X-raying Stephenson's Planet locomotive

Planet was an early steam locomotive built in 1830 by Robert Stephenson for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. A replica of the locmotive is maintained by Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.

In 2010 the replica was X-rayed to test the new Rapiscan Eagle® M60. The M60 is a large x-ray machine mounted on a vehicle, and is road-legal in the UK. The Eagle was developed by Rapiscan in association with the Inverse Problems group at The University of Manchester.

The M60 revealed a fascinating X-ray image, showing Planet's complicated system of boiler tubes, cylinders, valves and watertank. It was the first time that scientists or historians had produced such an image of a steam locomotive.

Move your mouse cursor horizontally (or tap on a mobile device) across the image below to see the x-ray view of the Planet locomotive.

Professor Bill Lionheart, professor of Applied Mathematics at The University of Manchester, said:

Stephenson's Planet was made for the first passenger railway here in the North West so it seems fitting to make an X-ray image of it with Rapiscan's Eagle truck scanner, which has also been developed in the region.

Unlike Stephenson's more famous Rocket, the cylinders of Planet are inside. With Rapiscan's huge X-ray machine we should be able to show the inside workings of the engine.

The M60 was originally designed to help identify contraband and plastic explosive type materials in cargo shipments, and is able to detect different materials such as wood and metal.

Rapiscan Systems works regularly with The University of Manchester, and funds research work by mathematics postgraduates to help develop X-ray imaging, including work on the M60.

X-ray image copyright and supplied courtesy of the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester.

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