Richard Trevithick & his successors:
son Francis, grandsons Arthur & Frederick
Portrait from (damaged) Francis Trevithick's Life
Le Fleming provided a concise summary of Trevithick's achievements: his first attempts to construct a steam locomotive date from 1796 and the first practical road locomotive was built in 1801. The first true railway locomotive ran on Penydarran tram-road in Wales in February 1804. The "rails" were formed of cast iron plates and a train of trucks conveying ten tons of iron bars and seventy persons was successfully hauled nine rniles. The engine used high-pressure steam exhausting to the atmosphere and the smooth tread wheels worked by adhesion (although geared transmission was used between the single-cylinder engine and the driving axles) which entitled Trevithick to the title of "father of the locomotive". In 1808 he laid down a circular railway in what is now the Bloomsbury district of London for exhibition purposes. Tickets for admission were five shillings and it may be regarded as the world's first passenger railway. In addition to the use of plain adhesion and the first practical steam locomotive, Trevithick is credited with other inventions including the multi-tubular boiler, blast pipe, lead plugs and direct drive with crank axles. He also foresaw the possibilities of feed-water heating and high degree superheat. He was, however, engaged in many other activities and his restless and adventurous nature unfortunately prevented his concentration on locomotive development. His eldest son, Francis, became an early Locomotive Superintendent of the London & North Western Rly. and other sons and nephews locomotive chiefs in various parts of the world.
Richard Burton opens his excellent biography with: Richard Trevithick was a man of such an extravagant and flamboyant personality, so bursting in ideas and plans...
Although Trevithick's genius has been recognized with monuments and eulogies he remains a highly enigmatic figure, possibly he considered his greatest discovery to be that of exploiting "strong steam" (his phrase), that is high pressure steam. Possibly in his eyes the application of this concept to railway locomotion was secondary: see end of the paper by Rees and Guy presented at Early Railways 3
Rolt's Introduction to his Cornish Giant begins Richard Trevithick was a giant in every sense of the word. He was a man of great stature and prodigious physical strength. He was also a giant in the field of mechanical invention, a born genius whose extraordinary powers enabled him to move far ahead of his times and to outstrip men of far better education. Finally, Trevithick was a giant in courage and this enabled him to face all the misfortunes and disappointments which dogged him throughout his life with absolute fortitude. Nothing could break his spirit.
Even the greatest of men, however, have their weaknesses; otherwise they would not be human. Trevithick was no exception, but even his faults are endearing and very easy to excuse. He had no financial or business sense at all. A great optimist, he was convinced that his inventions would one day win him a fortune. But because he could never be bothered about money matters and placed far too great a faith in the honesty of his fellow men where such matters were concerned, that day never came. He died almost penniless and it was left to those who followed where he had led to reap the reward of his inventions.
One of those followers was George Stephenson.
The true 'father of the steam locomotive', Richard Trevithick was born in in Illogan (on 13 April 1771) according to Marshall. and Francis Trevithick. His father was a mechanic who introduced several improvements in the Newcomen engines used for pumping in the Cornwall metal mines. Scorning academic school subjects, the young Trevithick grew up with an intense interest in steam engines, and his mechanical intuition served him better than theoretical knowledge. He soon became responsible for the working of the engines at several mines, and his success made him one of the natural leaders in the Cornish revolt against Boulton & Watt, whose patents were used to quash any attempts to improve on the Watt engines that were replacing the older Newcomen machines which had been used almost entirely for pumping. The Watt innovation of rotary motion had enabled steam power to extend its range of applications, but these were vastly increased through the application of 'strong steam'. After the Watt patents expired in 1801, Trevithick could openly emerge as the most capable steam engine designer of the time.
Before becoming the advocate of 'strong steam' Trevithick had used water at high pressure (65 p.s.i) as a pumping medium. Engines of this type were installed at the Alport Mine in Derbyshire and at Dolcoath in Cornwall; that is, unlike Watt, he used steam pressure rather than atmospheric pressure to provide the power. This must have given Trevithick the confidence to explore the exploitation of the much more hazardous medium of high pressure steam. This he did at Cook's Kitchen Mine when he modified a Watt engine to accept high pressure steam in 1799. This greatly extended the range of activities which could be accomplished with steam power. The atmospheric engine had been most suited to pumping, but high pressure steam enabled the engine speed to be increased. Ar Cook's Kitchen the main activity was winding ore, replacing a horse whim. Thus, there is a tendency to call these whim engines. Steam was used at 25 p.s.i. It was probably the engine with which Trevithick became acquainted with the advantage of exhausting the steam up the chimney to create a forced draught, the so-called blastpipe effect. As a spare-time occupation, Trevithick constructed a steam road locomotive in 1801. This was not the first such vehicle (the Frenchman Cugnot had been imprisoned thirty years previously for driving such an engine in Paris), but it was probably the most successful.
As noted in Rolt's account of Brunel's towering engineering achievement in the crossing of the Tamar at Saltash Rolt is one of the few authors who has been capable of recreating the excitement of early technological achievements. Here is an extract from another of his masterpieces (The Cornish giant:), which describes a seminal event which took place west of the Tamar half-a-century earlier:
It was on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1801, that Trevithick put the finishing touches to his road carriage in the little shop at Camborne. The short winter's day was over; it was fast falling dark and a cold rain was sweeping across the desolate, mine-scarred slopes of Camborne Beacon. Yet with typical impetuosity the engineer refused to wait for morning but insisted upon raising steam there and then. The 'Puffing Devil', as the locals called it, was pushed through the doorway on to the high road where Trevithick lit the fire. It is easy to picture the scene at this historic moment: the little inquisitive group of men clustered in the shelter of the smithy doorway; the smoke from the tall chimney streaming away on the wind through the rain-filled darkness; the yellow glare from the open furnace door lighting up the tall, powerful figure of the engineer as he threw coal on the fire, quite oblivious of the weather. At last, steam began to hiss from the safety valve and it was obvious that the great moment had come. What followed next is best told in the words of Stephen Williams, one of the onlookers:
"When we see'd that Captain Dick was agoing to turn on steam," he said, "we jumped up as many as could; may be seven or eight of us. 'Twas a "stiffish hill going from the Weith up to Camborne Beacon, but she went off like a little bird.
