First Steam Locomotive.
In 1802 a Richard Trevithick designed engine was made by the Coalbrookdale company. Not much is known about it, but is recorded that the steam pressure reached 145psi! Trevithick had previously operated his road steam locomotive up the Camborne Hill, but this was the first one to run on rails.
The next one was made for the steelworks at Merthyr Tidfil, Wales. It was a Trevithick engine which ran on rails. The owner made a 500 guinea bet with a rival (an astronomical figure. Somewhere I read that it would be equivalent to a million dollars these days), and in Feb 1803 the engine towed 5 wagons, loaded with 10 tons of iron ore (or coal, not sure), and 70 odd bods, a distance of 10 miles. There was dispute about whether the bet had been won due to some technicalities, and no record of it being paid, but it was a moral victory. The age of steam had really begun.
The biggest problem was not the locomotive, but the rails. They were not strong enough, and frequently broke. It took the genius of George Stephenson to solve that problem, by using forged iron in preference to cast iron. And his son Robert to increase the efficiency of the engine and boiler in the form of “Rocket”. But that is another story, for 30 years later.
Unfortunately the original of the Merthyr Tidfil loco has not survived, but several replicas have been made, based on original drawings. I saw one of them at Swansea, Wales, not far from Merthyr Tidfil. Not a steaming day. It does run.
And I have now arrived in Camborne, Cornwall, Trevithick’s home, and the site of his famous trial of the steam road loco.
I made a pilgrimage to Fore St (“Camborne hill”), then to his statue, to pay homage.