|Theodore West's sketch of Hick's Locmotive dated October 1833.|
Rothwell & Hick was a partnership formed by Benjamin Hick (1790-1842) - the father of the Bolton engineer John Hick (1815-1894) - and Peter Rothwell. Hick was born in Yorkshire and was an alumnus of the 'Round Foundry' in Leeds of Fenton, Murray & Wood, the firm which had built the first commercially sucesful steam locomotives in 1812.
The earliest mention of the locomotive is in December 1830 in the Bolton Chronicle, whilst the Manchester Courier and other papers in the North West carried a second article published a week later, verbatim from the Manchester paper (e.g. Liverpool Courier). The Mechanics' Magazine (11 December 1830) cited the Bolton paper.
The Bolton Chronicle (4 December 1830) recounts:
"On Thursday last, we accompanied the new locomotive-engine, The Union, just completed by Messrs. Rothwell, Hick & Co of this town whilst making her first experiment upon the Bolton & Leigh Railway, and when running without any load other than her tender, she went at a rate varying from 20 to 30 miles per hours; and with a heavy train of loaded coal-waggons ... at the rate of 12 miles an hour. We ought to observe, that there was an inclination of 12 feet in a mile to overcome, as well as a very severe curve ... We were much pleased with the compact and neat appearance of this engine... the boiler being placed in an upright position, into which, we understand, Mr Hick has introduced a spiral flue, in order to expose as much surface of water as possible to the action of the heat..."
The Manchester Courier adds on Tuesday 7 December 1830 that the trial took place on 'Wednesday evening' (and here is possibly in error) and that:
"The boiler is on a new principle, being placed upright... cylinders are horiztonal, and by a curious contrivance, a great saving of steam will be effected."
Other than the dates, the accounts describe a locomotive wtih a vertical boiler and horiztonal cylinders, the former having an unusual 'spiral flue.'
Francis Whishaw visited the Bolton & Leigh Railway in 1839 and notes that there was a locomotive called the Union, built by Hick in December 1830. It was a 2-2-0 with cylinders 9 x 18 inches. The leading wheels are described as being two feet smaller than the drivers.
But wait ... there's more. It transpires that Benjamin Hick took out a patent for a vertical boilered locomotive on 8 October 1834. It was a four-wheeled machine, with large driving wheels and smaller leading wheels (the design of wheel also being patented) - the Tomlinson sketch of the Union also has unequal wheel sizes. The vertical boiler was certainly unusual with a 'water chamber of annular form' which had multiple verticle tubes passing through it to carry the combustion products and heat the water. In the centre was the domed 'water chamber', which was heated underneath, and by the tubes passing through it, and by the hot gases which circulated around it before exiting via the chimney.
|Benjamin Hick's patent locomotive of October 1834.|
The cylinders were vertical (unlike those of The Union) but remember the cryptic comment regarding the 'curious contrivance' which would effect a great saving of steam?
"There are three steam cylinders, all in a row... each of the cylinders is provided with suitable valves, and working gear, to admit the steam on the top only of each of the pistons, at the time of the descent of each, and to allow of its escape on their ascent. The bottom of the cylinders being open."
In the opinion of Hick, this improved the stability and adhesion of the locomotive, and with horizontal cylinders prevented lateral oscillation, and would also create a saving in steam. Exhaust steam was directed into the chimney to help the fire draw. It is therefore possible that the Union had similar single-acting cylinders, mounted horizontally.
The final drive is reminiscent of a mill engine. There was a three-throw crank shaft, each throw set equidistant from each other to get a smooth transfer of power. Final drive was via a pinion gear on driven from the crank shaft working on a large toothed wheel mounted on the driving axle.
One question remains, are we dealing with or two locomotives? The Union was certainly built and taken into stock on the Bolton & Leigh and ran for at least nine years. It had an unusual vertical boiler. Theodore West's sketch is dated October 2nd 1833 (Dendy Marshall's fig. 92), twelve months before Hick was granted letters Patent. Dendy Marshall admits that he does not know the significance of the date. It is possible that the engine described in December 1830, sketched with a date of October 1833 and patented by Hick in 1834 are one and the same. Both had smaller leading wheels, unusual vertical boilers and cylinders. Whilst Hick's patent specification states vertical cylinders, Wests' sketch shows horizontal, which is confirmed by Press reporting. It is entirely probably that the date of October 1833 refers to a second experiment with a rebuilt form of Union, a year before he took out letters Patent on a verical boilered, vertical cylinder locomotive, which used lessons learned from the Union.