Gordon Smith showed this model of Richard Trevithick’s first locomotive of 1804 at the 2013 Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition. That first steam locomotive design was based on a model which he made in 1797. It was  the world's first steam engine to run successfully on rails. The locomotive, with its single vertical cylinder, 8 foot flywheel and long piston-rod, managed to haul ten tons of iron, 70 passengers and five wagons from the ironworks at Pen-y-darren to the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal. During the nine mile journey the Pen-y-darren locomotive reached speeds of up to five miles an hour. Trevithick's locomotive employed the important principle of turning the exhaust steam up the chimney, so producing a draft which drew the hot gases from the fire more powerfully through the boiler. Steam was at high pressure.

The Pen-y-darren locomotive only made three journeys. Each time the seven-ton engine broke the cast iron rails. The iron works came to the conclusion that Trevithick's invention was unlikely to reduce transport costs and decided to abandon the project.

The second engine of 1805, described on MEWS in 5” gauge, was built to run on 5 foot gauge tracks. However, it was the track that was also the downfall of this locomotive, which was built for the Wylam Colliery on Tyneside. Laid in 1748, the wooden track was laid for horse drawn wagons, but the Trevithick locomotive was too heavy for the wooden wagonway. Significantly, though, George Stephenson was impressed with the trials.

In 1808, Trevithick exhibited his third locomotive in London behind a tall fence with an admission fee of five shillings for a ride. It weighed 8 tons and pulled an open coach on a circular track at up to 12 mph. He described the engine as a “racing steam horse” called Catch-me-who-can.

Unfortunately, the engine ran off the tracks and overturned. As there had been few visitors the event was abandoned. Disheartened, Trevithick gave up steam work and turned to mining and tunnelling. He went to install water pumps in the silver mines in Peru, a post that came to an end after the revolution for independence led by Simon Bolivar. Robert Stephenson, who meanwhile had done rather well with steam locomotives, found Trevithick there, destitute, and helped him to return to England where he died in poverty in 1833.

Gordon Smith’s