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This detailed model of Stephenson’s groundbreaking steam locomotive represents a major step forward in the history of transport.

Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ working model fact file



Made in


Made by

Messrs Basset Lowke Ltd


One and a half inches to one foot


Purchased from Bassett-Lowke Ltd

Museum reference


On display

Window on the World, Level 5, National Museum of Scotland

Did you know?

When taking part in the Rainhill trials, the ‘Rocket’ reached a speed of 29 mph.

Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’

Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ was the first modern steam locomotive, born during a short frantic period of development from 1828 till 1830. The reason for this was the proposed opening of the world’s first inter-city passenger railway, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1830.

A trial was held at Rainhill, Merseyside, in October 1829 to choose a contractor to build the locomotives for the railway. Of the 10 entered, only five locomotives actually appeared and of these only the ‘Rocket’ completed the trial to win the £500 prize and the contract.

Contemporary drawing of the Rocket

Above: Contemporary drawing of the 'Rocket'.

What made the ‘Rocket’ different?

Built by Robert Stephenson & Co in Newcastle upon Tyne, the ‘Rocket’ incorporated a number of new features, the most notable of which was the first use of a multi-tube boiler and separate fire-box. Its advanced design became the blueprint for all steam locomotives built in Britain until the 1960s.

The name ‘Rocket’ is thought to have been inspired by the speed of military rockets, while the yellow and black colour copied the fastest stage-coaches of the time. ‘Rocket’ continued in use until 1840 and it is now preserved in the Science Museum in London.

Who made the working model of the ‘Rocket’?

Working model of Stephenson's 'Rocket'

Above: Working model of Stephenson's Rocket.

This working model was purchased from the well respected company Bassett Lowke of Northampton in 1937 for display in the Hall of Power in the Industrial Museum of Scotland, as the National Museum of Scotland was called at the time. The model is built on a scale of one and half inches to one foot, and is sectioned to show the internal workings of the engine.

The model is currently on display in the Window on the World at National Museum of Scotland.

The working model in action

Stephenson's Rocket in 3D

This high-resolution 3D model of the Rocket was created by the Science Museum to mark the unveiling of George Stephenson’s Rocket at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, where it was on display in 2019.

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