Built by William Hedley in 1813, Wylam, England, they were some of the first practical steam locomotives ever built. They were originally used to pull coal wagons from a colliery to boats on a nearby river, the distance was around five miles.

Local people, however, were not impressed. The engines were very noisy and having one pass their land for around a minute every half hour was difficult to bear. Hedley responded to this by including a quieting chamber. It worked by allowing steam to pass through before exiting through the chimney.

Four puffing Billies were built, and although at first they were too heavy for the tracks, better quality tracks were introduced and they became very useful to collieries. They were also very hardwearing, in fact three of them gave nearly fifty years of service.