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Roads and Railways : Introduction
TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLTIONARY CHANGE
The Industrial Revolution
The Development of the Steam Locomotive :
As is often the case with historical inventions and developments, a number of individuals were working on the same problem in isolation. The problem of producing a steam engine which was small enough to be portable but could do useful work, had occupied the thoughts of engineers and inventors since the 1st century B.C.. At that time, Hero of Alexandria invented a crude form of steam turbine. This had been a simple device which used steam from a boiler to turn a pivoted sphere.
Nearly two thousand years passed before a practical form of steam engine was developed. In 1769, a Frenchman named Nicholas Cugnot was credited with the invention of the first steam propelled vehicle. Unfortunately, his road vehicle, which had three wheels, crashed into a wall and Cugnot was banned from bringing it out on the road again!
In Britain a number of people were also looking for a solution to the problem. These included William Murdock and Richard Trevithick. At first, William Murdock worked with James Watt but found him dismissive of the future of the portable steam engine. When, in 1786, Murdock invented a model road engine similar to Cugnot's, Watt had criticised him for wasting his time! Murdock later set up his own company and employed an apprentice named Richard Trevithick.
Richard Trevithick is said to be the 'father' of the steam locomotive. In 1801 he patented a 'steam carriage' which he developed into a steam engine for use on railway track. His first successful locomotive ran on the Pen-y-Darren tramway in Wales in 1804. This locomotive showed that steam haulage was practical. It pulled five wagons carrying ten tonnes of iron ore and seventy people over nine miles of a level track, at an average of 8 kilometres per hour.
Richard Trevithick (1771 - 1833)
Richard Trevithick was born at Illogan, near Redruth in Cornwall. In 1796, he exhibited models of high pressure, non-condensing steam engines which improved on Watt's design.
On Christmas Day, 1801, Trevithick drove the very first steam passenger vehicle. By 1804 he had applied steam to hauling loads along a railway. His steam locomotive was used to transport iron from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon - a distance of 15kms.
Trevithick's first steam engine
Trevithick is considered to be the true inventor of the steam locomotive.
Trevithick's "Catch-Me-Who-Can" locomotive (shown above) was built in 1808. Its top speed was 20 kilometres per hour.
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