RICHARD TREVITHICK’S LONDON STEAM CARRIAGE

Part one of two by Julius de Waal

A model design for Richard Trevithick’s London Steam Carriage of 1802/03 by Julius.

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Part two here.


While producing the world’s first working steam railway locomotive in the early years of the 19th century, Richard Trevithick also designed steam carriages to carry passengers. First, he constructed an experimental steam-driven vehicle (Puffing Devil) at Camborne, Cornwall. It was equipped with a firebox enclosed within the boiler, with one vertical cylinder, the motion of the single piston being transmitted directly to the driving wheels by connecting rods. It was reported as weighing 3,350 lb fully loaded, with a speed of 9 mph on the flat.

Trevithick ran this for several hundred yards up a hill with several people hanging on to it. Unfortunately, while the driver and passengers were in a pub celebrating, it set fire to a shed in which it had been left unattended, and was destroyed.

The following year, Trevithick and his partner, his cousin Andrew Vivian, patented a steam coach, along with other uses for Trevithick's new high-pressure engines. The vehicle was assembled at Felton's carriage works at Leather Lane, London with the engine parts brought up from Falmouth.

The London carriage had 8-foot-diameter driving wheels which were meant  to smooth out road surfaces which were rough enough to put out a fire by shaking. It had a single horizontal cylinder which, along with the boiler and firebox, was placed behind the rear axle. The motion of the piston was transmitted to a separate crankshaft via a forked piston rod. The crankshaft drove the axle of the driving wheel (fitted with a flywheel) via a spur gear. The steam cocks, the force pump and the firebox bellows were also driven by the crankshaft.

Following its completion, the London Steam Carriage was driven about 10 miles through the streets of London to Paddington and back via Islington, with seven or eight passengers, at a speed of four to nine miles per hour, the streets having been closed to other traffic.

On a subsequent evening, Trevithick and his colleague crashed the carriage into some house railings and, as a result of this, plus lack of interest in the carriage by potential purchasers, and its demonstrations having exhausted the inventors' financial resources, it was eventually scrapped.

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