"When she had gone about a quarter of a mile, there was a roughish piece of road covered with loose stones; she didn't go quite so fast, and as it was a flood of rain, and we were very squeezed together, I jumped off. She was going faster than I could walk, and went on up the hill about a quarter or half a mile further, when they turned her and came back again to the shop."
Such was the recollection of one of the first men ever to travel by mechanical power on an English road. The importance of a historic event is very seldom fully evident to those who actually take part in it. For Stephen Williams and his companions this was just another of Captain Dick's experiments, while even Trevithick himself, far-sighted and optimistic though he was, could not conceive the momentous consequences which would follow this first experiment. Charles R. King in The home of Richard Trevithick illustrated the cottage at Penponds, near Cambourne, where Trevithick lived dueing this highly inventive period. (Loco. Rly Carr. Rev., 1929, 35, 242-3.).
Much of the above was taken word-from-word from Francis Trevithick' Life, but the concise philosophical comments added by Rolt enable the reader to gain more from a technological event which put humanity on course for mass travel.
Returning to Rolt, following his vaguely successful demonstration of his road locomotive in London Trevithick became involved in constructing a railway (or tramway) locomotive locomtive at Pen-y-daren in South Wales: the following is a further extract (which like the earlier one) adds little if any information to that provided by Francis Trevithick, but presents in with far greater style.
"This was a challenge which Trevithick accepted gladly [that is to construct a locomotive to enable Samuel Homfray (a South Wales ironmaster) to win a wager by hauling a load on the Penydaren Tramroad] and he [Trevithick] set out forthwith to design and build an engine which would win the wager. He decided to use his cylindrical return flue boiler with the single cylinder recessed into the boiler end beside the chimney and above the furnace door. A cross-head attached to the piston rod drove a crankshaft mounted at the other end of the boiler by means of two very long connecting rods. On one end of the crankshaft was a flywheel so large that its rim nearly reached the ground, and on the other was a gear wheel which engaged with others to turn the four wheels on which the engine was mounted.
"Trevithick sent regular reports of progress to his friend Giddy and on February 15, 1804 he was able to write: "Last saturday (11th February) we lighted the fire in the Tram Waggon and work'd it without the wheels to try the engine; on Monday we put it on the Tram Road. It work'd very well, and ran up hill and down with great ease and very managable. We have plenty of steam and power. I expect to work it again tomorrow." In such matter-of-fact terms did Trevithick announce this momentous eventthe first time in the history of the world that a steam locomotive moved upon rails.
Robin Barnes has written a substantial series of articles which question whether this was the first time: see Backtrack. There is also a major conceptual problem in that early high pressure engines, being relatively small, could be used to power a locomotive for roads or tramways, or vessels, or machinery (the general purpose whim-engines).
"On February 20, Trevithick sent more news. "The Tram Waggon have been at work several times," he wrote. "It works exceeding well, and is much more managable than horses. We have not try'd to draw but ten tons at a time yet, but I dought not but we cou'd draw forty tons at a time very well for 10 tons stands no chance at all with it. We have not been but two miles on the road and back again, and shall not go farther untill Mr. Homfray comes home. . . ." In this letter Trevithick goes on to describe the engine in some detail.
He tells us that the cylinder was only 8¼ in. diameter but that the stroke was 4 ft. 6 in. and the gearing was so arranged that at each stroke the engine moved forward 9 ft. Forty strokes per minute was apparently the happy working speed of the engine, so at 9 ft. per stroke this would be a little over four miles an hour. The exhaust steam was turned into the chimney 3 feet above the level of the fire in the furnace flue and Trevithick noted that: the fire burns much better when the steam goes up the Chimney than what it do when the engine is Idle."
On Tuesday February 21 there was tremendous excitement at both Penydaren and Plymouth iron works when it became known that the Cornishman was raising steam in his engine in order to attempt the journey to Abercynon which would decide the wager. No doubt there were many other small bets on the result made between the workers in the rival firms. It was an epic journey and the story of it is best told in the engineer's own words. "Yesterday," he wrote, "we proceeded on our journey with the engine; we carry'd ten tons of Iron, five waggons, and 70 Men riding on them the whole of the journey. Its above 9 miles which we perform'd in 4 hours & 5 Mints, but we had to cut down som trees and remove some Large rocks out of road. The engine, while working, went nearly 5 miles per hour; there was no water put into the boiler from the time we started untill we arriv'd at our journey's end. The coal consumed was 2 Hundd. On our return home, abt 4 miles from the shipping place of the Iron, one of the small bolts that fastened the axel to the boiler broak, and let all the water out of the boiler, which prevented the engine returning untill this evening. The Gentleman that bet five Hundd Guineas against it, rid the whole of the journey with us and is satisfyde that he have lost the bet. We shall continue to work on the road, and shall take forty tons the next journey. The publick untill now call'd mee a schemeing fellow but now their tone is much alter'd."
Trevithick's reference to cutting down trees and removing rocks has led some people to assume that the tramway must have been disused and neglected. This was not so. The engine, with its high chimney and its great flywheel swinging round at one side, was both taller and wider than anything which had used the tramway before so that a great deal of hacking and heaving was necessary in places to give it passage room. In such circumstances the time of 4 hours for the 9¾ miles journey was not bad going for this 'first-ever' record for locomotive power. The really remarkable thing about Trevithick's account of the journey is his statement that no water had to be supplied to the boiler throughout the trip. This seems almost incredible.
The tram engine made several more trips along the line and on one occasion, Trevithick tells us, it drew a load of 25 tons with ease.
