Richard Trevithick (1771-1833)

Most famous for his invention of the high-pressure steam engine, the engineer and inventor Richard Trevithick was born in Illogan, Cornwall. He went to work with his father in Wheal Treasury mine, but quickly showed an aptitude for engineering and was appointed engineer at the Ding Dong mine in Penzance. While there, he set about improving the low-pressure steam engine produced by Boulton and Watt, and created a high-pressure engine for raising ore and refuse from the mine.

In 1801 he created a high-pressure steam carriage, Puffing Devil, which was the first vehicle to transport people by steam. In 1803 at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, Trevithick built the first steam vehicle to run on rails - a replica of it can be seen at the Blists Hill village at Ironbridge.

His second locomotive was the first to haul a train by steam. Built in 1804, when Trevithick was the engineer at the Penydarren Ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, the locomotive pulled 10 tons of iron, 70 men and five extra wagons for nine and a half miles. Unfortunately, the locomotive was so heavy that it kept breaking the rails, and was eventually abandoned. A replica of this engine can be seen at the National Museum of Wales.

In 1814, Trevithick built nine engines for export to Peru for use at mines and went there himself to oversee installation. The venture failed and he returned to Britain with the assistance of Robert Stephenson. Trevithick died in debt in Dartford, Kent.