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Science Museum Group to loan Stephenson's rocket to Great Exhibition of the North
Steam locomotive, remains of Robert Stephenson's 0-2-2 locomotive Rocket, 1829. General view of locomotive on gallery display. © Science Museum Group

LONDON.- Today the Science Museum Group announced that it will loan Stephenson’s Rocket, one of Britain’s most iconic feats of engineering, to the Great Exhibition of the North 2018.

As Newcastle and Gateshead make preparations for the official launch of the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018, the Science Museum Group confirms that the historic locomotive will return to the city in which it was built, for the first time since it was acquired for the nation in 1862.

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, said: “Stephenson’s Rocket was a pioneer in locomotive design bringing together human ingenuity and technological innovation to propel steam trains into the heart of the modern industrial economy. With four museums in the North, the Science Museum Group is proud to support the region’s world-famous industrial heritage by bringing Rocket to the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018.”

Manufactured in 1829 by Robert Stephenson and Company at Newcastle’s Forth Street Works, Rocket won the famous Rainhill Trials in that year to become the fastest locomotive designed up to that point. The Rainhill Trails were held in 1829 by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway to find a new, more efficient form of locomotive. When Rocket’s turn came at the Rainhill Trials it completed the course of 70 miles at an average speed of 13 miles per hour. In their attempt to win the prize of £500 (worth approximately £50,000 today) the Stephensons brought together several innovations with their new locomotive Rocket to improve efficiency and performance. The basic design proved to be ground-breaking and appeared in virtually all subsequent steam locomotive designs.

Iain Watson, Director at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: “Rocket is one of the North’s great innovations, heralding the birth of passenger railways. Welcoming Rocket home as part of Great Exhibition of the North will help us tell the inspiring story of the North of England, including how we’ve shaped today’s world and continue to lead its future. We’re delighted to be working with the Science Museum Group on this exciting addition to Great Exhibition of the North.” Great Exhibition of the North takes place from 22 June to September 2018 across NewcastleGateshead showcasing great art, culture, design and innovation from across the North of England, with exhibition hubs at Great North Museum: Hancock, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Sage Gateshead.

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