THE Stephenson Railway Museum’s star attraction – Killingworth Colliery 0-4-0 the Killingworth Billy (or simply Billy) – can claim to be the world’s oldest surviving standard gauge locomotive after an archaeological survey revealed the loco was 10 years older than originally thought.
It had previously been believed Billy had been built by Robert Stephenson & Company in 1826, a year after George Stephenson’s Locomotion No. 1, for the Stockton & Darlington Railway.
However, the survey, carried out by early railway experts Michael Bailey and Peter Davidson, who have performed similar archaeological investigation on locos, including Rocket, concludes Billy was in fact originally built at Killingworth Colliery’s West Moor workshops under the supervision of George Stephenson himself in 1816, just two years after Stephenson built his first loco there – Blücher.
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This revelation leapfrogs Billy ahead of Locomotion No.1 by almost a decade, making it the third oldest surviving locomotive in the world behind William Hedley’s Puffing Billy and Wylam Dilly.
Read more in the July issue of The RM – on sale now!