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Victorian railways: 'Without equal'

The railways: Sans Pareil, Rocket and the Rainhill Trials

Douglas McCrae, an engineer, is writing to the Museum of Science in London.

He offers the museum an old steam locomotive, the Sans Pareil (or Without Equal in English) for exhibition.

McCrae goes on to relate how, in 1829, he worked on the locomotive in the workshop of Timothy Hackworth...

One day, Hackworth informs Douglas of a public trial of locomotives at Rainhill, with a prize for the best engine over 35 miles of £500 and a contract to supply engines for the new Liverpool-Manchester railroad.

Hackworth believes the Sans Pareil has a chance of winning, but Douglas points out that they can't make the cylinders for the engines and have to rely on George Stephenson to cast them in his workshop. Hackworth is worried about relying on Stephenson, who is a rival of his and is also entering his locomotive, Rocket, in the trials.

For the first few days of the trials, the Sans Pareil proves to be the equal of the Rocket, but on the seventh day disaster strikes when a cylinder blows on the Sans Pareil and the 'Rocket' is hailed the winner. Hackworth believes Stephenson to be guilty of sabotage, although Douglas doesn't think so. However, after the trials are over, the directors of the Liverpool-Manchester railroad also buy the Sans Pareil to work alongside the Rocket.

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