Facts about Richard Trevithick

Summary: Richard Trevithick was a famous British inventor and mining engineer. His most famous invention was the first high pressure steam engine which functioned without the use of a condenser. Richard Trevithick was also famous for building a full scale steam locomotive called the 'Puffing Devil'. It was demonstrated in 1801 and is often considered the first demonstration of transportation powered by steam. Richard Trevithick received a patent for his invention in 1802.

Richard Trevithick was born and raised in Tregajorran, Cornwall in Great Britain. He was passionate about steam engines from a young age. During his lifetime, Richard Trevithick worked and associated with other famous inventors and engineers such as Edward Bull, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, William Murdoch, Arthur Woolf and Andrew Vivian. One of his most notable inventions was the first steam railway locomotive.

Richard Trevithick Fact Sheet: Who was Richard Trevithick? The following short biography, timeline and facts sheet provides interesting facts about the life, inventions and history of Richard Trevithick, the famous inventor of the first high pressure steam engine and the first steam railway locomotive.

Richard Trevithick Fact 1: Richard Trevithick was born on April 13, 1771 in Tregajorran, Cornwall in England. Richard Trevithick was a British inventor who was most famous for inventing the first high pressured steam engine.

Richard Trevithick Fact 2: Richard Trevithick was raised in Tregajorran in Cornwall, England at the heart of the mining industry. His father, Captain Richard Trevithick, was a miner in the local area and his mother, Ann Teague, was the daughter of a mining engineer. Richard Trevithick was the youngest child in the family having five older sisters and no brothers.

Richard Trevithick Fact 3: His passion for steam engines developed as a child when he would witness the engines pumping water from the copper and tin mines in Tregajorran.

Richard Trevithick Fact 4: From 1797-1798, Richard Trevithick lived next door to a famous Scottish inventor and engineer who inspired his thoughts with his steam powered road locomotion experiments. His name was William Murdoch and one of his most famous inventions was the oscillating cylinder steam engine.

Richard Trevithick Fact 5: Richard Trevithick attended school in Camborne where he was described by a teacher as 'a disobedient, slow, obstinate, spoiled boy, frequently absent and very inattentive' student. Richard Trevithick didn't show much enthusiasm towards his academic studies but he was, however, good at mathematics and he enjoyed playing sports.

Richard Trevithick Fact 6: His first job was at the East Stray Park Mine where the miners knew his father. Richard Trevithick was 19 when he began working at the mine and he progressed quickly to a consultant's position - a very good job for a man of his age. Richard Trevithick quickly earned the respect of his fellow workers.

Richard Trevithick Fact 7: Richard Trevithick married Jane Harvey in 1797. She came from a small Cornish town called Hayle. Together, the couple had six children. Their names were Richard, Anne Ellis, Elizabeth Banfield, John Harvey, Frances and Frederick Henry.

Richard Trevithick Fact 8: His father-in-law, John Harvey, founded an engineering works called Harveys of Hayle which gained a worldwide reputation. The company was famous for supplying stationary beam engines for pumping water from mines. The designs were based on Newcomen's and Watt's engines. A beam engine can be described as a type of steam engine consisting of an overhead beam which applies force from vertical piston to a vertical connecting rod.

Richard Trevithick Fact 9: Richard Trevithick started working at Ding Dong Mine as an engineer in 1797. His friend, Edward Bull, who later created the Bull Engine, also worked at the mine. Together, the two engineers pioneered and developed the use of high pressure steam.

Richard Trevithick Fact 10: Richard Trevithick worked on creating and developing steam engines to avoid the royalties which were due to the famous engineer and inventor, James Watt, for the patent of the separate condenser. However, the engineering company, Boulton & Watt (founded by Matthew Boulton and James Watt), issued him with a court order.

Richard Trevithick Fact 11: Richard Trevithick understood that boiler technology could be safely developed in order to produce high pressure steam and in doing so, the steam would cause the piston to move by its own accord. This important development would remove the need the condenser.

Richard Trevithick Fact 12: Scottish inventor, William Murdoch, had also worked on developing high pressure steam and he demonstrated one of his inventions to Richard Trevithick in 1794. His creation was based on a model steam carriage which he had developed.

Richard Trevithick Fact 13: The main advantages of a high pressure steam engine (also known as 'strong steam') included the engine's ability to eliminate the use of pressure near to atmospheric in a condensing engine. The new design was smaller, lighter and more compact as it used a smaller cylinder which saved space and weighed less - even with a carriage connected.

Richard Trevithick Fact 14: One of his early developments was a high pressure steam engine model. The first one that Richard Trevithick built was stationary and a later model could be attached to a road carriage. Richard Trevithick created a design using a double acting cylinder which distributed steam by a four way valve. A four way valve can be described as a fluid control valve with four equally spaced ports surrounding the valve chamber. A chimney vented exhaust steam into the atmosphere; a development which eliminated the need for a condenser.

Richard Trevithick Fact 15: Richard Trevithick built the Puffing Devil in 1801 close to Fore Street at Camborne. The Puffing Devil was a full scale, fully working steam road locomotive created by Richard Trevithick. It was successfully demonstrated on December 24, 1801 when it carried 6 passengers from Camborne to Beacon. The first demonstration of transportation powered by steam is widely recognised by the demonstration of Richard Trevithick's Puffing Devil, the full size locomotive, in 1801. Richard Trevithick was issued with a patent for his high pressure steam engine invention in 1802.

Richard Trevithick Fact 16: Richard Trevithick invented the first steam rail locomotive in 1804. The Pen-y-darren ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, had used some of his high pressure stationary engines. They mounted one of his engines on wheels and it became the first steam railway locomotive. The ‘unnamed locomotive’ successfully transported 10 tons of iron almost 10 miles (16 km) along Pen-y-darren’s ironworks own tramway to Abercynon.

Richard Trevithick Fact 17: Richard Trevithick earned 500 guineas with an iron merchant called Richard Crawshay for the successful transportation made by his invention of the first steam powered locomotive.

Richard Trevithick Fact 18: His invention of the first steam powered rail locomotive incorporated the ‘blastpipe’. The blastpipe can be described as a device which uses the pressure of steam to draw fire. The system functions by exhausting spent steam through an upturned nozzle in the chimney.

Richard Trevithick Fact 19: He was involved with many other developments and inventions during his lifetime including the London Steam Carriage, the Pen-y-Darren Locomotive, Catch Me Who Can Locomotive, the Cornish boiler and engine and a recoil engine.

Richard Trevithick Fact 20: Richard Trevithick died from pneumonia on April 22, 1833 at the age of 62. He was staying at The Bull Hotel at the time near to where he'd been working. He wasn't financially stable so his work colleagues collected money for his funeral service. He was buried in St Edmunds Burial Ground in Dartford at an unmarked grave.

Facts about Richard Trevithick