How Trevithick (and Merthyr) changed the world

On 21st February 1804 the world changed – on that day Richard Trevithick drove his high pressure steam locomotive for nine and a half miles along the iron rails of the Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon tramroad.

2017 sees the 213th anniversary of the historic event that led – two decades later – to the birth of the railway age.

We celebrated Trevithick Day once again on Tuesday 21st February. A new campaign is being made to raise awareness of Trevithick’s achievements – we’ll be making more announcements about this soon.

Most years Trevithick supporters in Merthyr Tydfil and on the Trevithick1804 website link up with Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust to commemorate Trevithick.

This started with the bi-centenary in 2004. In 2012 we joined the local authority and Sustrans to open the Trevithick Bridge (aka Puddlers Bridge) at Pentrebach. The following year students from The College Merthyr Tydfil gave the first performances of a new street drama ‘Iron and Steam’ telling the story of Trevithick and the iron masters.

Since then we’ve had a cycle along the Trevithick Trail – the nine mile footpath and cycle track that follows the tramroad along which  Trevithick’s Penydarren Locomotive steamed in 1804. And we won the backing of the Mayors of both Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Trevithick’s Penydarren Locomotive hauled five wagons loaded with ten tons of iron and carrying up to 70 men. He pioneered the use of high pressure steam engines – making it possible for the power of ‘heavy steam’ to drive road engines, railway locomotives, boats and heavy industrial pumping machinery.

Many regard Trevithick as an engineering genius. Yet his role is often overlooked.  His epic four hour steam locomotive journey in Merthyr Tydfil – probably the centre of the world’s iron industry at that time – was one of the great achievements of the new age.

Trevithick’s exploits were ignored by the establishment of the day. They were scorned and derided by his rivals.

At Trevithick 1804 we are committed to:

    • building a new replica of Trevithick’s Penydarren Locomotive and steaming it in Merthyr Tydfil
    • restoring and promoting the World Heritage potential of Merthyr Tydfil’s iron industry heritage.

Join the conversation – find out more about Trevithick’s steam engines and Merthyr Tydfil – the world’s first iron-making industrial town.