A heritage project that will celebrate Richard Trevithick’s pioneering steam locomotives and the world’s first ever railway journey is officially underway.
‘Trevithick 2014’ was launched by the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil Councillor Graham Davies at the site of the former Penydarren ironworks from where Trevithick’s steam engine set out in 1804.
The project will work on reviving the legacy of Trevithick – and on celebrating the 210th anniversary of his nine and a half mile journey along the iron rails of the Merthyr tramroad on 21 February 2014.
“The history of that first railway journey has largely been forgotten outside of Merthyr Tydfil,” said Councillor Davies. “We want to gain more recognition for the tremendous contribution that this town made to the railways of the world.”
Philip Hosken, Chairman of the Trevithick Society, said, “Trevithick invented the steam engine we know today. Every steam engine since has the same features – including the cylindrical boiler. Trevithick used high pressure steam to drive the pistons and his dream was to make steam engines that would replace the horse.”
Trevithick’s pioneering work began when he made model steam engines in Cornwall. His first steam engine with wheels ran successfully in Cambourne in 1801. He did more pioneering work in London and in Coalbrookdale before travelling to Merthyr to build steam engines for the Penydarren ironworks in 1803.
Within months he was running a steam engine on the rails of the Merthyr tramroad – and it hauled five wagons with ten tons of iron and 70 passengers the tramroad’s full distance on 21February 1804.
“You have nine and a half miles of golden tramroad – that should bring people from around the world,” added Mr Hosken. “Steam enthusiasts don’t know what a jewel you have here.”
Morgan Chambers, Chairman of the Heritage and Regeneration Trust, said that special celebrations are planned for Trevithick Day next year.
He said that the heritage trust was working with the Merthyr Model Engineering Society – which runs the popular passenger-carrying miniature railway in Cyfarthfa Park.
The project launch was held at the Penydarren Ironworks viewing point which gives visitors information on:
- the history of the works
- Trevithick’s historic first steam engine journey and
- the network of early tramroads in Merthyr Tydfil.
The Trevithick 2014 project is managed by the Merthyr Tydfil Heritage and Regeneration Trust with funding assistance from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.