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Historic railway vehicles: Trevithick's locomotive

Historic railway vehicles: Trevithick's locomotive
photo: Museum Wales/ railway vehicles: Trevithick's locomotive
28 / 11 / 2021

The locomotive named after its inventor Richard Trevithick is believed to be the world's first steam-powered railway vehicle. It first set out on the journey on 21 February 1804. The year was 1802 when British inventor, engineer, and designer of the first working steam locomotive Richard Trevithick built one of his high-pressure steam engines

Under the supervision of ironworks owner Samuel Homfray, Richard mounted the engine on wheels and made it into a locomotive. A year later, he sold Homfray the patents for his locomotives. Enchanted by Trevithick's locomotive, Homfray decided to make a bet with ironmaster Richard Crawshay that the locomotive could carry ten tons of iron along the Merthyr Tydfil Tramroad from Penydarren to Abercynon, divided by 15.69 miles. On 21 February 1804, the locomotive presented, to the public, the successful transportation of 10 tons of iron, 5 wagons, and 70 men the entire distance in 4 hours and 5 minutes at an average speed of about 4 km/h.

Richard Trevithick was born on 13 April 1771 in Cornwall, UK. Richard's father's employment as a mine foreman brought him into contact with steam engines used to pump water from an early age. The experience he gained led to a career as a successful investor. His first invention was the high-pressure steam engine. After successful experiments on non-moving machines in the mines, he constructed the first steam engine capable of independent movement in 1801. He named it "The Puffing Devil" and successfully tested it at Camborne in Cornwall. A year later, he patented it. Trevithick's other achievements include the mining of a tunnel under the Thames, designs for the recovery of shipwrecks, several agricultural machines, methods of land improvement, and an eleven-year stay in South America where he worked for the owners of the silver mines there.

Richard Trevithick died on 22 April 1833 at the Bull Hotel, Dartford. His memory is commemorated by a statue outside Camborne Library and the annual Richard Trevithick Day.