A year later Trevithick built a second unit at John Whinfield's foundry in Gateshead, to the order of Christopher Blackett for use at Wylam Colliery. But this too, after making a few very short trial runs, was too heavy and was never used. But it did sow the seed of steam locomotion in Northumbrian minds, including the mind of George Stephenson, whom Trevithick met while assembling this locomotive. In 1808 Trevithick built his third and last locomotive, Catch Me Who Can; which he demonstrated on a circular track behind a tall fence near Euston Square. Lowe stated that this was built by John Hazeldine and John Urpeth Rastrick of Bridgnorth. He charged one shilling admission (five shillings, later reduced to two accoding to Lowe) , and again hoped to arouse interest and sponsorship. But again he failed; the capital was not interested in steam locomotion. Trevithick continued to invent, but his contribution to the steam railway came to an end with Catch Me Who Can.
Without question Trevithick was the primary innovator of the high-pressure steam engine and he was highly successful in exploiting this as a form of power at mines, in a far wider range of activities than had been possible with atmospheric engines, and in portable agricultural engines. He also envisaged its use in paddle steamers and exploited it, unhappily with a lack of lasting success, in road vehicles and in railway locomotives. In both cases the track bed was not yet ready for steam locomotion.
He spent a financially disastrous decade hunting for gold in South America and returned to England penniless, to find that others were making a success of the steam locomotive. He died a very poor man, but certainly not a broken one. He left a wife who for long had occupied a very second place in his life; no mortal could distract him for long from his mechanical idea of the moment. However, he produced two daughters and four sons, and some of his descendants occupied responsible positions in the locomotive world. His son Francis Trevithick was locomotive superintendent of the London & North Western Railway and although he did not really design any locomotives, and was more or less forced to retire because he was 'too nice', his place in locomotive history is assured by his organization of the new Crewe Works. Francis's own son, F. H. Trevithick, was chief mechanical engineer of the Egyptian State Railways from 1883 to 1912, and was a great standardizer and rebuilder of locomotives.
Stephen K. Jones (Archive, 2004, Issue 44, 57-64) assesses much of the unsatisfactory evidence for the wager made between Samuel Homfray and Richard Crawshay concerning the journey/s made in one dirction over the Merthyr Tramroad near Penydarren, Christopher Blackett's failure to use the locomotive which he had ordered as a locomotive (but its employment as a stationary engine) and Trevithick's final innovation: a steam jet engine for ship propulsion at Hall's of Dartford. Jones also mentions that the original road locomotive was constructed at the Hayle Foundry. Jones fails to give full citations and omits some important references. The main problem appears to have been that Trevithick was undoubtedly brilliant, but was also a "very difficult" man who failed to fully exploit his own inventions.
Pendred's eulogy given in Dartford Parish Church on the approximate Centenary of his death (23 April 1933) contains some somewhat florid biographical information: "... there is no figure so romantic as Richard Trevithick. A man of great stature and great strength. Blue eyes in a firm rugged face, with a large good-natured mouth." "Always inventing daringly". "The South American adventure is the dark page in Trevithick's career." It needs to be stessed that the "page" was eleven years long.
He died in Dartford on 22 April 1833.
Memorial in Camborne
Unveiling of Memorial to Richard Trevithick, 17th May, 1932. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1932, 22, 269-71.
In Camborne, Cornwall outside Public Library by H.R.H. Prince George. See also Backtrack, 2011, 25, 740
See also Humm J. Rly Canal Hist. Soc., 2015, 38, 252 on Camborne and Dartford memorials.
All reproduced in full? in Francis Trevithick's Life (majority do not relate to locomotives).: details modified to conform with Woodcroft
2,599/1802 Construction of steam engines;
application thereof for driving carriages and for other purposes
with Andrew Vivian: 24 March 1802 (Francis Trevithick gives date
as 26 March).
3148/1808 Machinery for towing, driving or forcing, and discharging ships and other vessels of their cargoes with Robert Dickinson 5 July 1808: (Francis Trevithick gives date as 12 July 1808 and title as Propelling vessels, etc)
3172/1808 Stowing ships' cargoes by means of packages, to lessen expense of stowage, and keep the goods safe. with Robert Dickinson 31 October 1808: (Francis Trevithick gives title as Iron tanks)
3231/1809 Naval architecture and navigation ;-applicable to other purposes. with Robert Dickinson 29 April 1809 (Francis Trevithick gives date as and 28 October 1809 and title as: Ships of wood and iron, and iron tanks
3922/1815 High-pressure steam-engine; and application thereof, with or without other machinery, to useful purposes 6 June 1815 (Francis Trevithick gives title as Propelling vessels, etc.)
6082/1831 Steam engine. 21 February 1831
6083/1831 Apparatus for heating appartments. 21 February 1831
6308/1832 Steam-engine; application of steam-power to navigation and locomotion. 22nd September 1832
(Francis Trevithick claims device for superheating steam)
Richard Trevithick: giant of steam. 2000.
George, Brian biography in Skempton pp. 722-4: sadly this is inadequate in relation to the significance of the subject..
Hosken, Philip M. Genius, Richard Trevithick's steam engines. Trevithick Society. 2013, 78pp.
Seen briefly at NRM
Hosken, Philip M. The oblivion of Richard Trevithick.:
NB requires more research: Google Hosken etc pro tem
Francis Trevithick: Life of Richard Trevithick.
Dickinson, H.W. and Titley, A. Richard Trevithick. CUP, 1934.
Paley, W.B. On praise of Trevithick. Locomotive Mag., 1921, 27, 97-8
Simple biography to mark 150th anniversary of his birth
Rolt, L.T.C.The Comish Giant (1960)
Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia
Barnes, Robin. considered the Penydarren locomotive at its
possible precursors, both by Trevithick and by another in
BackTrack, 17, 622 and
in two previous parts.
Buchanan, R. Angus. Engineering dynasties in transport history. J. Rly Canal Hist. Soc., 2004, 34, 654.
