This post will contain mostly early locomotives that still exist. I’ve chosen to ignore famous engines, and focus on the less well known examples. Most of which are stuffed away in small museums and relatively unknown even to train buffs. Every locomotive pictured below still exists!
The engine in the foreground was built in 1837 and is the oldest surviving Baldwin built locomotive. It was the first locomotive to operate in Chicago, and was still in operable condition in the 1940s. It shows several interesting features common on early Baldwin locomotives such as the location of the driving axle behind the firebox and the valve gear on the outside and drive rod on the inside of the wheels.
Sapukai, the oldest locomotive in Paraguay. This locomotive was in service in the 1860s and operated until the railway was regauged from 5'6" to standard gauge circa 1910. I can find very little information about this engine on the web.
The locomotive Albion which worked on the Albion Railway hauling coal to Pictou Harbor. Very little is known about the locomotive, exactly when it was built and by who remains a mystery, all the more mysterious because although it was delivered in 1854 its general design resembles a product of the 1840s more than something of the 1850s.
The Invicta undergoing restoration efforts in the 1970s. Invicta is an interesting locomotive, because it was the last Stephenson locomotive built with a single large flue in the boiler (quite clearly seen here). Invicta was completed right after the Stephensons finished the Rocket which was their first locomotive with a multi-tube boiler. Unfortunately like most of the early Stephenson locomotives, the Invicta steamed poorly and was unable to keep up steam even on flat sections of the line. Rocket had proven the superiority of many small tubes over a single large one, and the Invicta’s boiler was obsolete as soon as it was completed. On the other hand Invicta was the first Stephenson locomotive (perhaps even just the first ever) with the cylinders mounted at the front of the engine.
Very little is known about the Mississippi. It is believed to have been built in 1834, but by whom and where - nobody is certain. Some suggest it was built by Braithwaite, Milner & Company but it bears little resemblance to their products. Another source states 1836, and H.R. Dunham and Co. However it is also likely that the locomotive was rebuilt extensively during its career having been in service from the 1830s up until the 1890s, and likely looked very different in the 1830s. It was last steamed in the 1890s for the Columbian Exposition, where, like the John Bull and the Pioneer it operated under its own power.
The Rocket, no not the famous Rocket of 1829, but the Philadephia and Reading’s Rocket of 1838. Built by Braithwaite, Milner & Company of London this locomotive served the Reading until it was retired in 1879. It was restored to its original appearance in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition (as it had been converted to a tank engine in the 1860s). Today it rests on an original section of 1838 track at the Franklin Institute.
The locomotive La Copiapó built by the Norris Brothers in 1850 became the first locomotive to operate in South America - pulling trains on the first railroad in Chile. The engine survives today in remarkably original condition and is an important part of American railroading history.
A stereoview of the Cumberland Valley Rail Road’s diminutive Pioneer locomotive. This light weight 2-2-2T locomotive was built in 1851 and tried on the CVRR as possible replacement for heavier locomotives which were uneconomical to run ahead of light passenger trains. Proving ideal for this role it served the railroad for a couple of decades until the increasing weight of passenger cars rendered it too light to pull trains. It was occasionally used to move work trains, but otherwise remained inactive until passing into preservation. The Pioneer was steamed as recently as 1949 for the Chicago rail fair.
The Lion was retired in the 1890s, and given to the University of Maine in 1905. It spent the next 70 years in a wooden shack, unlike many early American railway relics which went to big museums or were shown off at big expositions - which is probably why it remains so unknown today. It was cosmetically restored for the bicentennial, and donated in 1985 to the Maine State Museum, where it is seen in this photo. It is one of only three preserved American locomotives dating from the 1840s, including Memnon and People’s Railway No. 3.
La Portena, the first locomotive to operate in Argentina pictured in the 1870s. It made its first trip in Buenos Aires on August 29th 1857. The locomotive still exists today.
Will post even more weird, old locomotives at another time.