War Memorial Gary Trouton

A letter from Devon

October 2009

Neil tells us about Richard Trevithick, a noted steam engine pioneer.

Dear Sir,

Once again I have returned home to Devon with a big pile of 'The Pump', saved up for me by my step-father in Stoke Ferry. You must be congratulated on the quality and content of each issue, very informative for the areas concerned. I enjoyed reading the articles by 'The grumpy Old man, [Doesn't he get readers jumping up and down with indignation?] At least you know they have read the Editions and Ron Watts articles in the January and March issues on 'When machines began to replace men' were very informative. However, I am very surprised that he didn't mention Richard Trevithick, who was a noted steam engine pioneer in Cornwall. In the 1780's he did experiments to improve the efficiency of the beam engines. His aim was to make smaller and lighter steam engines with stronger boilers to generate higher pressures, pressures that James Watts was wary of. In the early days of steam powered beam engines there were several instances of boilers exploding at some of the tin mines with tragic loss of life. These accidents spurred on developments but James Watt was very protective of his patent rights and to a certain extent slowed down technological advancement until his patents expired in 1801. Trevithick carried on developing the Cornish boiler and high pressure steam working, his beam engines which emerged in the early 19th Century was to power Devon and Cornish tin mines for a considerable period of time.

Out of interest it should be noted that Trevithic ran a steam engine through the streets of Camborne on Christmas Eve 1801 and in 1804 he won a bet of 500 guineas for one of his engines hauling a 10 ton load over a 9 1/2 mile tram-way at the Pen-y-Darren iron works in Wales, [The tram-way rails collapsed under the strain!] Stephenson's Rocket did not run between Stockton and Darlington until 1821, which raises a point that Richard Trevithick ran the first steam locomotive, [but not with passengers]. All this does not detract from the fact that without the pioneer work of the likes of Newcomen, Watt, Boulton, Pickard and Trevithic steam power would not have progressed to where it was in the 20th Century in the factories, Wool Mills and Railways.

There you go then, story over! Thanks for reading this, I know I am not local to Stoke Ferry but at least you know that your Mag. gets about. When I've read them I take them down to our health centre.

Nevil Barham.

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