Includes a very useful family tree.
Jarvis, Adrian. Samuel Smiles and the construction of Victorian values. 1997.
This forms an important commentary upon the life and work of Samuel Smiles which includes an assessment of Smiles' biographies of George and Robert Stephenson, and the extent to which the former was an "unjustifiable hagiography". Smiles generally chose to write biographies only of people he deemed worthy of the saintly treatment, and the major subjects of Lives of the Engineers are without exception quasi-saintly. Those engineers who were not, or who did not appear to Smiles to be so, were simply left out. Trevithick, it will be recalled, gets only a modest Memoir in the 1874 edition, and a much fuller and kinder one in the 1868 American edition of The Life of George Stephenson. In the 1857 edition Smiles remarks dismissively on how little he achieved. The fact is that Trevithick did not fit the saintly template. He was an erratic genius, markedly short on dogged. perseverance, and most of whose best ideas only really came to fruition in the hands of others. Financially, Trevithick was a chaotic individual who clearly did not practise that careful domestic management exemplified by the saints. Above all, he was involved with the Cornish engineers stigmatised. by Smiles as patent pirates. That was a sin close to Smiles' heart: Trevithick and his kind attempted to deny to James Watt the due reward of his industry and perseverance, and Smiles himself had suffered at the hands of copyright pirates. If Trevithick were portrayed as having succeeded, his success would foul up the entire message of the biography of Watt, which was that if you want to be like James Watt, rich, famous and a benefactor of mankind, all you have to do is work hard like he did. (Though being a genius might offer some marginal advantage.) The Smilesian selection process follows the distinctively circular logic of the medieval hagiographer. A subject is chosen because he or she is saintly: once that selection is made, the saintliness is axiomatic, and the content of the narrative is single-mindedly directed to the illustration of that saintliness. People who perform saintly works are saints, and works performed by saints are saintly. Once the process is begun, any investigation or appraisal of either the subject or the actions would be, at the least, 'impudent'.
Rees, Jim and Guy, Andy. Richard Trevithick and pioneer locomotives. Early Railways 3. 191-220.
The identification of "Trevithick" locomotives is extremely difficult. The authors give two separate lists. The first is where Trevithick appeared to have some direct input: Penydarren (1804); Gateshead (1805); Catch Me Who Can (1808); West India Docks (1804); and Plymouth breakwater (1812-14). The second is where there is less evidence for Trevithick's direct involvement, but there is an indication that they were derived from his ideas: Coalbrookdale (1802-3); Chapman's Newcastle (1805-6 or 1811-12); Black Billy (1812-13); Whitehaven (1812); Fatfield (1815).
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography includes a coloured portrait in entry is by Philip Payton
The mystery of Trevithick's
London locomotives. Loughnan.St. L.
Pendred,. Trans. Newcomen Soc., 1,
Harvey Trevithick, great grandson of Richard, believed that there were more of Richard's letters at Hayle. E.A. Forward considered that both models are genuine. The drawing of the Pen-y-darren engine was "manifestly wrong" as the "fireman would have to lie on his stomach to get at the fire". Note the significance of Francis Trevithick's Life. (1872). Forward (pp 46-9) stated that there can be no doubt that the enclosure was built and Trevithick did run an engine on rails within it. The Forward contribution is very important: he notes the significance of the record made by Isaac Hawkins in 1847 which is included in the Life on page 193. Acording to Forward Hawkins was an engineer of some eminence and is a "fairly reliable witness."..
H.F. Hilton. The inventor of the steam superheater.
Locomotive Mag., 1944,
Cites Luke Herbert Journal of Patent Inventions to show that Trevithick patented a form of steam superheater in 1833
Francis Trevithick was born in Cornwall in 1812. He was a son of 'the Cornish giant' Richard Trevithick, but hardly knew his father, for Richard was much away from home and was not there at all from 1816 until the end of 1827. Francis had his early training in civil engineering under Locke from 1832, and was appointed resident engineer of the GJR at the Birmingham end of the line in 1840. As from 1 September 1841 he became locomotive superintendent of the company at Edge Hill, and like Buddicom without any previous experience of locomotive work. He elaborated the plans for Crewe works and had charge of the erection and equipment; also he had the conduct of the whole locomotive department and then that of the Northern Division of the LNWR, including running. Under him the Crewe-type locomotive was developed from Buddicom's prototype Aeolus, and he was content to build nothing else until he left Crewe in 1857. This contentment is clearly evident in the long extract which concludes this page.
He was a man of friendly, gentle, easy-going temperament, unwilling to hurt anyone or put them in unpleasant situations, and he had none of the size and immense physical strength of his father. Naturally he was popular among the Crewe workmen and their families, among whom he was known colloquially as 'Trevvy', and it seems too that his wife was equally gentle and kindly. Trevithick was unwilling and unable to run the works and the whole department on the organised and disciplined base necessary with the growing size of the Northern Division, and he shied away from responsibility. He was diffident even in pressing for a rise in his own salary as his responsibilities grew, but in 1852 his remuneration was increased from £750 to £850 a year in line with that of McConnell of the Southern Division, who had fewer engines in his care. Trevithick's relations with his works chief foreman, Allan, deteriorated as time went on, until after a serious contretemps that came before the Crewe Committee Allan's resignation was accepted in August 1853; Trevithick was so unhappy at this and the previous atmosphere that he applied for the same job in Scotland that Allan got, and was on the short list with him.
Trevithick took a leading part in the establishment of the Crewe Mechanics Institute, and he gave it and other Crewe activities such as the cricket club consistent support. For years a portrait of him by Sidley hung on the walls of the Institute, and after it was destroyed by fire in 1869 the same artist painted a replica, which was said to have been better than the original.
