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Cycloped horse-powered locomotive.jpg
Contemporary drawing of Cycloped
Type and origin
Power typeHorse
BuilderThomas Shaw Brandreth of Liverpool

Cycloped was an early horse-powered locomotive, built by Thomas Shaw Brandreth of Liverpool, which competed unsuccessfully in the Rainhill trials of October 1829.

The Rainhill trials[edit]

The Cycloped was the only entry in the trials that did not rely on steam power, instead utilising a treadmill that was kept continually moving by a horse mounted on top.

Brandreth was one of the directors of the railway and some people believed that that gave the Cycloped an unfair advantage. But the Cycloped was a primitive idea and because of its failure to generate enough speed to equal its competitors—Burstall's Perseverance, Braithwaite's Novelty, Hackworth's Sans Pareil and Stephenson's Rocket—the Cycloped ultimately lost the competition in the trials.[1] Stephenson's Rocket eventually won the trials, maintaining an average speed of 13.8 mph (22.2 km/h) for a modest consumption of coal and water.

Dandy wagons[edit]

Horses had been used to pull wagons on coal and mineral tramways and plateways for some years before this. Many of these tramways and plateways were arranged so that the line ran downhill from the mine to a river or coastal port. Loaded trains would descend under the power of gravity, with horses used to haul the empty trains back uphill.

Early examples with just one or two wagons together were pulled downhill by the horse, the horse also acting as brakes.[citation needed] Once improved mechanical brakes were available, longer trains of wagons could be controlled during their descent. The horses were carried downhill in a special dandy wagon, usually attached to the end of the run of loaded wagons. These dandy wagons were simple unpowered wagons, often with no more adaption for horses than special doors to load and unload the animals.

Other horse locomotives[edit]

Horse locomotives were only used for a brief period between the development of passenger-carrying public railways and the provision of viable steam locomotives. Other horse-powered locomotives include the Flying Dutchman of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, used briefly in 1830, and the Impulsoria, exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851.


  1. ^ "The Rainhill Locomotive Trials of 1829" by C F Dendy Marshall, published in the Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 1929 Vol 9.