Steam locomotives had indeed acquired a poor reputation for performance and reliability, added to which the highly inefficient boilers of the time wasted large amounts of fuel.
On a relatively short colliery wagonway, where coal was cheap and plentiful, a heavy fuel consumption was of little consequence, but elsewhere the fuel bill had to be taken seriously.
However, they did acknowledge that the choice between the two forms of motive power was finely balanced. added to which was the effect of the significant difference in the efficiency of locomotive boilers then in use, and hence their fuel consumption.
In his summary of the study, Henry Booth, Secretary to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company, had this to say: The advantages and disadvantages of each system, as far as deduced from their own immediate observation, were fully and fairly stated, and in the opinion of the engineers themselves, were pretty equally balanced. What figures could be obtained ranged between 1.6 and 3 pounds weight of coal per ton per mile.
The certain stipulations and conditions the advertisement referred to were: At that time the prospects of the locomotive were most discouraging.
thus was announced the 500-prize that gave birth to the Rainhill Trials, one of the most influential events in the history of transport.
The trials were to take place on a section of level track, about 1-miles long, at Rainhill, a few miles to the east of Liverpool. Supporters of the steam locomotive hailed it as an opportunity to create a great change in internal communications, the Companys shareholders saw it as a scheme from which profit (or loss, depending on point-of-view) would emerge, the canal companies saw it as a threat to the wellbeing of their businesses ― in this they were correct ― and the public looked on in anticipation of great entertainment and spectacle: On the morning of the 6th the ground at Rainhill exhibited a very lively appearance; several thousand persons were collected from all parts of the country, amongst whom were several of the first Engineers of the day.
No doubt influenced by these last three arguments and, despite their consultants overall recommendation, the Board remained undecided on what motive power to adopt, although by now the steam locomotive had gained a majority of supporters providing it could be shown to be up to the job.
Thus, the decision was taken to hold a competition.
Apart from three designed by Trevithick, only 25 other locomotives had been built by 1823 and not one of them was decisively superior to horse traction. Indeed, not many years before, the problem had been to make them move at all.
The slow progress in achieving a decisive breakthrough in the performance of the locomotive resulted in the Stockton and Darlington Railway using a mixture of stationary engines, locomotives and horse traction for working the regular traffic . But progression having been accomplished, the next thing was to increase their powers.