Richard Trevithick

Miniature, Richard Trevithick as a boy, copy of a contemporary miniature on ivory.

This miniature portrait shows Richard Trevithick as a young boy.

Born in 1771 in Cornwall, Richard Trevithick was a practical engineer who developed high pressure steam engines. In 1800 he built the first of the double-acting stationary engine which was the forerunner of the famous ‘Cornish engines’. Between 1801 and 1803 he built three steam-powered road locomotives. In 1803 he built the first practical railway locomotive, a tram engine for Coalbrookdale. After that he constructed the ‘Pen-y-darren’ locomotive for Samuel Homfray, partner in the ‘Pen-y-darren Tramway’ in south Wales. Trevithick built two more railway locomotives: one in Gateshead in 1805, possibly for the Wylam Waggon Way (which was again let down by the poor quality of the rails), and, in 1808, the ‘Catch me who Can’, for an exhibition in London.

Trevithick’s designs demonstrated that a smooth wheel running on smooth iron rails was capable of hauling considerable loads.


Pictorial Collection (Railway)
Object Number:
portrait miniature
Trevithick, R E