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Steams engine's 'missing link' a step closer to being found

Steam engine enthusiasts moved a step closer to unravelling the debate over the origins of the steam power after the National Railway Museum this week purchased one of the oldest engines in the world.
The working model, known as Sans Pareil - without equal - dates from the early 19th Century and is thought by some to have been the work of the grandfather of the railways himself, Richard Trevithick.Officially the engine is billed as the work of Timothy Hackworth, one of the competitors in the seminal Rainhill Trials of 1829. However, analysis will now discover whether or not the engine is far older than thought and is in fact one of Trevithick's earliest working double-cylinder boiler prototypes.Experts at the museum hope that their analysis will show the model is the technological equivalent of evolution's 'missing link' - transforming its £92,000 price today in to a priceless artefact.The engine is now being held at the National Railway Museum in York before being transferred to a laboratory in the UK. It is expected to be on display in the museum in York ahead of the Early Railways Conference to be held in London in 2008.

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