In 1857 Trevithick was forced to resign and was overtaken by Ramsbottom. He was presented with £500 worth of plate by the workmen and Crewe townspeople, and Locke was chairman at the presentation dinner. In the same month Locke rose at the annual meeting of the LNWR and protested against Trevithick's dismissal. In his earlier years Trevithick seems to have been fond of outdoor life, and in The Railway Times of 25 January 1845 the notorious Veritas Vincit warned the GJR directors "to send forth an edict to Mr Trevithick to put aside his dog and gun and more assiduously apply himself to the interests of the company." VV had also insinuated in an earlier issue that Trevithick really had no ability at all, and that Locke realised this. Nevertheless, the responsibilities shouldered by Trevithick grew enormously from 1841 to 1854; thereafter more dissatisfaction with his standards of management became evident among board members.
After leaving Crewe Trevithick returned to Cornwall and became factor of the Trehidy estates, of which his Grandfather had been mineral agent in the 18th century. He maintained his friendship with Ramsbottom and Webb, and on at least one occasion in the 1870s he re-visited Crewe and the works. He wrote, and in 1872 had published, a biography of his father. He died at Penzance on 27 October 1877 and was buried there. In the 1887 Jubilee celebrations at Crewe he was described as "a man much admired and esteemed at Crewe." Taken from Reed. An article in the Rly Mag., 1899, 5, 232 was even more effusive: "he was a man much admired and esteemedv in Crewe, and his memory will always be recered by its inhabitants."
He was of course the Author of his Life of his father, and thus belongs to that small elite band of locomotive engineers who were authors of books, and was certainly amongst the earliest. On page 211 (of the first volume) he observed that: "It was Trevithick's high pressure that enabled the steam-engine to be used for such purposes" [for Trevithick envisaged his engines to be constructed as much as moble sources of power, and one of the problems of these early prototypes was that when they "failed" through damaging the primitive track they found further employment as drivers of machinery].
The following extract comes from the latter part of Chapter 9 of Volume 1 of Francis Trevithick's Life of his father. Amongst other things it demonstrates the relative uncertainty about the Euston demonstration (although it clearly took place), and Francis Trevithick's natural concern for the neglect of his father's early work by later more successful engineers. But Humphrey Davey hardly fell over himself to suggest a Stephenson/Davey safety lamp: that was the nature of the time. The extract both demonstrates either an early quest for standardization and a conservatism in locomotive design. Lastly, it adds to Joy's Diaries and some of Brunel's adventures (as retold by Rolt) on the casual way in which railways were originally worked. Even her Imperial Majesty was not exempt from such risks (or our own Queen during the Hatfield terror).
Mr. Rastrick's evidence on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Bill in 1825 mentions that a locomotive was made for Trevithick in 1807 or 1808 at Hazeldine and Rastrick's works at Bridgenorth, and was in the latter year run on a circular railway in London. "It was stated that this. engine was to run against a horse, and that whichever went a certain number of miles was to win." Probably the same engine is described in the 'Penny Cyclopaedia' as "generating steam with great rapidity and' of a high degree of elasticity; the waste steam, after propelling the piston, passes by the eduction-pipe into the 'chimney, where its emission causes a strong draught."
A year or two prior to the all-England competition, in 1829, Trevithick had returned, after an eleven years' absence from his native country, to find that what he had performed on bad tramways with sharp curves and inclines twenty-five years before, it was thought unreasonable to expect on a carefully-made railway with easy curves and gradients. The Liverpool and Manchester directors seem to have been guided in their limit of work by Trevithick's 1803 engine, which took more than three times its own weight at a less speed; but when light, moved at a greater speed. The weight of that engine was also their limit; while his 1808 engine was double the weight of the former, and took passengers at twelve or fifteen miles an hour. Sketches of the 'Rocket' and the 'Sanspareil,' the two best engines of 1829, show the latter to have been very like 'Catch-me-who-can' of 1808; while the former is more like the Newcastle engine of 1804. Each of the 1829 locomotives had two cylinders. The 'Rocket,' whose boiler was much improved by small tubes averaged a speed of fourteen miles an hour, with 10 or 11 tons of load, its greatest velocity being at the rate of twenty-four miles an hour, or double the speed required by the terms of the race.
It was Trevithick's high pressure that enabled the steam-engine to be used for such purposes, and even the improved tubular boiler enabling the 'Rocket' to win the prize, had in principle been used and patented by him long before.
His patent of 1802 recommends the use of two cylinders, and shows a boiler with three tubes. The difficulty of manufacture confined him in practice to one cylinder and two tubes, called the return tubes. But he patented in 1815 a boiler made of small tubes, and applied it in that or the following year to his screw-propeller engine. There was this difference, his patent shows the water in the small tubes with the fire around tbem; the 'Rocket' had the fire through the tubes and the water around them.
The reader will judge of the similarity of the locomotives by Stephenson and Haekworth to Trevithick's earlier locomotives which they had seen. The 'Novelty,' by Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericsson, one of the three best of the competing locomotives, in its outlive was not so much like a copy of Trevithick's as the other two but a closer examination reveals the same family likeness. It has been said that the drawings for the 'Novelty', were made by the late Mr. John Hosking, who had been a pupil of Captain Samuel Grose when he erected Trevithick's engines in Cornwall, and while so engaged was also a fellow-draughtsman with the writer, and was afterwards employed in Stephenson's works at Newcastle.
To Trevithick and his never-ceasing practical exertions, in Cornwall, London, Shropshire, South Wales, and in Newcastle-on-Tyne, are we indebted, for the first practical and real evidences of steam locomotion. Yet though he had returned to his native country a year or two before those locomotive competitions on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, he was not consulted by the competing engineers, all of whom may be said to have taken their first lessons from him. His labours for the locomotive had ceased, but for the general history of its further progress we may trace it for a few years under its modern name of outside-cylinder engine.
