Richard Trevithick, was born on 13th April 1771 in Illogan, Cornwall. Trevithick revolutionised the concept of the steam engine in an act of miniaturisation probably not equalled until the advent of the silicon chip. By successfully utilising high pressure steam and placing the component parts of the engine within the boiler he invented a cheap, compact, eminently portable, non-condensing engine as powerful as the contemporary leviathans of Newcomen or Boulton and Watt. It was this engine and developments of it which powered the Industrial Revolution during the nineteenth century, both on land and at sea, and its importance should never be underestimated.
In 1797 Richard began experimenting with high pressure steam engines by using models to test the practicality of using this inherently dangerous power source. These tests included both a model stationary engine and a model locomotive.
The following year he successfully manufactured and operated stationary high pressure engines and realising that his stationary ‘puffer’ engine was indeed powerful enough to propel itself soon began to develop the world’s first self-propelled passenger carrying vehicle – the first car!
This was done, very much off his own back, working with a group of talented and skilled friends and relations in Camborne, using the most rudimentary of manufacturing equipment, and yet, in a remarkably short time, led to that epic journey ‘Up Camborne Hill’ on Christmas Eve 1801.
Richard Trevithick died in extreme poverty at the Bull Inn, Dartford, on 22nd April, 1833
For more information visit The Trevithick Society
Trevithick Day is held at the end of April each year in Camborne town.
Trevithick Day 2011 is Saturday 30th April.
To honour his 240th anniversary Cornish heritage have produced a set of add-on stamps showing Penydarren , the first Steam Locomotive, built in 1804 by Richard Trevithick. It successfully run on rails and made three journeys between the Penydarren ironworks near Merthyr Tydfil and the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal.