Used under both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War and believed to be the oldest Southern locomotive in existence
c.1835 Brathwaite and Ericson "Mississippi" Locomotive
THE BIRTH OF THE AMERICAN RAILROAD AND THE MISSISSIPPI
The Mississippi has been often heralded as the first locomotive of the South. It is probably the oldest known locomotive to have operated in the state of Mississippi. It is believed that commercial locomotive manufacturer Braithwaite and Ericson of New Road London and Liverpool built the engine in about 1834. This manufacturer is known to have exported approximately 14 locomotives to the United States in the 1830s. Braithwaite and Ericson is probably best known for its locomotive Novelty that competed unsuccessfully against Robert Stephenson's Rocket in the famous Rainhill Trials conducted near Manchester in 1829. Rocket proved to be a seminal design that influenced the most subsequent steam locomotive design, including the Mississippi. It was the first locomotive to successfully combine a fire-tube boiler with forced draft caused by cylinder exhaust and direct connections between cylinders and drive wheels. In 1836, Braithwaite and Ericson changed its name to Braithwaite, Milner and Company and it appears to have exited the locomotive business about 1841.
Although the locomotive's construction is very detailed, one source indicates that Braithwaite built a locomotive for the 'Natchez and Hamburg', and was possibly assembled on site in Mississippi. Other sources indicate that the locomotive was sent in pieces (probably packed in shipping crates) by ship to New York City where it was assembled and sent to the Mississippi Railroad at Natchez. Its cost has been stated as $2,000.
In either case, the locomotive was among British exports to the United States during the formative years of railroad development, and remains among the oldest extant locomotives in the United States and the World. It forms a technological link between Great Britain and America during the crucial years when railroad technology was transferred between the two countries.
Significantly, America was one of the first nations outside of Great Britain to adopt the steam railway as conceived by its pioneer George Stephenson (also a locomotive builder, and the father of Robert Stephenson). This technology transfer began in the 1820s, when several prominent American engineers were sponsored by formative railroad companies (notably the Delaware & Hudson, and Baltimore & Ohio) to travel to England. They spent weeks and months learning about railway developments, meeting with key inventors, including the Stephensons, and arranged to import locomotives and rails back to America. Among the surviving British locomotives in the United States is the famed John Bull, imported by Pennsylvania Railroad predecessor Camden & Amboy, which is now displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
Accounts of Mississippi's early years vary. It appears to have entered service in 1837, and may have pulled the first train on the Mississippi Railroad, which is reported to have occurred on April 24, 1837. It seems that its service with this original owner only lasted for a few years.
It was also reported that during the American Civil War the locomotive served the Confederates during the Union Army's Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Ultimately the engine was captured by the Union, and pressed into service to aid in the supply of Union troops. After the war the locomotive's history again becomes hazy. Around 1880, after a period of disuse, the engine was salvaged by railroad contractor J. A. Hoskins and restored for service hauling gravel. Illinois Central inherited the engine in 1891, and recognized it as being far more than an ordinary antique. At that time it was thoroughly restored and dressed up as a 'Natchez and Hamburg' engine, and operated under its own power to Chicago to participate in the Columbian Exposition of 1893. (The 'Natchez and Hamburg' doesn't appear to have existed, and may be a colloquial term for the Mississippi Railroad).
In this guise, the Mississippi served a roll kin to that of other very early engines that were similarly displayed at that time by their host railroads. Over the next forty years the Mississippi made numerous prominent public appearances and was viewed by millions of people. During the late-1920s, Illinois Central made arrangements to convey to the locomotive to the newly formed Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. It made appearances at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago held in 1933 and 1934. And it was finally made a part of the museum's permanent collection in 1938. At that time it was displayed with an awkward, and historically questionable wooden frame cab.
In 1965, Illinois Central gave the locomotive a thorough restoration for the museum. This was aimed to restore the engine's appearance to as close as possible to the way it would have looked more than 130 years earlier. However, since commercial photography didn't exist at the time of Mississippi's construction, how the locomotive actually appeared when it was built can only be surmised by contemporary sketches of similar engines.
A RARE SURVIVOR
The Mississippi is a unique locomotive with great historical importance. It is one of only a handful of surviving British-built locomotives exported to North America during the formative railroad period and it demonstrates the comparatively small size and primitive construction typical of early steam locomotives. It has both local and national significance as result of the roles it played as possibly the first engine to work in Mississippi, and likely the oldest surviving engine to have served a Southern railroad, plus its service during Civil War. The engine served as a prominent historical showpiece beginning in 1893, which made it a familiar display to millions of people over the last twelve decades. It was used to help convey the dramatic changes to American railroading since its beginnings in the 1830s.
The core of locomotive Mississippi is a British-built engine dating to 1834-1836 and representative of locomotives exported to America during the formative years of railroad building. This an 0-4-0 type with flanged wheels using a Stephenson type firebox of metal-plate riveted construction. Inside the firebox are flattened rivets, while those at the firebox door are half round, and rivets around the boiler barrel are of a conical shape. The boiler is small compared to those used on later 19th century engines; the firebox barely rises above the boiler barrel. A steam dome at the top of the boiler served to collect steam to power the cylinders. Other elements of the locomotive likely date to later overhauls in the mid-19th century. Rebuilding and alteration of steam locomotives was a common practice, and during the course of any active locomotive's career, old components were routinely replaced when these broke, wore out, or were deemed functionally obsolete. The Mississippi's service life spanned more than fifty years which in itself is remarkable for railway locomotive of the period. In the 1920s, then owner Illinois Central reported that the engine's weight was 19,700 lbs. (Not including the tender). An inspection in 1928 found that the locomotive was probably still capable of being steamed. Its present condition is largely the result of a substantial restoration in 1965 (see below).
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