In 1840 the directors of the Liverpool and Manuhester and Grand Junction
Railways, ten years. having elapsed since the public locomotive trials, with
the assistance of George and Robert Stephenson,. and Joseph Locke, came to
the conclusion that a new and improved locomotive should be designed, on
which, as far as possible, all succeeding ones should be built; this was
shortly after the time that Robert Stephenson withdrew from direct interference
on the Grand Junction Railway, Joseph Locke having become the engineer-in-chief,
whose report to the directors on the engine stock, written on the last day
of 1839, states:
"If a substantial improvement can be made, let it be applied to new engines, or to those already worn out which require to be renewed. This is a field sufficiently wide for the most inventive mind, without permitting it to range over the whole list of engines that are in. daily use. In making this suggestion I. know that it may be said that 'there is an end to improvements;' but so convinced am I of the folly and expense of perpetually altering the engines for the sake of some trifling gain, that I would rather submit to this imputation than see those changes so often made. It, would be well also to have in view the advantages of making as many parts of the different engines similar to each other as possible. To give you an illustration, I find that notwithstanding the great number of engines and tenders, there is sometimes a want of tenders, arising from the connecting pipes being of different sizes. I lately found an engine standing idle for the want of a valve to the pump, a small piece of brass not more than 3 lbs. in weight, and although there are ten engines of the same class on the line (with two pumps to each engine), there was not one duplicate valve on the establishment. The enginemen should be under the locomotive superintendent, and should take their orders from him. In concluding this report I would take the liberty of pressing on your attention the necessity of preserving with the engines a more uniform rate of speed. All the improvements that experience has suggested, and will suggest, must give way under the effect of overrunning. The only way of avoiding this expense is to make a stand at some given speed, I care not how high it is so long as the present engines can do it."
The writer was in communication with Mr. Locke prior to sending this report, and during the following seventeen years acted on the advice, though of necessity the strict letter, had to be varied with the change of time and circumstance.
Engines were constructed, weighing about 10 tons, with two outside cylinders, each 12½ inches in diameter, supported on six wheels, the two driving wheels being 5 feet in diameter: the average load of a passenger-engine between Liverpool and Birmingham was ten carriages.
In the following year the trains averaged twelve carriages: engines were made to suit the increased work by giving a cylinder of half an inch more in diameter. Again, in 1843 the trains increased to fifteen coaches; another quarter of an inch was added to the diameter of the cylinder, demanding a little more boiler space, and a little more weight on the driving wheels, the more so as the writei was allowed to risk an increase of steam pressure from 50 to 60 lbs. on the inch, to meet the increased size of the driving wheels to.5 feet 6 inches, that the speed might be increased. This improved locomotive had a 13¼-inch cylinder, weighed 12 tons1 on six wheels, and would take a train of sixteen passenger-carriages between Birmingham and Liverpool, with the precision of clockwork, at a speed, including stoppages, of thirty miles an hour. In 1844 the 'driving wheels were again increased to 6 feet; and in 1845, with increasing traffic and speed, and to surmount the Lancaster and Carlisle sharp incline of 1 in 75 for three or four miles, the cylinders were increased to 145/8 inches diameter, 20-inch stroke, 6-feet wheels, and steam of 75 lbs. on the inch; this engine was not much heavier, neither did it work with a higher pressure of steam than Trevithick's London locomotive of 1808, which ran on sharper curves at fifteen or twenty miles an hour, worked by one outside cylinder 14½ inches in diameter, 4-feet stroke, and steam 100 lbs. on the inch. Such was the slow progress of the locomotive engine.
One of these good little engines of 1845 gave special proof of efficiency. About the year 1846 [according to Rly Mag. 1899, 5, 232 was September 1848], on a rainy, blowing, autumnal Saturday night, the writer was summoned, from nursing an influenza cold, to the railway station. Her Majesty, Prince Albert, and the rest of the Royal family. had unexpectedly arrived, and desired to be in London by ten the following morning. Continued rain had caused the line to be unsafe in places, except at comparatively slow speeds. Saturday night is proverbially a bad time for finding people wanted in a hurry. However, at six the next morning, in dim light and blinding rain, the Royal train was in readiness, and Her Majesty punctual to the minute, when, after a little animated delay for the lady in waiting, a start was made, and the required speed of forty miles an hour steadily run, until a providential disobedience of orders by the pilot-engine man caused the steam to be instantly shut off, the brakes applied, and the speed reduced to one-half; fog signals exploded in close proxmity to the danger; red flags were hurriedly unfurled and in a moment the engine rolled as a ship in a storm through an alarmed group of a hundred navvies, who, thinking it a quiet day, had raised the rails and sleepers a foot above their bed of soft clay, that a thick layer of ballast might be shovelled under them. For a quarter of a mile did the 'precious freight pass safely over this bridge of rails supported on brickbats, the only injury being a bent driving axle and broken bearing-brasses, with which the engine kept time to the next relieving station, and then broke down. I believe it was in the same year that the writer, with one of the same engines, took Sir Robert Peel safely over the same railway, before it was completed or open to the public, on his way from Tamworth to Liverpool to deliver his. memorable speech on the Corn Laws. That class and size of outside-cylinder engine remained in use for ten years, when in 1856 the growing demand for greater speed caused the driving wheels to be increased to 7 feet and the cylinder to 15¼ inches in diameter, retaining the old stroke of 20 inches, but increasing the size of the boiler, using 150 tubes, and giving steam of increased pressure to 100 lbs. on the inch : the gross weight was 20 tons.
Plates VI. and VII. show London and North-Western Railway outside-cylinder passenger locomotive, 1856.
In 1867, a similar locomotive in the Paris Exhibition, from the French engineering works at Creuzot, was labelled Schneider's prize engine. An exceptional engine was built in 1847 to refute a dogma of the broad gauge advocates that the narrow gauge had reached its limit of speed, because the driving wheels could not be safely increased in diameter. A narrow-gauge engine was therefore constructed by the Writer with 8 feet 6 inches driving wheels, being 6 inches more than the largest broad-gauge wheels. This engine still continues to run express trains, the only change being in a more modern boiler. It was sent to the London Exhibition of 1851, and some years afterwards the. late Mr. Fairbairn congratulated the writer on the medal awarded for it, and accounted for its non-presentation from the question having arisen of whether the medal should be awarded to the Railway Secretary, whose name was officially attached, or to the designer, whose name was not officially attached.
