Really big day today! John and I met with Peter Liebhold, curator, Division of Work and Industry, at the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian – his remit includes rail transport and a lot more, including business and finance history. We had a very fruitful discussion and have laid the foundations for a productive working partnership between the S&DR Rail Heritage Board, the Friends and the Smithsonian. He had some really valuable suggestions to make which I am going to take back and present to the Rail Heritage Board as soon as possible.
The Smithsonian has a locomotive called The John Bull. She was made by Robert Stephenson and Co. and shipped disassembled to New Jersey in the USA in 1831.
She stands in the museum on a section of bridge that is the first iron railway bridge in the USA. (Made me think of our very own Gaunless Bridge!) She is the ‘oldest complete and operable locomotive in the world’ – according to a Smithsonian leaflet.
I have to say I love the transport exhibition here – if you are in Washington DC you have to visit. They’ve even got the first ever mountain bike – built for off road adventures in California.
By chance we also met Barbara Clark Smith, who is a curator in the Division of Political and Military History as we stood taking copious photographs of The John Bull and the bridge – she thought we were engineers. She also had some great ideas we can run with regarding the impact of railways – really exciting day all round.
We rounded the day off with a lovely meal in historic Alexandria.