all was. in ' readiness for the trip ; they were sure the Rocket would succeed, but who was to be at tihe throttle? — A Glorious Success. — "It was at this juncture that I was recommended to Robert Stephenaon as the most capable man. Really, however, I was only a boy, being not yet 16 years of age. I had assisted in the construction ; I understood the operation, and _I was enthusiastic. Stephenson subjected me to a minute examination,, and at last entrusted the' engine to my care. I stepped into the cab, pulled the throttle ; th© steam hissed, the wheels c-reaked and groaned, I and amid the cheers of thousands upon j thousands of people we started on our ! journey — slow at first, but soon more j rapidly, until we were bowling pleasantly along the country, with a continual accompaniment of cheers and shouts. Ahl that was a glorious- day for the StephenEons — and for me! —Hard Work. — "For two years I retained my post at j the^throttle of the Rocket, making daily trips between Liverpool and Manchester, a distance of 31 miles. One time I succeeded in making the trip in about 30 minutes, but that was too much like flying. A more moderate speed was sufficient in those days. " The work was hard ; I was exposed day after day to tilae elements, and so, after two years, I asked to be relieved from the post. .Mr Stephemsom was so well pleased with my services thai, as a special favour, I secured a post as second engineer in one of the Duke of Bridgewater's sailing vessels, where I remained lor six years, and then I came to America to make this country my home." — The Father of Locomotives.— As to the Rocket, "it was all very primitive," . comments Mr Entwietle. "Butt lam stall loyal v to that old engine, and love it as though it- -were a human being. It was the first, and allowances must be made for its crudity. But the Rocket revolutionised traffic and* transportation, and I never look at any of the leviathans or moguls which dash by within sound of my home now without reflecting tha* they are, after all, ,the direct outgrowth of that strange, clumsy -looking engine I drove three-quarters of a century ago. Seventy-five years make a great change in anything, but when you xooe to consider it seriously, the engines of to-day are not such a wonderful advance on that first one. The same principle js still followed, the same gauge is maintained."

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Bibliographic details

ENGLAND'S FIRST ENGINE-DRIVER., Otago Witness, Issue 2786, 7 August 1907

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ENGLAND'S FIRST ENGINE-DRIVER. Otago Witness, Issue 2786, 7 August 1907

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