• Ingenious Heroes
Associated Heroes
Hero Image
Dadford was one of the early canal pioneers whose who engineered the Monmouthshire, Brecknock and Abergavenny and Neath Canals.

Hero Image
Ellis the engineer

Celebrating Trevithick's achievements in Merthyr (MTCBC)
'We have plenty of steam and power'
- Richard Trevithick, 1833
Richard Trevithick’s experiments with steam locomotion in Merthyr Tydfil in 1804 helped to shape the industrialisation of Wales and the wider world during the 19th century.
'The great honour of being a useful subject can never be taken from me, which to me far exceeds riches.'

At the turn of the 19th century Merthyr Tydfil was one of the most important towns in Wales. With three big ironworks - Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth - and ambitious ironmasters eager to make more money, Merthyr was at the cutting edge of industrial development attracting engineers and inventors from across the UK.

In 1802 these three ironworks worked together to build a tramway which would run from Merthyr to Abercynon, a distance of 9 ½ miles. One of the ironmasters Samuel Homfray bet fellow ironmaster Richard Crawshay that he could build a steam engine capable of pulling ten tons of iron along the tramway. A Cornish engineer, Richard Trevithick, took up the challenge and came to Merthyr to help Homfray win the wager. Using his expertise and plans a new High Pressure Tram-Engine took shape at Homfray’s works, generating much local interest. On the day of the test in 1804 people lined the route to watch as the Penydarren locomotive hauled five drams loaded with 10 tons of iron - and an added load of 70 men!

Unfortunately the locomotive’s chimney struck a low bridge and broke. (The chimney was actually vital – the exhaust steam was sent up it to create a strong draft to draw the hot gases from the fire more efficiently through the boiler.) But the chimney was repaired, Homfray won his wager and Trevithick proved that steam locomotives were the way forward. They were vital to the industrialisation of the Valleys - as well as the wider world.

Where to Visit?

Why not follow the Trevithick Trail? The original tramroad remained in use until 1875. It is now a public path/ cycle route between Merthyr and Abercynon, with artwork and information along the way.

Cyfarthfa Castle Museum to find out more about Richard Trevithick's time in Merthyr.

See a model of the original locomotive in Penydarren

Trevithick Trail

Download a copy of the Trevithick Trail map here:

Birth: Cornwall 22 April 1833
Death: 22 April 1833
Related Books
Video Content
See Trevithick's innovations on this BBC programme
A replica of Trevithick's engine
Animation of the Penydarren Locomotive
Richard Trevithick
Ingenious Heroes