It is said that the first locomotives used in the United States were built in England for the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company (D.H.C.C.).

In August of 1829, the Stourbridge Lion* became the first locomotive to run on commercial track in America. It was one of four locomotives built in England by Foster, Rastrick & Co. at the order of John B. Jervis, chief engineer of D.H.C.C.

 

The first locomotive actually built in the United States, in 1830, was named the Tom Thumb. It ran on the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad.

[“The Iron Horse Wins;” Tom Thumb, America’s first home built locomotive. Here Tom Thumb outruns the horse on August 28, 1830. But did Tom Thumb really win? Detail from painting by Carl Rakeman. See more of Rakeman’s fine work on the Federal Highway Administration website.]

 

The steam locomotive John Bull was made by the English firm Stephensons for the Camden and Amboy Railroad in New Jersey. It arrived as a set of parts in Philadelphia in late in August of 1831 and was assembled by Isaac Dripps. The John Bull had been purchased by New Jersey entrepreneur and engineer Robert Stevens. It came to be the first efficient passenger locomotive in the United States.

[Upper left, the John Bull in a later photograph.]

[The John Bull, 1831. The photograph at left is a magnificent model of the John Bull produced by Fine Art Models* of Birmingham, Michigan.]

 

In 1831-32, D.H.C.C.’s Jervis had two more locomotives built in the United States, one of which was named the DeWitt Clinton.

[The DeWitt Clinton, August 9, 1831. One of the earliest Americam built locomotives. Detail from an 1892-3 painting by Edward L. Henry. Albany Institute of History and Art.]

 

Site Coordinator: Lori Niemuth Last updated: December 27, 2007