LSWR Sharp Roberts 0-4-2 Pluto Picture

John Viret Gooch was the first locomotive superintendent of the London and South Western Railway (LSWR). In 1840, just as he stepped into his office, he ordered seven 0-4-2 goods engines, three from Jones, Turner and Evans of Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, and four from the Sharp Roberts Atlas Works (later Sharp Stewart) in Manchester. One of the Sharp Roberts engines was No. 44 Pluto, which was built in 1841 and sold to the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway in 1854. It pulled trains there until it was retired and scrapped in 1864. A model of this locomotive, which looks very similar to Liverpool and Manchester Railway 0-4-2 Lion, is on display at the Bluebell Railway museum at Sheffield Park Station.

Little did Gooch, Sharp Roberts, or the LSWR know that within a century the name Pluto would be applied to the ninth planet, which was named as such by British schoolgirl Venetia Burney. As luck would have it, the New Horizons space probe revealed in 2015 that Pluto is a reddish-brown color, somewhat lighter than the locomotive but similar. At that time, the name was chosen to fit the classical mythology theme of the 0-4-2 goods engines, though the god of death and lord of the underworld is a rather ominous choice for a locomotive compared to figures such as Atlas, Mercury, Vulcan, or Hercules. Much like sculpture and painting, locomotive naming frequently relied on classical mythology as a source.
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