Locomotive No.1 was designed by James Edward McConnell (1815-1883) one of the most distinguished British locomotive engineers of the 1840s and 1850s. He was born in Ireland, but of a long Scottish ancestry. After a few years working in the iron trade, in 1842 at the age of 27 he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway. This line included the notorious Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, the steepest sustained main-line railway incline which for two miles (3.2 km) is graded at 1 in 37. To overcome this, McConnell designed what was said to have been the largest engine in the world.
In 1847, at the age of only 32, McConnell moved to a considerably more important position, that of Locomotive Superintendent of the Southern Division of the London and North Western Railway (L& NWR). He was responsible for the design, construction, running and repair of all the engines hauling all trains running out of what was London's principal station, Euston, to (in those days) the whole of the north and centre of England. His most famous engines, the Bloomers (nicknamed after the new women's garments simply because they and the engines were both the latest thing), continued as the main southern L&NWR express engines for 37 years.
McConnell left the L&NWR in 1862 and went on to practise for many years as a consulting engineer. He died in 1883.
McConnell had long had associations with railways outside the United Kingdom. In particular, in 1853 he was appointed consultant to the Sydney Railway Company, for whom he produced a design for this 0-4-2 engine. McConnell was a consulting engineer with the famous locomotive builders, Robert Stephenson and Co., and Locomotive No. 1 was one of the four engines built for the Sydney railway and delivered to Australia in January 1855.
By the 1850s the basic principles of locomotive design were well established and McConnell's choice was almost identical to the 0-4-2 locomotives of his design for his own railway, complete with polished brass steam dome and the distinctive locomotive number on the funnel. The locomotives were a 0-4-2 modification of the fast 0-6-0 goods express engines designed by McConnell for the L&NWR and introduced in 1854.
Consequently, the Sydney Railway Company did not receive a Stephenson-designed locomotives but a McConnell-designed ones, significantly the only order at the Stephenson works to have been built to the design of an outside engineer. As Wallace, the Sydney Railway Company's engineer, did not specify a livery, the locomotives were given the same as for McConnell's L&NWR Company, a boiler of Brunswick green; splashers, footplate steps, buffer beam and side rails of red; boiler bands, mainframe and buffers of black; and line work in white.
William Scott, who came out to Sydney to supervise the delivery and erection of the engines, had worked for McConnell for some three years at the L&NWR's Wolverton Railway Works, Wolverton, in Buckinghamshire, as a foreman erector.
Locomotive No. 1 is the only original McConnell locomotive or tender known to survive anywhere in the world, though a replica Bloomer has been built in England.
The locomotive was built by the English firm of Robert Stephenson and Company, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, the son of the famous pioneer of railways, George Stephenson (1781-1844). Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) was born at Willington Quay, Northumberland, England and studied at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Edinburgh. Robert assisted his father to survey the Stockton and Darlington railway. At the age of nineteen Robert Stephenson was appointed to manage the locomotive works established by his father George and funded by Edward Pease and Michael Longridge in June 1823. Not only did Robert manage the works at such a young age but the company bore his name. It was established at Forth Street in Newcastle with Robert as manager and George providing plans for the engines. "Locomotion No.1" was built in 1825 and locomotives were exported to America in 1828, France in 1829, Germany in 1833, and Russia in 1835 By the end of the 1830s Robert Stephenson and Company had exported to almost every European country. By 1855 the company had built over 1000 locomotives including a wide variety of types and gauges. On 1 January 1937 the company merged with R.W. Hawthorn & Co. to become Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn Ltd. Over a 112-year period a total of 4 185 steam locomotives were built.