The History of the Locomotive: Stirling Eight-Footer (1870)
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The History of the Locomotive: Stirling Eight-Footer (1870)


By James Burke

In 1868 English railroad engineer Patrick Stirling conceived the idea of building an engine with extremely large driving wheels. He reasoned that, since larger wheels would have a greater area of contact with the rail, they would provide better adhesion. This led to the design of the "Stirling Eight-Footer," which had driving wheels eight feet in diameter. Because the drivers were more than 25 feet in circumference, the engine moved over 25 feet with each revolution of the wheels. Thus the larger driving wheels also provided increased speed.

Built in 1870, the "Stirling Eight-Footer" was operative through 1907, traveling a total of 1,405,000 miles. The locomotive, built at Doncaster, England, was designed to be partly supported by a four-wheel lead truck, with a two-wheel trailing truck. In addition to supporting part of the locomotive's weight, the lead truck served an important function in guiding the engine along the track.

The cylinders measured 18 inches in diameter, with a stroke of 28 inches. The engine's weight was about 39 tons, and with steam pressure of about 150 pounds per square inch, it developed sufficient power to haul 200 tons. It was designed to attain a speed of 51 miles per hour, with a load of 150 tons, but in actual use it demonstrated its ability to haul 200 tons while traveling at a speed of 59 miles per hour.

After its retirement in 1907, the "Stirling Eight-Footer" was restored and placed on exhibition. In 1938 the engine was again overhauled so it could be placed in operation for publicity purposes. Subsequently, the "Stirling Eight-Footer" hauled a train consisting of seven vintage coaches, weighing about 100 tons, 28.6 miles from Kings Cross to Stevenage in 43 minutes. Following this demonstration, the "Stirling Eight-Footer" was put on permanent display in York Museum.

This article has been read 4412 times. Last read on 1/17/2021 1:50:30 AM

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