Having slightly traced the outside-cylinder locomotive engine from its starting into life in Camborne in 1801 through its chrysalis stages of common road, tram-road, and railway engine up to 1808, then through twenty years of restless sleep to the Liverpool and Manchester period of outburst into general usefulness in 1829, with the prize 'Rocket,' weighing 4¼ tons, on four wheels, having outside c)ilinders 8 inches diameter, 18-inch stroke, 2 feet 7 inch driving wheels, twenty- five tubes in the boiler, giving steam of 50 lbs. on the inch.. Then came during sixteen years a time of steady growth up to 1845, when it scarcely exceeded its weight, size of cylinder, or steam pressure of thirty-seven years before, while the improved form of 1856 is still in use. Shortly after the 'Rocket' period, cranked-axle engines came into use on many railways, but as the Trevithick locomotives were all outside cylinders, that kind alone has been spoken of.
The clear practical understanding of giving motion to a carriage by the friction or grip of its wheels on the road, and of the' best construction of 'a road for such a carriage, was almost as slow in growth as that of the more complicated locomotive engine. In 1801 Trevithick and Davies Gilbert tried experiments on the grip of a wheel on 'common roads;' this was immediately followed by two or three years of comparatively successful experiments with common road locomotives. In 1802 Trevithick wrote, "The Dale Company have begun a carriage at their own cost for the railroads." In 1804 the tram-plate locomotive road was well tested in Wales. "I doubt not we could draw 40 tons at a time very well; 10 tons stand no chance at all with it. It runs up the tramroad of 2 inches in a yard, forty strokes per minute with the empty waggons." In 1808 the London locomotive on a railway passed around curves of 50 or 100 feet radius, at fifteen miles per hour: such gradients and curves, manageable with Trevithick's locomotives, were thought impossible thirty or forty years after by engineers of ability.
Tramways and railways for horse-draught were in use before Trevithick placed his locomotive on them, yet he took the improvement of the road in hand, for he says in 1808, "the ground was very soft, and the engine sank the timbers under the rails and broke a great number of them. I have now taken up the. whole of the limber and iron, and have laid balk of from 12 to 14 inches square down on the ground." This Trevithick's railway of 1808 is somewhat like the Great Western Railway of the present day. In 1838 the late Mr. Brunel gave the writer a sketch of the permanent way, desiring him to construct a piece of about half a mile in length near Wormwood Scrubs, as a sample of the intended form of construction for the Great Western Railway; the timbers and rails of which remind one of those used thirty years before by Trevithick, except that Brunel attached his longitudinal timbers to piles and cross-timbers, which latter were after a short time removed.
Practical men dare too apt to leave facts unrecorded. Some twenty years ago, railway competition caused an increased speed in the express trains between London and the North. Frequent notes from the manager urged the locomotive superintendent to actively carry out the wishes of the directors. To do this, the superintendent stood by his engine and fire men on a journey south from Carlisle. At the Lancaster station, when the engineman tested the state of the bearings by a slight touch of the fingers, the leading axle-box caused them to emit a smell of burnt skin: buckets of cold water and some grease were hurriedly applied, and, at the guard's whistle, the train proceeded. Before many miles had been run, the sounds of grinding friction gave warning of danger, followed by spurts of blue and white flame, with fizzing sparks from the axle box. Holding out a little longer would bring the train to the Preston station without loss of time, where another engine was in waiting; the fireman instinctively stood near his brake-handle; the engineman, with his hand on the steam-regulator, watched anxiously the course of events; time had been kept; the innocent passengers went on rejoicing; and the directors, almost as ignorant as the public, pursued their policy of hard running. The superintendent, on on examining the engine, found that the bearing of the leading axle had been raised by friction to a welding heat, causing it to he wrenched from the axle, close to the shoulder or nave of the leading wheel; a small roundish knot, projecting from the shoulder, alone retained it in its place, while the torn-off bearing was imbedded as a solid mass with the fused brass and iron of the axle-box.
About that time, the broad and narrow gauge competition on the extension of the broad gauge to Cheltenham, caused the Great Western Railway directors to travel from Paddington to Cheltenham and back in a special train drawn by their new 8-feet wheel engine. The broad-gauge superintendent invited a narrow-gauge superintendent to ride on the engine with him. On tbe journey to Cheltenham, on a glorious day, a rate of fifty-five miles an hour was run with comparative ease, sixty miles an hour with difficulty, and sixty-three miles an hour was the extreme limit. The dinner and speeches at Cheltenham were highly approved of, and the specials started on their rapid home journey. On rushing toward the West Drayton station, through blinding darkness, the broad-gauge superintendent hurriedly said, "What's that.?" and clbsed the steam-regulator. A brief reply caused it to be again opened, and a sound, as from compressed space, together with a momentary glimpse of station-lights, indicated that a station had been passed. On inquiry the next day, it appeared that on the approach of the special train, a truck was being removed from the main line to a siding; as it cleared the points, the red signal was turned off; at the instant it had been seen-as a confused sensation by those on the flying engine, which in another thirty seconds of time thundered by within an inch of the truck pushed by the station-men, who gazed on the receding tail-lights as scared men reprieved from annihilation.
Many such hairbreadth escapes could be told by those who live on locomotives, and their narration might have checked the headlong race for speed, even when railway accounts were jobbed to cover the growing 'wear and tear of permanent way and stock from the ever-increasing weight and speed of the engines; not, as the public suppose, for their comfort in saving an hour in a day's travel, but rather that profit may be made by successful competition. There has been a departure from Trevithick's story; we must again seek him with his favourite high-pressures.
