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Invicta locomotive
Whitstable Community Museum, Whitstable, Kent, UK
<em>Invicta</em> locomotive
associated engineer
Robert Stephenson
date  1829 - 1830
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Steam Engine or Locomotive  |  reference  TR105663
photo  courtesy Graces Guide
The steam locomotive Invicta worked the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway, which offered England's first regular passenger train service. She is similar in design to Stephenson's famous Rocket, winner of the Rainhill Trials. Invicta worked for less than a decade before being taken out of service, though she went on to appear at numerous events celebrating early rail travel. She was on display in Canterbury but is now in the Whitstable Community Museum.
Invicta ('undefeated', the motto of Kent) was the only locomotive on the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway when the line opened on 3rd May 1830. She was constructed in 1829-30, at Robert Stephenson & Co's Forth Street works, Newcastle upon Tyne. It's most likely that the locomotive was designed by Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) with input from his father George Stephenson (1781-1848) who was engineer to the Liverpool & Manchester Railway at the time.
In appearance, she shares many features with her sister locomotive Rocket completed in 1829 at the same factory. Both have inclined cylinders on either side of the boiler, but Invicta was the first have them driving the rear wheels. The two cylinders are 254mm diameter and 457mm long.
Her four coupled wheels are 1.22m in diameter, and the boiler 2.44m long and 991mm in diameter with a rectangular firebox. Originally, the boiler was of multi-tubular design, as on Rocket, with 25 tubes of 76mm diameter. Her working steam pressure was 275.8kN per sq m (40psi) with a total heating surface of 18.2 sq m 14.6 sq m from the tubes and 3.6 sq m from the firebox.
The regulator and levers for controlling the engine are located about halfway along the left side (facing forwards) of the boiler, where the driver stands on a timber footboard, 914mm long and 381mm wide, mounted above the rear wheel. Another person carried out stoking from the single-axle tender. The weight of the working locomotive, excluding her tender, was 6.35 tonnes (6 tons 5 cwt) and she developed power equivalent to 8.95kW.
Invicta and her tender, costing 625 or 635, left the factory on 15th April 1830 and were brought to Whitstable by sea. At the railway's opening ceremony she was driven by Edward Fletcher (1807-89), later locomotive superintendent of the North Eastern Railway 1854-82.
Initially, Invicta worked the northern 3km of the Canterbury & Whitstable line but it was soon clear that she lacked the power at any speed to haul trains up the Church Street incline out of Whitstable. From 1832, trains were pulled up the slope by a stationary engine of 11.2kW erected at the top, and Invicta worked the 1.6km of level track at South Street.
Between 1836 and 1838, for reasons unknown, the boiler was modified. Another ring was added, presumably lengthening the boiler shell, the firebox was removed and the narrow boiler tubes were replaced with a single 6.1m. flue. Far from improving things, the changes resulted in the locomotive failing to make sufficient head of steam. She was soon taken out of service and put into storage at the railway's North Lane terminus in Canterbury.
In 1839, she was put up for sale but failed to find a buyer. After the South Eastern Railway leased the line in September 1844, she was transported to its Ashford works for storage. Later she was exhibited at the Railway Jubilee for the 50th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (September 1875), the George Stephenson centenary in Newcastle (1881) and the Exposition Universelle in Paris (April-November 1900).
Some attempts at restoring Invicta were begun in 1892, the details of which are not known. In the 20th century she was acquired by Sir David Lionel Goldsmid-Stern-Salomons (1851-1925) who was determined she should stay in Kent rather than be taken to London. On 7th June 1906, the engine was installed at the east end of Dane John Gardens (TR149574) in Canterbury, though the tender has not survived.
Other than appearing at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley (April-October 1924 and April-October 1925) and the Darlington Railway Centenary (1925), Invicta remained in Dane John Gardens, and at some point she was painted bright red! In 1978, she was transported by road to the National Railway Museum in York for renovation, including the repainting of her ironwork black and the cladding of the boiler barrel in timber. The work was completed in time for Invicta to take part in celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway (May 1980).
In November 2008, Canterbury City Council was awarded a 41,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a new museum at Whitstable, to display Invicta and a stationary winding engine also constructed by Robert Stephenson & Co. You can now visit both at the Whitstable Community Museum in Oxford Street, Whitstable.
Contractor: Robert Stephenson & Co, Newcastle
Research: ECPK
"George and Robert Stephenson: The Railway Revolution" by L.T.C. Rolt, Penguin Books Ltd, London, 1984
"George Stephenson: The Engineer & His Letters" by W.O. Skeat, The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London, 1973
"Pioneer Work of the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway", The Railway Magazine, pp.10-15, January 1953

Invicta locomotive