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THE FIRST INVENTORS OF LOCOMOTIVES. 67
machine, and was stowed away in the Arsenal Museum at Paris.*
An American inventor, named Oliver Evans, was also occupied with the same idea; for in 1772, he invented a steam-carriage to travel on common roads; and in 1787, he obtained from the State of Maryland the exclusive right to make and use steam-carriages. His invention, however, never came into practical use.
It also appears that in 1784, William Symington, the inventor of the steam-boat, conceived the idea of employing steam power in the propulsion of carriages ; and in 1786 he had a working model of a steam-carriage constructed, which he submitted to the professors and other scientific gentlemen of Edinburgh. But the state of the Scotch roads was at that time so horrible, that he considered it impracticable to proceed further with his scheme, and he shortly gave it up in favour of his project of steam navigation.fi
The first English model of a steam-carriage was made in 1784, by William Murdock, the friend and assistant of Watt. It was on the high-pressure principle, and ran on three wheels. The boiler was heated by a spirit-lamp; and the whole machine was of very diminutive dimensions, standing little more than a foot high. Yet, on one occasion, the little engine went so fast, that it outran the speed of its inventor. Mr. Buckle † says, that one night, after returning from his duties in the mine at Redruth, in Cornwall, Murdock determined
* It is now preserved in the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers.
† See a pamphlet entitled “ A brief Narrative, proving the right of the late William Symington, Civil Engineer, to be considered the Inventor of Steam Land Carriage Locomotion ; and also the Inventor and Introducer of Steam Navigation.” By Robert Bowie. London: Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper, 1833.
| Biographical paper on William Murdock, read by Mr. William Buckle, of Soho, before the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, October, 1850.
to try the working of his model locomotive. For this purpose, he had recourse to the walk leading to the church, about a mile from the town. The walk was rather narrow, and was bounded on either side by high edges. It was a dark night, and Murdock set out alone to try his experiment. Having lit his lamp, the water shortly began to boil, and off started the engine with the inventor after it. He soon heard distant shouts of despair. It was too dark to perceive objects; but he shortly found on following up the machine, that the cries for assistance proceeded from the worthy pastor of the parish, who, going towards the town on business, was met on this lonely road by the hissing and fiery little monster, which he subsequently declared he had taken to be the Evil One in propria persona. No further steps, however, were taken by Murdock to embody his idea of a locomotive carriage in a more practical form.
A few years later, in 1789, one Thomas Allen, of London, published “A Plan of a new-invented Machine to convey goods, merchandise, passengers, &c., from one place to another, without horses, and by the power or force of steam only.” Mr. Allen proceeded upon the idea that if steam could be applied to the turning of wheels for one purpose, such as grinding corn, it could for another, such as the haulage of carriages. From his Plan, which is in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne*, it appears that he intended the wheels of his machine to be cogged, and that he anticipated a speed upon a common road of “somewhat better than ten miles an hour.” The plan, however, was a very crude one, and not even a model of the machine seems to have been made.
Towards the end of the last century, the adoption of rail
* Presented by Lord Ravensworth, August 6th, 1856. — Proceedings of Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, vol. i. p. 152.
and tram-roads, worked by horses, had become general in the colliery and mining districts. There could be no doubt as to the great economy secured by this mode of moving heavy loads, as compared with the ordinary method of haulage on common roads. As trade and manufactures were extending with great rapidity, — Watt's invention of the steam-engine having given an immense impetus to industry in all its branches, - it was proposed to extend the application of railroads to the transit of merchandise and goods from town to town, especially in those districts where canals were not considered practicable. The first suggestion to this effect was published by a Northumbrian gentleman, who was daily familiar with the working of the extensive coal traffic over the railways in the neighbourhood of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On the 11th of February, 1800, Mr. Thomas, of Denton, read a paper on the subject before the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle, entitled, “ Observations on the propriety of introducing Roads on the principle of the Coal Waggon Ways, for the general carriage of Goods, Merchandise, &c.” *
In the course of the following year, the same idea was taken up by Dr. James Anderson, of Edinburgh, who proposed in his “Recreations of Agriculture,” the general adoption of railways, worked by horse-power, to be carried along the existing turnpike roads. Dr. Anderson dilated upon his idea with glowing enthusiasm. “Diminish carriage expense but one farthing,” said he, “and you widen the circle of intercourse ; you form, as it were, a new creation, not only of stones and earth, and trees and plants, but of men also, and, what is more, of industry, happiness, and joy.” The cost of all articles of human consumption would, he alleged,
* Minute Books of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle, 1800.
be thus reduced, agriculture promoted, distances diminished, the country brought nearer to the town, and the town to the country. The number of horses required to carry on the traffic of the kingdom would be greatly diminished, and a general prosperity would, he insisted, be the result of the adoption of his system. “ Indeed,” said he, “it is scarcely possible to contemplate an institution from which would result a greater quantity of harmony, peace, and comfort, to persons living in the country, than would naturally result from the introduction of railroads."
That the same idea was taking hold of the more advanced minds of the country, is further evident from the fact that in the following year (1802) Mr. Edgeworth urged the adoption of a similar plan for the transit of passengers. “ Stagecoaches,” he said, “ might be made to go at six miles an hour, and post-chaises and gentlemen's travelling carriages at eight, - both with one horse; and small stationary steam-engines, placed from distance to distance, might be made, by means of circulating chains, to draw the carriages, with a great diminution of horse-labour and expense.”
While this discussion was going forward, Richard Trevithick, a captain in a Cornish tin-mine, and a pupil of William Murdock's,- influenced, no doubt, by the successful action of the model engine which the latter had constructed - determined to build a steam-carriage adapted for use on common roads. He took out a patent, to secure the right of his invention, in the year 1802. Andrew Vivian, his cousin, joined with him in the patent, — Vivian finding the money, and Trevithick the brains. The patent was dated the 24th March, 1802, and described as “A grant unto Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian, of the parish of Cranbourne, in the county of Cornwall, engineers and miners, for their invented methods of improving the construction of steamengines, and the application thereof for driving carriages, and
cuar. vii.] THEVITHICK'S ROAD LOCOMOTIVE.
for other purposes.” * The steam-carriage built by Trevithick on this patent presented the appearance of an ordinary stage-coach on four wheels. It had one horizontal cylinder, which, together with the boiler and the furnace-box, was placed in the rear of the hind axle. The motion of the piston was transmitted to a separate crank-axle, from which, through the medium of spur-gear, the axle of the driving-wheel (which was mounted with a fly-wheel) derived its motion. It is also worthy of note, that the steam-cocks and the force-pump, as also the bellows used for the purpose of quickening combustion in the furnace, were worked off the same crank-axle.
This was the first successful high-pressure engine constructed on the principle of moving a piston by the elasticity of steam against the pressure only of the atmosphere. Such an engine had been described by Leopold, though in his apparatus the pressure acted only on one side of the piston. In Trevithick and Vivian's engine, the piston was not only raised, but was also depressed by the action of the steam, being in this respect an entirely original invention, and of great merit. The steam was admitted from the boiler under the piston moving in a cylinder, impelling it upward. When the motion had reached its limit, the communication between the piston and the under side was shut off, and the steam allowed to escape into the atmosphere. A passage was then opened between the boiler and the upper side of the piston, which was pressed downwards, and the steam again allowed to escape into the atmosphere. Thus the power of the engine was equal to the difference between the pressure of the atmosphere and the elasticity of the steam in the boiler.
This first steam-carriage adapted for actual use on common roads, was, on the whole, tolerably successful. It excited
* The number of the patent in the Record of Patents Office is 2599.