Locomotive model, "Brother Jonathan"

Locomotive model, "Brother Jonathan"

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This is a model of a small and relatively unknown locomotive that is actually one of the most important benchmarks in American railway engineering. The "Brother Jonathan" was the first engine to have a leading truck. It was more than a short-lived prototype because it remained in regular service over twenty years.
It was completed for the Mohawk and Hudson in mid-1832 by the West Point Foundry to a design furnished by John B. Jervis. This contract price for the engine, less tender, was $4,600. Its designer apparently based the plan on what he felt were the better designs of Robert Stephenson, a British locomotive builder. The boiler, valve gear and crank axle bear a strong resemblance to those parts of the Stephenson locomotives. However, Jervis recognized the need for a more flexible running gear and so radically changed the four square, rigid British plan by introducing a leading truck. This idea proved wonderfully effective, as already noted, but Jervis' design for a coal burning boiler proved less than successful. It would be many years before hard coal was regularly used for locomotive fuel. In the winter of 1833 a new deep and narrow wood burning firebox and a wire screened hood over the top of the smoke stack were added. The engine's name, originally the "Experiment," was probably changed at this time to "Brother Jonathan."
Even in its original state the engine performed well. An employee of the West Point Foundry tested the engine for speed in August of 1832 with remarkable results. He said she was the "fastest and steadiest engine I have ever run...." Fourteen miles, including one stop for water, was made in thirteen minutes, and one mile was clocked in only 45 seconds. In the time when the horse was man's fastest courier, this test was miraculous. Yet surely these racing trips were rare because trains on the Mohawk and Hudson were operated at 19 mph in respect to safety and economy.
The locomotive was rebuilt and enlarged in 1846 as an eight wheel engine and either sold or retired around 1853.
Currently on loan
Object Name
model, locomotive
Other Terms
locomotive and tender, brother Jonathan; model, locomotive; rail
date made
Severn-Lamb Ltd.
place made
United Kingdom: England, Stratford-upon-Avon
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Railroad
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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