Chrimes in Chrimes (pp. 788-90) includes Francis in his Trevitthick family entry..
Trevithick's 2-2-2 design
Arthur Reginald Trevithick
Born 1858; died 1939. (Brian Reed). Became works manager at Crewe on the accession of Whale at a salary of £800. He was one of the several sons of Francis Trevithick, and was born at Crewe, though after his father had left the LNWR . He was educated at Cheltenham and then went to Crewe as a premium a few months before his father died. On completion of his time he went over to the running side, and in the late 1880s was foreman at Preston. On the retirement of Kampf in 1889 he was made locomotive foreman at Carlisle with an increase in salary from £170 to £250. Carlisle was always considered a special case; the foreman had more authority than elsewhere, having Whitehaven and Tebay under him as sub-sheds. In essence he was district locomotive superintendent, with a repair section under him that gave intermediates and a few general repairs to small engines. Carlisle (Upperby) erecting and repair shop was 450ft by 50ft; there was also a small tender shop, a fitting shop, smithy, and a weighing machine to check axle load and weight distribution on repaired engines. All these were in direct descent from the old Lancaster & Carlisle shops. For this section the chief at Carlisle was responsible to the Crewe works manager, for maintenance and running to the Northern Division running superintendent. Trevithick was of strong build; unlike his gentle father, he was of firm and decided character, and was a boxer of local repute. He was known to bundle out of his Carlisle office and kick downstairs three recalcitrant Springs Branch drivers who were prevaricating about return times of working during the upset in operation caused by the 1893 coal strike.
At the end of 1899 he was brought back to Crewe as assistant locomotive works manager under Earl at a salary of £500. He was one of a party of LNWR officials that made a tour of the USA early in 1903, and shortly after his return he succeeded Earl. He was then given as locomotive works assistant J. Homfray who had succeeded him at Carlisle. Thus the Pen-y-darren Trevithick-Homfray locomotive collaboration of 1803 was followed exactly one hundred years later by a similar association at Crewe, but whether J . Homfray was a direct descendant of Samuel is not clear. Though he was not inclined to stand much nonsense, Trevithick was a fair and just manager, and little in the way of labour troubles occurred in his time at Crewe, though trade union friction throughout the country was then rising.
On Whale's retirement Trevithick was expected to succeed, but the board preferred Cooke, as related in Reed Chapter 7, and Trevithick was much upset, as Earl had been before. Locomotive Mag., 1910, 16, 90 merely notes his succesor at Crewe (Warneford). In 1910 Trevithick was appointed wagon superintendent at Earlestown, and in 1916 he went to Wolverton to succeed Earl as the last carriage superintendent of the LNWR. He remained there as divisional mechanical engineer under the LNWR/LYR merger of 1922, and his continuance under the LMSR was announced, but as he was approaching 65 years he retired as from formation of the Group, and died at St Ives just at the outbreak of World War II.
Talbots's The LNWR recalled: collected writings and observations on the London & North Western Railway. (1987) p. 71 notes that he was known as "Trevy"
Frederick Harvey Trevithick
Born in Crewe in 1852. Educated at Cheltenham College and apprenticed to Messrs Harvey & Co. at Hayle. Then served on the Great Western at Swindon and became Superintendent of Locomotives and Carriages for the London District. In 1883 he was appointed Chief Traction Engineer of what was to become the Egyptian State Railways and eventually was appointed as Chief Mechanical Engineer. His obituary in J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1932, 22, 157-8 (with portrait) notes sthat he experimented with feedwater heating and superheating and presented a paper on the subject published Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs,1913, 84, 345-482. for which he was granted a Willans Premium. He died in Avignon on 9 December 1931 whilst en route to Egypt. (Marshall). Chrimes in Chrimes (pp. 788-90) includes Frederick Harvey in his Trevitthick family entry. Full obituary in Loco. Rly Carr Wagon Rev., 1932, 38, 36 with portrait.
Frederick Henry Trevithick
Born in Redruth on 6 November 1843. Died Exeter 19 September 1893. Grandson of Richard Trevithick. Pupil at the Harvey Works in Hayle, founded by his great grandfather John Harvey. Entered drawing office at Crewe in 1862. In 1864 appointed to take charge of railway between Frankfurt and Hornburg. From 1866 to 1868 managed Danish Railways. From 1869-71 was in locomotive department of Central Pacific Railroad at Sacramento. In 1871 returned to Britain. In 1874 appointed manager and engineer of the Isle of Man Railway, and in 1876 succeeded William Barton Wright as locomotive superintendent of the Madras Railwy. Ill health forced his return to Britain in 1891 (Marshall)..
Richard Francis Trevithick
Grandson of Richard Trevithick: born in Cornwall on 11 December 1845. Died Southampton on 13 February 1913. Apprenticed to Harvey's of Hayle. Jointed LNWR at Crewe Works in 1867. Appointed Lomotive Superintendent of the Rosaario Cordova Railway in Argentine; later CME Ceylon Government Railways, and then joined Japan's Imperial Government Railways where he was responsible for first locomotive to be constructed in Japan (at Kobe). Retired 1904. (Marshall). Obituary Locomotive Mag., 1913, 19, 53...
Robert Lowthian Trevithick
Grandson of Richard Trevithick: born in Cornwall on 31 August 1848. In 1866 apprenticed to Harvey's of Hayle, but from 1870 continued his training on GWR at Swindon until 1872. Following a year in Portugal he returned to the drawing office at Swindon; moved to the Midland Railway at Derby in 1876 where in charge of machine shop at Carriage & Wagon Works. In 1876 he joined the GIPR and was Locomotive, Carriage & Wagon Superintendent of the GIPR between 1891 and 1901. Photograph of him at Lahore Conference of Locomotive Superintendents in 1892 (Locomotive Mag., 1925, 31, 133). Died in Bristol on 3 February 1933. (Marshall). Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1933, 39, 66..
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