On February 28, 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railway chartered for commercial transport of passengers and freight. There were skeptics who doubted that a steam engine could work along steep, winding grades, but the Tom Thumb (steam locomotive), designed by Peter Cooper, put an end to their doubts.
Tom Thumb was a four-wheel locomotive with a vertical boiler and vertically mounted cylinders that drove the wheels on one of the axles. The "design" was characterized by a host of improvisations. The boiler tubes were made from rifle barrels and a blower was mounted in the stack, driven by a belt to the powered axle. The engine was fueled by anthracite coal.
Investors hoped a railroad would allow Baltimore, the second largest U.S. city at the time, to successfully compete with New York for western trade.
Today, a replica of the Tom Thumb remains on display at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum. The museum lists the replica as operational, and the locomotive makes special appearances each year.