John Bull

Essay by jstnd19High School, 10th gradeA+, October 2006

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Knowing the best locomotives were made in England, Robert Stevens ordered one from Robert Stevenson & Company of New Castle for the Camden and Amboy Railroad which ran across central New Jersey. The "John Bull" --named later for the mythical gentleman who symbolized England--was the result.

The locomotive was built as a standard 0-4-0 Planet class. Never seeing a locomotive before, Isaac Dripps, a young steamboat mechanic, assembled the engine from the parts that arrived in New Jersey in September 1831. It was tested that same month. The locomotive proved vulnerable to derailment. Dripps installed an extra pair of wheels, carried in a frame out front. Stevens called them "guide wheels"; they helped to steer the locomotive in curves and over uneven rails. The innovation worked so well that the Camden and Amboy bought 15 American copies of "John Bull" with the added wheels. By the end of the 1830s, American manufacturers were building locomotives and exporting to Russia and other countries that had vast terrain much like America.

The steam locomotive "John Bull" ran for 35 years, pulling trains of passengers and cargo between the two largest cities of the time, Philadelphia and New York. A short ferry ride connected Camden with Philadelphia and a longer ferry run connected South Amboy with New York. The locomotive propelled trains at 25 to 30 miles per hour.