Monthly Archives: August 2013

Trevithick Day – 21 February 2014

Trevithick Day 2014 will be celebrated in a special way – remembering that it will be 210 years to the day since Richard Trevithick’s Penydarren Locomotive made the world’s first railway journey.

Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Regeneration Trust is co-ordinating events on that day – and you and your family and friends can join in.

Trevithick’s engine steamed for nine and a half miles along the iron rails of the Merthyr tramroad from the Penydarren ironworks to the canal basin at Abercynon.

In the past few years it has become traditional to mark the anniversary with events along the Trevithick Trail – the footpath and cycle way that follows the line of the original tramroad. For several miles you can walk, cycle, ride and in places even drive along the very same route that Trevithick and his crew of 70 men followed on that February day.

If you’ve got an idea for a walk, an event or a ride on the trail – perhaps only along a short distance of it – then get in touch.

We will be posting up details and arrangements for everything that’s happening on Friday 21st February 2013.

Join us in following in the tracks of railway history!

Heritage Trust inspects the Penydarren locomotive

We took the opportunity of our visit to the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea to catch up on the latest news of the famous Penydarren locomotive replica on display there.

The Heritage Trust team was met by Robert Protheroe Jones, curator for heavy industries at the museum – part of the National Museums of Wales.


The large black iron boiler, the chimney stack and the massive flywheel – probably the most distinctive feature of Richard Trevithick’s 1804 railway locomotive – are familiar from pictures, paintings and contemporary designs.

Yet the world’s first railway engine (well, actually a full size working conjectural replica made in Wales in 1981) is still an inspiring sight. It’s a monster of a machine. Could this seven tonne beast have pulled wagons, a load of iron and 70 passengers for over nine miles?

Penydarren loco Waterfront cropped_2 26-06-13

Robert Protheroe Jones, an expert on the replica and the history of Trevithick’s original steam engine, says ‘Yes’.  Over the years he was supervised dozens of days of steam running – and knows its workings well.

There is special training and guidance for the museum staff who drive the engine. There has to be. It’s not like later machines.

“The ride is not smooth,” says Robert Protheroe Jones in a paper on the Penydarren locomotive replica. “The locomotive and tram are not sprung and possessing only one cylinder the ride is a series of lurches and pauses.

“The flywheel assists in continuing the momentum of the engine when the (single) piston pauses to reverse its direction of travel.”

There are no brakes or buffers – just as there were none in Trevithick’s original machine. The flywheel has another use – hauling down on it can get the engine under way again after a stop.

Here’s a link to a video of the Penydarren locomotive of 1804 in action.

Trevithick steam engine in action today

A six tonne conjectural replica of the first steam engine in the world to haul a load on iron rails has pride of place in Wales’ National Waterfront Museum at Swansea.

It’s a massive machine made in iron back in 1981 using the steam locomotive plans and designs of engineering pioneer Richard Trevithick.

Picture shows the replica of Trevithick's 1804 Penydarren Locomotive in main heavy industry gallery at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea

The working replica of Trevithick’s 1804 Penydarren Locomotive is on public display at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea

The replica has been run under steam first in Cardiff Bay and more recently at the Waterfront Museum at intervals ever since.

When it’s in motion it’s a great sight – trundling along a four foot wide near standard guage length of track outside the modern quay side museum building.

Here’s a link to a video of the Penydarren locomotive of 1804 in action.

On 21st February 1804 the Trevithick designed and built locomotive – basically one of his innovative high pressure steam engine laid on its side with wheels attached – steamed out of the Penydarren ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil pulling five wagons with a load of 10 tonnes of iron. Also aboard were 70 passengers.

Engine and train steamed for nine and a half miles along the flanged iron rails of the Merthyr tramroad to Abercynon – reaching speeds of over four miles per hour but having to make a number of stops because of overhanging trees and a low tunnel.