Richard Trevithick by EEJ0k6


									Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick (April 13, 1771 – April 22, 1833) was born in the village of
Illogan, between Camborne and Redruth in the heart of one of the rich mineral
(former) mining areas of Cornwall, United Kingdom. He died on 22 April 1833 at
Dartford, Kent. He was a British inventor, engineer and builder of the first working
railway steam locomotive.


        1 Childhood and early life
        2 Trevithick's first job
        3 Family
        4 The high pressure engine
        5 The Puffing Devil
        6 The London steam carriage
        7 The tragedy at Greenwich
        8 The world's first railway locomotive
        9 Tunneling under the Thames
        10 "Catch Me Who Can"
        11 Nautical projects
        12 Trevithick falls ill with typhus fever
        13 The Cornish boiler and the Cornish engine
        14 The recoil engine
        15 Draining the Peruvian silver mines
        16 Trevithick leaves for South America
        17 Crossing the isthmus of Nicaragua on foot
        18 Trevithick's return to England
      19 Trevithick's later projects
      20 Trevithick’s final project
      21 Conclusion
      22 References
      23 See also
      24 External links
      25 Notes

Childhood and early life
Richard was the youngest and the only boy in a family of 6 children. He was sent to
the village elementary school at Camborne and evidently did not take much advantage
of the education provided, with the exception of arithmetic, for which he had an
aptitude. One of his school masters described him as 'a disobedient, slow, obstinate,
spoiled boy, frequently absent and very inattentive'.[1]

Trevithick was the son of a mine 'captain' named Richard Trevithick (1735-1797) and
a miner's daughter Ann Teague (?-1810), and as a child, would watch steam engines
pump water from the deep tin and copper mines common in Cornwall. Until that time,
such steam engines were of the condensing or atmospheric type, originally invented
by Newcomen in 1712, and which also became known as low pressure engines. James
Watt, on behalf of his partnership with Boulton Boulton & Watt, held a number of
patents for improving the efficiency of Newcomen’s engine, including the ‘separate
condenser patent’ which proved to be the most contentious.

Trevithick's first job
Trevithick's first job, at the age of 19, was at the East Stray Park Mine. He was very
enthusiastic and quickly gained the status as a consultant, unusual for a person at such
a young age. He was popular with the miners because of the respect they had for his
father. He worked on building and modifying steam engines to avoid the royalties due
to Watt on the separate condenser patent. Another of his projects was the plunger pole
pump, a type of pump used with a beam engine and used widely in Cornwall's tin
mines, in which he reversed the plunger to change it into a water-power engine.

In 1797, Trevithick married Jane Harvey of Hayle. Jane was a daughter of John
Harvey, formerly a blacksmith from Carnwall Green who formed the local foundry
Harveys of Hayle. The company became famous world-wide for building huge
stationary 'beam' engines for pumping water, usually from mines, based on
Newcomen’s and Watt’s engines.

Their children were Richard Trevithick (1798-1872); Anne Ellis (1800-1876);
Elizabeth Banfield (1803-1870); John Harvey Trevithick (1807-1877); Francis
Trevithick (1812-1877); and Frederick Henry Trevithick (1816-1881)
The high pressure engine
As he became more experienced, he realised that improvements in boiler technology
now permitted the safe production of high pressure steam, and that this could be made
to move a piston in a steam engine on its own account, instead of using a pressure of
close to one atmosphere in a condensing engine.

He was not the first to think of so-called "strong steam", but he was the first to make
it work, in 1799. Not only would a high pressure steam engine eliminate the
condenser but it would allow the use of a smaller cylinder, thus saving space and
weight. He reasoned that his engine could now be more compact, lighter and small
enough to carry its own weight even with a carriage attached. (Note this did not use
the expansion of the steam, so-called "expansive working" came later).

He started building his first models of high pressure (meaning a few atmospheres)
steam engines, initially a stationary one and then one attached to a road carriage.
Exhaust steam was vented via a vertical pipe or chimney straight into the atmosphere,
thus avoiding a condenser and any possible infringements of Watt's patent. The linear
motion was directly converted into circular motion via a crank instead of using an
inefficient beam.

