“threw open the throttle-valve” — Pennsylvania State Quarter Coin

Today, the Pennsylvania State Quarter Coin remembers the first locomotive run in America using an English made engine and rails, called the “Stourbridge Lion,” on August 8, 1829.

From The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Bulletin #5, published in 1923:


The Delaware & Hudson Co., one of the pioneer roads of America, recently celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the granting of its charter, April 23rd, 1823.

Would that we could turn the pages of history back nearly one hundred years and witness the trial of the old “Lion”.

The celebration of 1923 was far different than that of Aug. 8, 1829, when Horatio Allen first guided the “Lion” over the hemlock rails.

The “Lion” is reproduced elsewhere, in connection with Mr. Bishop’s contribution and the original was received from the D. & H. Co., which this Society wishes to acknowledge with thanks.

The early account of the opening of that road was reviewed recently in the Boston Herald and is so good that it is worthy of reproduction here.

The D. & H. was once the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company’s railroad.

“Chartered in 1823 under the laws of the state of New York,” it did not long remain only a canal.

In 1828 the company began the construction of a railroad from its coal mines to Honesdale, which was the terminus of its canal.

This is held to have been the third practical railroad in the country and to have been part of the great plan of two Philadelphia Quakers to connect the mines they had found in the valley of the Lackawanna with tidewater on the Hudson.

The railway was to fill a gap of 17 miles. It was a gravity road, one of several which makes a picturesque part of the history of Pennsylvania.

Owing to the hilly nature of the region it traversed, it was built with eight inclined planes varying in length from one mile to four. When passenger cars were placed on it in 1877 it became a tourists’ wonder, popular for the exhilaration of its ride and the beauty of its scenery.

On the tracks of this line, however, a locomotive was first run in America.

Horatio Allen, a young American engineer, under commission of the Canal Company, ordered four locomotives from England, three from the works of a firm at Stourbridge, and a fourth which was built by Stephenson.

The first of the four arrived in New York in January, 1829. It was shipped from the foot of Beach street up the Hudson to Rondout and then by canal to Honesdale.

It was of primitive “grasshopper” style, and some imaginative workman having painted a lion’s head on the front of its boiler, it was dubbed the “Stourbridge Lion.”

The wheels were of oak wood with iron tires.

There were two vertical cylinders, with 36-inch stroke, at the back of its horizontal boiler.

The other three imported engines seem never to have traveled upon a rail. They were long stored in an East side warehouse and their final fate is not known.

The trial trip of the “Lion” was a gala event.

The railway track was of hemlock rails spiked to hemlock ties.

It had been laid unseasoned, in summer, and the rails were a good deal twisted and warped on that opening day, Aug. 8, 1829.

The road crossed the Lackawaxen river over a frail trestle 100 feet high; the contract had called for locomotives weighing four tons, but this weighed seven, and it was feared that the trestle might not stand the burden.

Allen served both as engineer and fireman.

Everybody within 40 miles came to see the spectacle.

An old Queen Anne cannon was brought to the scene, only to burst on the first fire.

Prominent men begged Allen not to attempt to cross the river, but “he ran slowly backward and forward a few times before the multitude, then threw open the throttle-valve, shouted a loud good-by, and dashed around a dangerous curve and over the swaying bridge.”

He ran on a few miles and returned in safety amidst the shouts of the people.

Horatio Allen soon after became chief engineer of the Charleston & Hamburg Railroad, chartered in South Carolina, and another of our early lines, and he later served as assistant engineer on the Croton Aqueduct, president of the New York & Erie Railroad, and consulting engineer of the Brooklyn bridge.

He lived to be 87 and all his life he liked to tell of that trip of the Stourbridge Lion.

The trip served to convince Allen and the directors that the road was not suitable for locomotives, so it was run off the rails near the canal dock, and remained an object of curiosity and of some dread for many years.

Would that it were available for the celebrations to come, but it was long ago relegated to the scrap heap.


The Pennsylvania State Quarter Coin shows with an image of the “Stourbridge Lion” and its first locomotive run in 1829.

Pennsylvania State Quarter Coin