Volunteers at the Museum of Science and industry have been celebrating the 21st birthday of a replica of Robert Stephenson’s planet locomotive, the only model in the world of its type still in working order
Robert Stephenson and Company built the original Planet steam locomotives, which were the first standard design to run on the Liverpool and Manchester railway – the world’s first passenger railway, opened in 1830.
After researching the design of the planet steam locomotives, using original drawings made by the company, a group of 11 volunteers at the museum began work on a Planet replica in 1986.
It was unprecedented for a non-profit group to attempt to create a replica locomotive for public use, paving the way for many other replica builds.
It made its first journey in 1992, and has been travelling more than 1,000 miles a year around the museum site ever since.
Michael Bailey, the project manager for the planet build, is an expert in the history of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
“Many people put their time and energy into building Planet,” he said. “It was a very emotional moment when we first successfully fired it up.
“I’m delighted that our replica has outlived the original and continues to provide visitors with an authentic 1830 railway experience.
“As none of the original locomotives survive, this Planet is the only model of its class in the world which is still in working order.”
Railway Officer Matthew Jackson is equally pleased that the replica locomotive had survived so long.
“It’s great news that Planet has reached the grand old age of 21,” he says.
“Planet in steam is one of the most evocative sights and sounds at the museum.
“The original was superseded after a few years, so it’s testament to the fantastic job done by all the volunteers that Planet is still pulling visitors today.”
The museum is based in the buildings of the former Liverpool Road railway station – the world’s oldest surviving station on the line. The historic site symbolises Manchester as the place where science and industry met and the modern world began.
The museum’s collections illustrate how the people of Manchester played a vital role in the industrial revolution, both as workers and users of the products developed in the city.
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