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Penydarren Locomotive


Richard Trevithick


Penydarren was the site where the World's first Steam Engine ran on rails

Richard Trevithick


Richard Trevithick was born in 1771, he was the youngest of

6 children. At first Richard didn't prove to be 'the brightest lamp in the street.' His schoolmaster once reported him as being "disobedient, obstinate and slow", but, by the age of 19 he was learning the ropes and became an engineer.

Richard Trevithick was a genius in the field of mechanical engine-

ering whose inventions proved to be of immense importance

in helping to shape the development of the industrialised world

during the 19th century. Indeed, the world's first car was followed by:

1802: The Coalbrookdale Locomotive - the first portable engine

            to run  on rails

1803: The London Road Carriage - the first coach

1804: The Penydarren Locomotive - the first train

1805: Drove a barge by steam

1808: The Catch-me-who-can railway locomotive, the first fare

            paying passenger train

1812: Trewithen threshing machine - using his engine for agriculture

1818: The first steamboat was fitted with Trevithick puffer engine

His genius was not restricted to steam engine development.  He

also invented:

                                The Cornish boiler
                                 Containerisation of shipping
                                 A ships propeller
                                 Domestic heating boilers - portable room heater
                                 A rock boring machine
                                 Water-jet propulsion

He also demonstrated that a ship could be made of iron.

Richard died in April, 1833, in Dartford



The Merthyr Tramway

The Merthyr Tramway was built in 1802, and it's ownership was shared by the Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth ironworks. It ran from Merthyr to Abercynon, a distance of 91/2  Miles. 


Samuel Homfray, owner of the Penydarren Iron Works, Merthyr Tydfil, made a  bet of  1,000 guineas with Richard Crawshay, owner of the Cyfarthfa Iron Works, that he would construct a steam engine to haul a load of 10 tons of  iron from his  works along the tramway, to Navigation House,  Abercynon.The bet was accepted,  and the work people became  tremendously interested in the event.  Homfray had the assistance of Cornishman Richard Trevithick, whose plan for a  "High Pressure Tram-Engine" had earned the ironmasters support.   


Early in 1804 Trevithicks engine, with its single horizontal cylinder, 8 foot flywheel  and long piston-rod, was ready, and February the 14th was chosen for the great test.   People came from far and near to witness the great experiment. The five trams were loaded  with the iron, and 70 men added themselves to the load.  With shouts of  encouragement, the engine started on it's journey. Unfortunately disaster soon struck, for the chimney of the locomotive struck a  low bridge and both were destroyed. According to the terms of the wager Trevithick had to control and repair the engine unaided. In a short time he had cleared the debris and repaired the chimney, and soon was careering along at  a speed of five miles an hour to his destination at Abercynon, which was  reached without further mishap.  Due to the Steep gradients and sharp curves the engine failed to make the return journey even though it had no load, but it had been proven that Steam  Locomotion was a possibility.


Trevithick's locomotive employed the very important principle of turning the exhaust steam up the chimney, so producing a draft which drew the hot gases from the fire more powerfully through the boiler. Trevithick was the real inventor of the locomotive. He was the first to prove the  sufficiency of the adhesion of the wheels on the rails for all purposes of traction on lines of ordinary gradient, the first to make the return flue boiler, the first to use the steam jet in the chimney, and the first to couple all the wheels of the engine.

Route of The Merthyr Tramroad

<Click on the image to enlarge>

Penydarren Ironworks


Samuel Homfray's letter to Mr Goodrich Inspector General, dated 27th February 1804


Merthyr's Monument to Richard Trevithick

Built of chair stones and rails recovered from the old Penydarren tram road  and designed

by Mr Isaac Williams, was erected in 1934. The monument stands on the site of the

tram road, and therefore upon the very spot over which the famous locomotive travelled..

The Ceremony of the opening of the Trevithick Monument

Thursday April 19th 1934


Peter Price Emailed us his drawing of Trevithicks Steam Engine.

E-Mail Peter at:  Peter.Price7@btopenworld.com

Plan of the Engine

Model of Trevithick's Penydarren engine, at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum


A replica of the Penydarren Engine built by the Welsh Industrial and

Maritime Museum, shown here in front of Cyfarthfa Castle.


'Puffing Devil'

Taken by Phil Monkton of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Press)


Trevithick's Tunnel in 1987'

(Photograph courtesy of Robert O'Keefe)


Trevithicks Tunnel at the Plymouth Ironworks

Mosaic design on the floor of the Tunnel

Monument to Richard Trevithick at Navigation, Abercynon


To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Penydarren Locomotive,

the Royal Mint have struck this 2.00 coin.

(Photograph courtesy of the Trevithick Society)



'The Life of

Richard Trevithick'


Francis Trevithick


on the CD

for more information






In 2004, Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund opened an exhibition to celebrate the achievements of this great man, Richard Trevithick.

Click Here to Visit the Exhibition