Invicta, plinthed at Canterbury in the 1970s
Invicta is an early steam locomotive, built by Robert Stephenson and Company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne during 1829. She was the twentieth locomotive built by railway engineers the Stephensons, being constructed immediately after Rocket. Invicta marked the end of the first phase of locomotive design, which had started with Richard Trevithick's Pen-y-Darren locomotive of 1802. Stephenson's next locomotive, Planet was to form the basis of the modern steam locomotive.
Invicta hauled its first train on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway on 30 May 1830, this occasion marked the inauguration of the first steam-powered passenger service. Early operations found that she had a lack of power, leading to a combination of static engines being introduced and an ill-thought rebuild being conducted during its service life. ‘’Invicta’’ remained in active use until 1839, after which she was retired following a decision to use static engines to pull trains instead. Following a failed attempt to sell the locomotive, she was placed in storage instead while other potential uses for her were sought. The stored ‘’Invicta’’ became the property of the South Eastern Railway during the 1840s, shortly thereafter, it was moved to Ashford Works for preservation, becoming the first locomotive in the world to receive such treatment in the process.
During its life in preservation, Invicta was put on display and frequently appeared at various high-profile gatherings, even travelling internationally to do so. During 1892, a major restoration of the locomotive was performed. In 1906, Invicta was presented to the city of Canterbury by David Lionel Goldsmid-Stern-Salomons, a director of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. For 70 years, Invicta was on static display in the Dane John Gardens, Canterbury. In 1977, a full cosmetic restoration of the locomotive was undertaken with help from the National Railway Museum. Presently, Invicta is owned by the Transport Trust. During November 2008, it was announced that a £41,000 Heritage Lottery Fund planning grant had been made to Canterbury City Council to develop a new museum at Whitstable to house Invicta. As of 2016, construction of this museum has yet to commence
In response to an order placed by the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway for a single locomotive, construction of ‘’Invicta’’ commenced during 1829 at Robert Stephenson & Co’s Forth Street works in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was named after the motto on the Flag of Kent, "Invicta", a latin word meaning ‘’undefeated’’. It is believed that Invicta was designed by the railway engineer Robert Stephenson, and that his father, the railway pioneer George Stephenson, likely consulted upon its design as well. In terms of its basic configuration, she shares many features with her sister locomotive Rocket, completed in 1829 at the same factory; both have inclined cylinders set upon either side of the boiler, but Invicta was the first have them driving the rear wheels.
As originally designed, the boiler was a multi-tubular design, the same as on Rocket, comprising 25 tubes of 76mm diameter. Reportedly, these provided for a total heating surface of 18.2 square meters — 14.6 square meters from the tubes and 3.6 square meters from the rectangular-shaped firebox, which produced a working steam pressure of 275.8kN per square meters (40psi). In terms of her dimensions, the four coupled wheels possess a diameter of 1.22 meters, while the boiler had a length of 2.44 and a diameter of 991mm. Reportedly, the construction of Invicta came to a total cost of £635.
In a service-ready condition, the weight of the locomotive, excluding her tender, was 6.35 tonnes (6 tons 5 cwt) and she developed power equivalent to 8.95kW. Contemporary illustrations show that Invicta was originally equipped with a single-axle tender during this time, however, this tender has not survived. The major controls, including the regulator, for controlling the engine are located about halfway along the boiler’s left-hand side. She was operated by a driver, who stood upon on a timber footboard mounted above the locomotive’s rear wheel, while a fireman for stoking the fire was also present on the tender.
Upon completion, she departed the factory on 15 April 1830, being shipped by sea from Newcastle to Whitstable. On 30 May 1830, ‘’Invicta’’ hauled the inaugural train of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway into Whitstable Harbour station. For this maiden journey, the locomotive was driven by Edward Fletcher, who later became the locomotive superintendent of the North Eastern Railway. ‘’Invicta’’ was the sole locomotive to be used on the line at the time of its opening.
Initial operations using ‘’Invicta’’ saw it routed along the northern three kilometres of the Canterbury & Whitstable line; however, it soon became apparent that the locomotive lacked the power at any speed to haul trains up the steep incline along Church Street when departing Whitstable. An alternative working practice was adopted to address this power shortage, starting in 1832; instead, trains were pulled up the incline using a stationary engine, which was reportedly capable of generating up to 11.2kW, that was positioned at the top of the slope, while ‘’Invicta’’ was restricted to worked the 1.6km of track at South Street, which was relatively level.
During 1836, it was decided to perform a number of design modifications to ‘’Invicta’’. These involved the addition of another ring, the removal of the firebox, and the replacement of the original multi-tube boiler with a single flue boiler; this last change proved to be a retrograde step, even by that time, it had been generally accepted that multi-tube boilers were in fact more efficient than their single-tube counterparts. Reportedly, these changes had a negative impact on the locomotive’s performance, often failing to produce a sufficient head of steam as to allow ‘’Invicta’’ to perform the services desired of it. Largely as a result of this failure, the locomotive’s service life following these modifications can be described as being brief at best.
During 1839, Invicta was withdrawn from use upon the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway as a consequence of the decision to concentrate on using stationary engines for pulling trains instead, which had proved to be both adequate for the line’s working and less troubled by a lack of power as the locomotive had been. While she was offered for sale by the company in October 1839, no buyer was ultimately found for it. As a result, Invicta was instead put under cover at Canterbury North Lane station. She came into the ownership of the South Eastern Railway in 1844 and was soon relocated to Ashford Works, minus her original two-wheeled tender. She was thus the first locomotive to be preserved; over the following years, she began to serve as a physical marker of the pioneering days of rail travel. During 1875, Invicta was exhibited at the Golden Jubilee of the Stockton and Darlington Railway; she also made an appearance at the Newcastle Stephenson Centenary in 1881.
During 1892, it is believed that work was begun upon its restoration; few details on this process are known. Subsequently, Invicta was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France in 1900. In 1906, Invicta was presented to the city of Canterbury by David Lionel Goldsmid-Stern-Salomons, a director of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. For 70 years, Invicta was put on static display in the Dane John Gardens, Canterbury. At some point during this time, it is believed that she was given a red coat of paint. It was not until 1977 that a full cosmetic restoration of the locomotive was undertaken, with help from the National Railway Museum, where she was transported by road. This work included her ironwork being painted black and the installation of timber cladding around the boiler barrel. Following the completion of this restoration, Invicta returned to Canterbury in time for the 150th anniversary of the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway on 3 May 1980.
Presently, the cosmetically restored Invicta is owned by the Transport Trust; it had been loaned for many years to the Canterbury Heritage Museum, where it had been on display prior to the museum's closure in 2017. During November 2008, it was announced that a £41,000 Heritage Lottery Fund planning grant had been made to Canterbury City Council to develop a new museum at Whitstable to house Invicta, as well as a stationary winding engine that was built at Robert Stephenson's works. As of 2016, construction work on this new facility had not been started. In the months since Canterbury Heritage Museum closed down, the long term residence of Invicta has been a topic of considerable debate, during which numerous museums have petitioned to have it in their collections.
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