George Stephenson (1781-1848) was responsible for surveying the Liverpool to Manchester railway after the success of his Stockton to Darlington railway, which had proved that engines could draw loads along lines. Work on the Liverpool to Manchester line, with Stephenson as engineer, began in 1826 after fierce and prolonged opposition from local landowners and the failure of the first parliamentary Bill for permission to build the railway. As the line was being built, a competition was held to find the best type of power to be used on the line: in 1829, Stephenson and his son Robert, also an engineer, proved that Robert's Rocket steam locomotive could pull loads at an average speed of 10mph. The Stephensons, father and son, were respectively the first and second presidents of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
The archive contains biographical information on all the institution's members since 1847; a model railway wagon made for IK Brunel; the personal archive of Lord Hinton (1901-1983), a nuclear pioneer; and a scale model of an engineering workshop made for Sir Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun.
The appeal is being launched at the opening of an exhibition of watercolours by F. Gordon Crosby (1885- 1943), an illustrator of motorsport events during the 1930s. A limited edition of his prints will be sold in aid of the appeal. The exhibition, at the institution, runs until Thursday 26 May. For further information, contact: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1 Birdcage Walk, London SW1H 9JJ, telephone 071-222 7899.