Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago a madcap inventor put wheels on his kettle – no that’s not right. In 1809, five years after his first ‘locomotive’ crushed the rails at Pen – Y – Darren, Richard Trevithick built this – ‘Catch me who can’. He took it to London and set it running round a circular track, not far from where Euston station now stands. People paid a shilling, (5P), for a ride – a shilling was a very tidy sum in 1809. It wasn’t a great success the rails were still too weak.
One of his ‘high pressure’ engines was displayed in a shop in London, and this led to probably one of the most mad cap adventures Trevithick ever became involved with – a project to build ‘high pressure’ pumping engines to pump water from silver mines 14,000ft up in the Andes mountains – it was the year 1816. Disagreements with the mine owners meant the project came to nothing and he began his own mines, mining for silver and copper, which, tho’ partially successful didn’t make Trevithick rich. The political situation deteriorated and he left almost £5000 pounds worth of metals un-shipped. This wasn’t the end of his South American escapades – he spent quite some time in South America and even served in the army of Simon Bolivar.
In many ways Trevithick was a man ‘ahead of his times’ he built a ‘road going’ steam carriage in 1801 ‘The Puffing Devil’ which is credited with inspiring the folk song Cambourne Hill. The Coalbookdale Iron Co. built a locomotive for him after he had supplied them with a high pressure stationary engine in 1802 – so maybe this photo of ‘Catch me who can’ – is quite appropriate, as it is taken at the Severn Valley Railway’s Bridgnorth terminus, a stones throw from Coalbrookdale.
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This is the link to my book “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751