This is volume TWO of the monumental biography of Richard Trevithick (1771-1831) by his eldest son Francis (1812-1877). Francis had little contact with his father while growing up. When he was four, Trevithick senior left for South America, and did not return until Francis was 14.
Francis had his early training in civil engineering under Joseph Locke from 1832, and was appointed resident engineer at the Birmingham end of the Grand Junction Railway in 1840. In September 1841 he became locomotive superintendent of the company at Edge Hill, Liverpool, without any previous experience of locomotive work. He developed the plans for Crewe works and had charge of their building and equipment; also he had the of the whole locomotive department and then that of the Northern Division of the LNWR, including running. Under him the distinctive Crewe-type locomotive was developed from the designs of Allan and Buddicom, and apart from increases in dimensions, he built nothing else until he left Crewe in 1857, when the Northern and Southern Divisions of the LNWR were combined
A man of easy-going friendly temperament, popular amongst the workmen and their families, “Trevvy” as he was affectionately referred to. Was not really capable of taking on the much bigger responsibilities of the position and despite support from Locke, the Directors demanded his resignation. He returned to Cornwall, taking on the management of an estate, writing this biography and dying in 1877.
Richard Trevithick was a man of considerable energy and talents, but unfortunately had no head for business. In partnership with others, because he could not afford the fees, he took out many patents, usually having to sell out his share to keep his family and finance his next venture. This volume covers various inventions including a “Steam Thrashing (sic) Machine, steam pole condensing engines, steam engines at Dolcoath, winding engine and other machinery for South America including for the Lima Mint, compound marine engine and design for a column commemorating the 1832 Reform Act. This would have been 1,000ft. Tall, a tapering cone made of gilded cast iron segments bolted together. I suppose that we should be grateful that the London skyline was not disfigured by such a tall structure so early on! Fortunately finance was not forthcoming.
The years in South America are described, together with the disastrous outcome, when the Revolution wiped out all his savings, leaving him with little more than the clothes he stood up in. A chance meeting with Robert Stephenson, who had also gone out to “make his fortune”, resulted in that kind man assisting Trevithick’s repatriation.
Richard Trevithick never did achieve solvency. He was last employed by Halls of Dartford, and when he died in 1831, a pauper’s burial was only avoided because Hall’s workmen funded a proper funeral