The John Bull locomotive

John Bull Locomotive

On View 1 East

This landmark object identifies the transportation and technology wing of the museum. On view is the steam locomotive John Bull and a section of the first iron railroad bridge in America.

The steam locomotive John Bull was built in 1831 and ran for 35 years, pulling trains of passengers and cargo between the two largest cities of the time, Philadelphia and New York. The locomotive propelled trains at 25 to 30 miles per hour. The John Bull, which was ordered from England by Robert Stevens for his railroad company, was named after the mythical gentleman who symbolized England. It was assembled by Isaac Dripps, a young steamboat mechanic who had never seen a locomotive before. Despite his lack of direct experience, the pilot truck added by Dripps was adopted for use on virtually all American steam-powered locomotives except yard switcher types.

John Bull is the oldest locomotive in existence still capable of operation, as was demonstrated in 1981.


In 1981, for the John Bull's 150th birthday, the Museum took the John Bull steam locomotive out to run on nearby train tracks. Take a look at this video to see the John Bull locomotive in action.