The Puffing Devil

Camborne Hill street name and plaque commemorating Trevithick's steam carriage
demonstration in 1801

Trevithick built a full-size steam road carriage in 1801 on a site near the present day
Fore Street at Camborne, which was also known as Camborne Hill. He named the
carriage 'Puffing Devil' and, on Christmas Eve that year, he demonstrated it by
successfully carrying several men up Camborne Hill and then continuing on to the
nearby village of Beacon with his cousin and associate, Andrew Vivian, steering. This
event is believed by many to be the first demonstration of transportation by (steam)
auto-motive power and it later inspired the popular Cornish folk song "Camborne
Hill". However, others suggest that Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot may have an earlier claim
with his steam wagon of 1770, or even that a steam powered car built in 1672 by
Ferdinand Verbiest was the first steam powered car.[2][3] During further tests,
Trevithick's carriage broke down 3 days later after passing over a gully in the road.
The carriage was left under some shelter with the fire still burning whilst the operators
retired to a nearby public house for a meal of roast goose and drinks. Meanwhile the
water boiled off, the engine overheated and the whole carriage burnt out, completely
destroying it. Trevithick however did not consider this episode a serious setback but
more a case of operator error.

In 1802 Trevithick took out a patent for his high pressure steam engine.[4]

Anxious to prove his ideas, he built a stationary engine at the Coalbrookdale
Company's works in Shropshire in 1802, forcing water to a measured height to
measure the work done. The engine ran at forty piston strokes a minute, with an
unprecedented boiler pressure of 145 psi. The company then built a rail locomotive
for him, but little is known about it, including whether or not it actually ran. To date
the only known information about it comes from a drawing preserved at the Science
Museum, London, and a letter written by Trevithick to his friend, Davies Giddy. This
is the drawing used as the basis of all images and replicas of the later Penydarren
locomotive, as no plans for that locomotive have survived.

The London steam carriage

Road locomotive by Trevithick and Vivian, demonstrated in London in 1803.

The Puffing Devil was unable to maintain sufficient steam pressure for long periods,
so in fact would have been of little practical use. In 1803 he built another self-
propelled road vehicle, a stagecoach fitted with a steam engine called the London
Steam Carriage, which attracted much attention from the public and press when he
drove it that year in London from Holborn to Paddington and back. However, it was
particularly uncomfortable for passengers and proved more expensive to run than a
conventional horse-drawn carriage and so was abandoned.

The tragedy at Greenwich
Also in 1803, one of Trevithick's stationary pumping engines in use at Greenwich
exploded, killing 4 men. Although Trevithick considered the explosion was caused by
another case of careless operation rather than design error, the incident was exploited
relentlessly by his competitors and promoters of the low-pressure engine, Watt and
Boulton, who highlighted the perceived risks of using high pressure steam.
Trevithick's response was to incorporate two safety valves into future designs, only
one of which could be adjusted by the operator.[5] The adjustable valve comprised a
disk covering a small hole at the top of the boiler above the water level in the steam
chest. The force exerted by the steam pressure was equalised by an opposite force
created by a weight attached to a pivoted lever. The position of the weight on the
lever was adjustable thus allowing the operator to set the maximum steam pressure.
The second valve was in fact a lead plug critically positioned in the boiler just below
the minimum safe water level. Under normal operation the water temperature could
not exceed that of boiling water and therefore kept the lead below its melting point. In
the event of the water running low, once it had exposed the lead plug the cooling
effect of the water was lost and the temperature could rise sufficiently to melt the
lead. This would release steam into the atmosphere, reduce the boiler pressure and
provide an audible alarm in sufficient time for the operator to damp down the fire and
let the boiler cool naturally before any permanent damage could occur

The world's first railway locomotive

Line drawing of the first railway locomotive

Trevithick's 1804 locomotive. This full-scale replica of the world's first steam-
powered railway locomotive is in Telford Central Station, Telford, Shropshire.

In 1802 Trevithick built one of his high pressure steam engines to drive an automatic
hammer at the Pen-y-Daren iron works near Merthyr in South Wales. With the
assistance of Rees Jones, an employee of the iron works and under the supervision of
Samuel Homfray, the proprietor, he mounted the engine on a wagon chassis and
turned it into a locomotive. In 1803 Trevithick sold the patents for his railway
locomotives to Samuel Homfray.

