The Tragic Tale of a Great Steam Engine Inventor
Edit: Read here for the full bio of this great man.
This is my appreciation to what I consider to be the real stream train inventor, Richard Trevithick. Since my fondness for steam engines has grown over the years so has my thirst for information regarding the pioneers of the industrial revolution. Since this is my blog, I get to decide what I write about so I would to introduce to my readers an article about Richard Trevithick, a Cornishman who, through his hard work and high level of intelligence bought us the steam locomotive.
Who was Richard Trevithick?
Born in 1771, Trevithick had mining in his blood and this was probably a big reason why he chose to concentrate on engineering as a profession. It was said that he did not enjoy school which was in Illogan, a small village in rural England.
His father, known to be a strict man, was a mine manager at a local colliery and although he did not act favourably towards his son at first must have been impressed with his ability to problem solve because when R Trevithick was still a teenager he was given his first job as a mine engineer in 1790.
He later married and was father to 6 children and spent a large period of time dedicating himself to improve the existing steam engine which was expensive to run and not efficient. Remember, during this time big, heavy train were being used to pull large loads. Fuel costs were extremely high and because the local area had no coal fields, Trevithick clearly understood the necessity to invent a lighter, more streamline engine.
High Pressure Steam Engines
James Watt, another inventor was against the idea of high pressure – labelling it too risky but Trevithick was convinced that there was a way of safely manufacturing a high pressure engine. He started with a model version and because they worked so well he built an ore hoist powered by high powered steam.
The demand for these lighter models was incredible and soon he had over 25 being whisked all over Cornwall to the mines.
The First Steam Carriages
It was at Christmas in 1801 that Trevithick built a steam carriage that successfully went up a hill. He sought help from his cousin and the pair of them patented the now famous high pressure steam engine for locomotive and static use.
Three years later a steam train travelled a distance of ten miles on a Welshman’s Ironworks in South Wales. Word soon got out about this historic feat of human engineering and another high pressured train was built in the North East of England, furthering the reputation of this great inventor.
Discovery Turns to Despair
Despite being a brilliant engineer, Trevithick was not a good businessman. Declared bankrupt in 1811 after a series of failed joint ventures he sailed to Peru to find his fortune in silver mining but in the late 1820s he returned to England without a penny to his name.
During his time abroad, engineers like George Stephenson used Trevithick’s designs to further improve steam powered railways and it was too late for the Cornishman to regain his seat at the top table of England’s steam train pioneers.
Tragically, he died in 1833 and did not have the money to cover his own funeral. A bitter and in-just end to a man’s life who brought so much to the world of steam powered trains.