First Steam Locomotive Runs
If Richard Trevithick had possessed a commercial brain to match his engineering talent he would surely have become one of England’s richest men: his claims-to-fame include a steam-powered barge; a screw-propeller; a steam-carriage; the iron ship; and in 1804 the first full-scale steam-driven locomotive. Instead he suffered bankruptcy and died in debt.
The Redruth -born mining engineer’s most significant contribution to the Industrial Revolution was the perfection of high-pressure steam engines, more efficient and effective than the low-pressure versions developed earlier by James Watt . Trevithick designed one such machine to drive a hammer at an ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, this device running from 1802 onwards. In 1804, however, he adapted that steam engine to power itself along the metal tramway that ran from its home at the Penydarren Ironworks. The locomotive used a decidedly basic single-cylinder and flywheel arrangement, but also a draught-improving combined steam-exhaust and chimney that set the standard for future steam locos.
Richard Trevithick ’s boss, having seen the locomotive’s capability, made a bet with a rival that it could haul 10 tons of iron the 10 miles from his plant to Abercynon . On February 21 1804 the un-named machine completed the task, conveying 70 passengers and the iron in five wagons. The trip was completed in just over four hours.
A concept had been proved, but typically it would be others like Stephenson who would benefit, exploiting the potential the Cornish genius had revealed to the world.
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