Railway Preservation News

Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive
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Author:  Ron Goldfeder [ Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:33 am ]
Post subject:  Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive

The president of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society received this message:

I am hoping you can help me out. I have a Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive that needs restoration. We started work on it years ago and had a burglary in which many of the pieces we had remade were stolen. The man who was working with us has passed on.
Can you direct me to anyone in the Los Angeles area who would be capable of undertaking this type of work?

Thanks - Helen Ashford - lucastiresads@gmail.com

Can anyone help her with this? And I am very curious about this locomotive. Looking at the Locomotives in Profile on the Rocket I see that there were four replicas built in 1929 - 1935. The Henry Ford Museum has a fully operational one, and the others are non-operational ones were made for the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, although it is on their disposal list, another museum of the same name in New York City, and the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, now at the National Railway Museum in York. Is one of these the locomotive needing help or is there some other replica out there? Information would be helpful here, including what group she represents, unless it is privately owned.

Author:  Ron Goldfeder [ Wed Sep 30, 2015 12:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive

Looking a bit further on Google I found that Buster Keaton had a replica of the Rocket built for movie use, which might be the one being asked about. And that the first replica at the National Railway Museum was a sectioned one. An operational one was later built and both are now in York, England.

Author:  philip.marshall [ Wed Sep 30, 2015 12:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive

For what it's worth, Doug Bailey's steamlocomotive.info site shows 5 versions of the Rocket: the original plus 2 replicas in the UK, the one at the Henry Ford in Dearborn, and the one in Chicago. The notoriety of this engine is such that it wouldn't surprise me if there are even more replicas out there.

However, I am surprised to hear of one in New York, and of the (former) existence of the New York Museum of Science and Industry. I wonder if this was once of the many historical NY cultural institutions that failed to survive the Great Depression and WWII.

-Philip Marshall

Author:  70000 [ Wed Sep 30, 2015 12:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive

The railway section of the 1923 Buster Keaton film "Our Hospitality" is on YouTube......


and the same loco was used in "The Iron Mule", a 1925 film directed by "Fatty" Arbuckle and also on YouTube.......


It will be interesting if this is the one mentioned in the first post as it seemed to have "disappeared" since the two films were made !

Author:  Ron Goldfeder [ Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive

Here is more recent info on the replicas of the Rocket from the 2000 book on the loco by the National Railway Museum. The one earlier listed in a New York museum was now listed as being in Shawnee Mission, KS, and was privately owned. This may be the one needing help. It was listed as being sectioned.

The Buster Keaton one, built in 1923, was listed as being in the Smithsonian Institution.

Author:  boilerwash [ Wed Sep 30, 2015 9:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Stephenson’s Rocket Locomotive

Ron Goldfeder wrote:
The Buster Keaton one, built in 1923, was listed as being in the Smithsonian Institution.

Nope. The Smithsonian got the "dandy horse" bicycle replica Keaton had made up for "Our Hospitality" as the museum couldn't acquire a real example. They didn't get the Rocket replica as it must have been in storage for close to a good two years before it got loaned to Keaton's friend Fatty Arbuckle to make his "Iron Mule" film.

I would say that it was a good bet that the "Our Hospitality" engine probably got scrapped sometime after "Iron Mule". Keaton's career was about to take hit after "The General" would fail to make any money and he would lose a lot of clout with MGM Studios. Probably git rid of a lot of the stuff he was holding on to unceremoniously.

As one of the props that Keaton held alot of pride in, it would be fairly safe to say he would have kept some sort of tabs on where it ended up if not acquiring it himself had it managed to survive the 20's.

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