He was the inventor of an early steam locomotive, the Sans Pareil. His design used for the first time a steam blast-pipe in the chimney to draw the fire. Hackworth's locomotive was heavy and the steam engine failed during the Rainhill Trials. The engine was however subsequently used on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and can still be seen in action at the Timothy Hackworth Museum.
He also built, at Shildon in 1836, the first locomotive to run in Russia for the St Petersburg railway and in 1837 the Samson for the Albion Mines Railway in Nova Scotia, one of the first engines to run in Canada.