A PIONEERING engineer largely ignored by history has been restored to his rightful place at the forefront of the railway revolution in a ground-breaking new book by a York author.

In his new novel, It Wasn't Rocket Science, retired academic Mike Norman who lives in Heworth in York charts a grandson’s quest to uncover the truth behind the story of Timothy Hackworth.

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The 79-year-old says a lithograph, left to him by his own grandfather - a Shildon railwayman called Bailley Cornforth - sparked an investigation into the life and work of Timothy Hackworth.

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In his book, Mike shows how Hackworth, a devout Methodist from a humble North-East background, was the man whose innovation and inventiveness made him the true 'father of the locomotive'.

The lithograph, featuring the engineer and two of his locomotives, prompted a three-year quest for a truth which has long been overshadowed by the reputation of George Stephenson - the engineer long-renowned as the 'father of railways'.

York Press: The lithograph heirloom, featuring Hackworth and two of his locomotivesThe lithograph heirloom, featuring Hackworth and two of his locomotives (Image: Mike Norman)

"It's about putting Hackworth and the Stockton to Darlington Railway at the front of the queue," said Mike, who started his research at the National Railway Museum, here in York.

Although commemorated in his home town of Shildon in the North East – where a school is named after him – Hackworth's importance to the birth of the railways is overlooked by history in favour of Stephenson and his son, Robert.

But Mike says it was Hackworth’s genius in creating the blast-pipe that truly put life into the locomotive - and was key to creating a transportation system that would eventually conquer the world.

York Press: York Author Mike NormanYork Author Mike Norman (Image: Mike Norman)

Timothy Hackworth was superintendent of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the first in the world when it opened in 1825 and Mike's investigation took him from there to the USA. His quest led to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the oldest in the USA, which amassed a vast amount of information on the history of early locomotives for an 11-acre exhibit at the great Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Mike said: “Ironic that it was in America they sought – not just for the Columbian Exposition but onwards - to uncover and put on public display the supremacy of Hackworth’s engineering skill and inventiveness.

“Timothy Hackworth had it, the Stephensons did not and Rocket was not fit for purpose.

“I was able to confirm, from previously unreported evidence, that he was the inventor of the ‘blast-pipe’ - that crucial part of the steam locomotive – and his contribution at the forefront of the development of the locomotive was unequalled.

“Hackworth was at the Exposition, for the first time, seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder with George Stephenson, but also warranted the individual recognition he was given for his pioneering accomplishments, and for all the accolades as ‘Father of the Locomotive’.”

Mike's book follows the life of Timothy Hackworth through the eyes of his grandson as preparations are made for the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

York Press: It Wasn't Rocket Science is available to buy nowIt Wasn't Rocket Science is available to buy now (Image: Mike Norman)

Mike said that Hackworth’s great-great granddaughter Jane Hackworth-Young has long campaigned for his recognition and has supported him with his research bringing fresh family documentation to light.

Jane said: “Mike has used his own knowledge of working at the front-edge of technology and, together with new papers that have been found, has compiled an intriguing story.

“It will be of appeal not only to the experienced engineer but also to anyone who enjoys a family quest for recognition and social justice.”

Mike said: “With preparations underway for the major expansion of the railway museum at Shildon and the approaching bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, now is right time to set the record straight about Timothy Hackworth’s extraordinary achievements.”

Mike's book is available online here to pre-order priced £9.99.