Homfray was so impressed with Trevithick's locomotive that he made a bet with
another ironmaster, Richard Crawshay, for 500 guineas that Trevithick's steam
locomotive could haul 10 tons of iron along the Merthyr Tramroad from Penydarren
to Abercynon, a distance of 9.75 miles (16 km). Amid great interest from the public,
on 21 February 1804 it successfully carried 10 tons of iron, 5 wagons and 70 men the
full distance in 4 hours and 5 minutes, an average speed of nearly 5 mph. As well as
Homfray, Crawshay and the passengers, other witnesses included Mr. Giddy, a
respected patron of Trevithick and 'an engineer from the Government'[6]. The engineer
from the Government was probably a safety inspector and particularly interested in
the boiler's ability to withstand high steam pressures.
The locomotive itself was of a very primitive design. It comprised a boiler mounted
upon a four wheel frame. At one end, a cylinder was mounted partly in the boiler, and
a piston rod ran out along a crosshead, an arrangement that looked like a giant
trombone. As there was only one power stroke, this was coupled to a giant flywheel
mounted on one side. The rotational inertia of the flywheel would even out the
movement that was transmitted to a central cog wheel that was, in turn connected to
the driving wheel. It again used a high pressure cylinder without a condenser, the
exhaust steam being used to assist the draught via the firebox, increasing efficiency
even more. These fundamental improvements in steam engine designs by Trevithick
did not change for the whole of the steam era.

The bet was won. Despite many people's doubts, it had been shown that, provided that
the gradient was sufficiently shallow, it was possible to successfully haul heavy
carriages along smooth metal rails using a suitably heavy and powerful steam
locomotive. Trevithick's locomotive was probably the first to run on rails.[7] However
the short cast iron tramway rails of the tramroad were designed for relatively light
horse-drawn carriages. They broke under the weight of the locomotive and the
tramroad returned to horse-power after the initial test run.

Homfray was pleased enough. He had won his bet and the locomotive was placed on
blocks and returned to its original job as a stationary engine to drive the hammers.
Hearing of the success in Wales, Christopher Blackett, proprietor of the Wylam
colliery near Newcastle wrote to Trevithick asking for locomotive designs. These
were sent to John Whitfield at Gateshead, Trevithick's agent, who built what was
Trevithick's second locomotive.

Tunneling under the Thames
In 1805 Robert Vazie, another Cornish engineer, was selected by the Thames
Archway Company to drive a tunnel under the River Thames at Rotherhithe. Vazie
encountered serious problems with water influx and got no further than sinking the
end shafts when the directors called in Trevithick for consultation. The directors
agreed to pay Trevithick £1000 if he could successfully complete the tunnel, a length
of 1220 feet (366 m). In August 1807 Trevithick began driving a small tunnel 5 feet
(1.5 m) high tapering from 2 feet 6 inches (0.75 m) at the top to 3 feet (0.9 m) at the
bottom. By 23 December after it had progressed 950 feet (285 m) progress was
delayed after a sudden inrush of water and only one month later, at 1040 feet (312 m),
a more serious inrush occurred. The tunnel was flooded and Trevithick, being the last
to leave, was nearly drowned. Progress stalled and a few of the directors attempted to
discredit Trevithick but the quality of his work was eventually upheld by two colliery
engineers from the North of England. Despite suggesting various building techniques
to complete the project, including a submerged cast iron tube, Trevithick's links with
the company ceased and the project was never actually completed. The first
successful tunnel under the Thames would be started by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel
three quarters of a mile upstream in 1823 and completed by his son Isambard
Kingdom Brunel in 1843. However, Trevithick's suggestion of a submerged tube
approach was used for the first time across the Detroit River in Michigan in 1906 and
under the Hong Kong harbour.
"Catch Me Who Can"
In 1808 Trevithick publicised his steam railway locomotive expertise by building a
new locomotive called 'Catch me who can', built for him by Hazeldine and John
Urpeth Rastrick at Bridgnorth near Stourbridge, similar to that used at Pen-y-Daren
and named by Mr. Giddy's daughter. This was Trevithick's third railway locomotive
after those used at Pen-y-Daren and the Wylam colliery. He ran it on a circular track
at Torrington Square, near the present day Euston Station in London. Admission was
one shilling including a ride and it was intended to show that rail travel was faster
than by horse. This venture also suffered from weak tracks and the interest from the
public was limited. Trevithick was disappointed by the response and designed no
more railway locomotives. It was not until 1812 that steam locomotives built by other
engineers started replacing horses for hauling coal wagons at the collieries.

