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The Rainhill Trials

The Rainhill Trials changed the future of rail travel – and so changed the world – forever.

Before the growth of the railways in Britain the average person was born, lived and died within a radius of 15 miles. Within 20 years of the Trials, however, a network of railways had grown and it was possible for a working man to afford to travel from the north to London.

The Rainhill Trials were the first of many such tests but they were by far the most significant and decided two important facts: the first was that the steam locomotive had sufficient possibilities to be used on railways and, secondly, the Trials showed the way in which locomotives should be developed.

Thousands of people from across the country descended on Rainhill, near St.Helens, to see the very best of British engineering design compete to be the winner and claim the prize money of £500 – many thousands of pounds in today’s money.

The impact of what they witnessed would be felt for many decades to come.