He went on to research other projects to exploit his high pressure steam engines:
boring brass for cannon manufacture, stone crushing, rolling mills, forge hammers,
blast furnace blowers as well as the traditional mining applications. He also built a
barge powered by paddle wheels and several dredgers.

Trevithick saw opportunities in London and persuaded his wife and 4 children
reluctantly to join him in 1808 for two and a half years lodging first in Rotherhithe
and then in Limehouse.

Nautical projects
In 1808 Trevithick entered a partnership with Robert Dickinson, a West India
merchant. Dickinson supported several of Trevithick's patents. The first of these was
the 'Nautical Labourer'; a steam tug with a floating crane propelled by paddle wheels.
However it did not meet the fire regulations for the docks and the Society of Coal
Whippers, worried about loosing their livelihood, even threatened the life of

Another patent was for the installation of iron tanks in ships for storage of cargo and
water instead of in wooden casks. A small works was set up at Limehouse to
manufacture them, employing 3 men. The tanks were also used to raise sunken
wrecks by placing them under the wreck and creating buoyancy by pumping them full
of air. In 1810 a wreck near Margate was raised in this way but there was a dispute
over payment and Trevithick was driven to cut the lashings loose and let it sink again.

In 1809 Trevithick worked on various ideas on improvements for ships: iron floating
docks, iron ships, telescopic iron masts, improved ship structures, iron buoys and
using heat from the ships boilers for cooking.

Trevithick falls ill with typhus fever
In May 1810 he caught typhoid and nearly died. By September he had recovered
sufficiently to travel back to Cornwall by ship and in February 1811 he and Dickinson
were declared bankrupt. They were not discharged until 1814, Trevithick having paid
off most of the partnership debts from his own funds.

The Cornish boiler and the Cornish engine
In about 1812 Trevithick designed the ‘Cornish boiler’. These were horizontal,
cylindrical boilers with internal sealed fire tubes passing horizontally through the
middle. Hot exhaust gasses from the fire passed through the tubes thus increasing the
surface area heating the water and improving efficiency. These types were installed in
the Boulton and Watt pumping engines at Dolcoath and more than doubled their

Again in 1812 he installed a new 'high pressure' experimental steam engine also with
condensing at Wheal Prosper. This became known as the 'Cornish engine' and was the
most efficient in the World at that time. Other Cornish engineers contributed to its
development but Trevithick's work was predominant. In the same year he installed
another high pressure engine, though non-condensing, in a threshing machine on a
farm at Probus, Cornwall. It was very successful and proved to be cheaper to run than
the horses it replaced. It ran for 70 years and was then exhibited at the Science

The recoil engine
In one of Trevithick’s more unusual projects, he attempted to build a 'recoil engine'
based on the famous model built by Hero of Alexandria in about AD10. This
comprised a boiler feeding a hollow axle to route the steam to a catherine wheel with
2 fine bore steam jets on its circumference, the first 15 feet in diameter and a later
model 24 feet in diameter. To get any useable torque, steam had to issue from the
nozzles at very high velocity and in large volumes and it proved not to operate with
adequate efficiency.

[Draining the Peruvian silver mines
In 1811 draining water from the rich silver mines of Cerro de Pasco in Peru, at an
altitude of 14,000 feet (4267 m), posed serious problems for the man in charge,
Francisco Uville. The low pressure condensing engines by Boulton and Watt
developed such little power as to be useless at this altitude and anyway they could not
be dismantled into sufficiently small pieces to be transported there along mule tracks.
Uville was send to England to investigate using Trevithick's high pressure steam
engine. He bought one for 20 guineas, transported it back and found it to work quite
satisfactorily. In 1813 Uville set sail again for England and, having fallen ill on the
way, broke his journey via Jamaica. When he had recovered he boarded the Falmouth
packet ship 'Fox' coincidently with one of Trevithick's cousins on board the same
vessel. Trevithick's home was just a few miles from Falmouth so Uville was able to
meet him and tell him about the project.

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